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iPhone 5 Review: Magic’s Gone (Or Has S3 Changed The Rules?)

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As soon as the iPhone 5 was announced, I wanted it. I’m not too much into “customization” and the iPhone has served me well since 2009.

iPhone 5 review

Well before I took the plunge on the iPhone 5 I wanted to see how it stood up against this year’s best phone, the Samsung Galaxy S3. Given my job as a tech journalist, it was easy enough to get a hold of both devices.

I found that the iPhone 5 was better in terms of processor speed and battery life to my original iPhone 4, but lagged behind the Samsung Galaxy S3. Apple has some serious catching up to do, especially in battery life and sturdiness. Despite the specs sheet suggesting the S3 would give you 15 hours, it tapped out at 8.5 hours alongside the iPhone 5.

So, what’s new with the iPhone 5? There’s the larger screen, the new connector, the faster chip and ergonomic headphones. The back of the phone is now aluminium rather than glass.

Apple says that the iPhone 5 chip is twice as fast as the 4S. While I didn’t have a 4S handy, it blew my iPhone 4 away as I tested opening my favorite app, Instagram. The iPhone 5 is noticeably faster. In a browser search on Safari, the iPhone 5 was ahead again. I also noticed that the camera shutter was faster on the iPhone 5.

The Lightning connector has had lots of coverage because it’s a big change – you’ll need to drop $30 on a new adapter if you want to see your old Apple accessories alive again. If you’re an iPhone newbie, you’ll have to wait for third party manufacturers to catch up. The iPhone 5 DOES charge a lot faster than the 4S, though, which is good. But as for the actual adapter, it isn’t one-size-fits all. My Sony iPhone dock has been rendered useless because of its shape. You just can’t get the iPhone 5 in there snuggly enough with the adapter.

The new earphones are light years ahead of the old ones – the sound quality is OK, and they stay in place without hurting. I wear them in the “over and under” style just like the old headphones as I find they don’t move of make a fluttering sound when you’re moving.

So really my only gripe over the iPhone 4 was the new dock connector in the iPhone 5. This new connector means I have two buy a couple of spares for car and office. But it is smaller and reversible! Yay. If you’ve ever tried to plug your phone in in the dark and had to use the screen’s light to check the direction, you know what I’m talking about.

How do the specs compare to the Samsung Galaxy s3?

When you look at the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S3 on a specs sheet, the biggest hardware difference is standby and usage time. The iPhone 5 claims a standby time of 225 hours and the Samsung Galaxy S3 400. Usage time wise, the  iPhone 5 boast eight hours and the S3 15 hours. Well this didn’t stand up in real life so was of no help in choosing between both smartphones!

I was also surprised to see that the iPhone 5 was lighter than the Samsung Galaxy S3, as the S3 is pretty light!
The processors are very different, too. In GeekBench tests, the A6 chip in the iPhone 5 beats the S3 dual core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4. This is a test result, though. Your real-life mileage may vary. In fact when you compare the S3 with Jelly Bean in the same test it gets ahead of the iPhone 5 again. So another dead end!

The iPhone 5 memory just isn’t a patch on the S3 and its 2GB RAM though. However from what I’ve learnt based on computers, more RAM means that the device powers along smoothly despite having many windows open. Well when it came to the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 which run totally different software (iOS 6 and Android Ice Cream Sandwich), the extra 1GB RAM didn’t make a difference. I would as smoothly switch from one app to the other in both devices without a hiccup. I called draw… again.

So what’s there to gripe about? The iPhone 5 a and its lack of expandable storage. The most expensive models is the 64GB iPhone 5, whereas you can grab a 64GB microSD card and stick in the cheapest 16GB Samsung Galaxy S3 model to get a total 80GB. Next up is the soft aluminum body that easily scuffs. If there is one thing that I can say the iPhone 5 does better than the Samsung Galaxy S3 then it is the design. However what’s the point if you have to cover it up?

So why am I still loyal to the iPhone? Sure some will argue that Apple isn’t the best tech out there, but it works for me, and I’ve received amazing customer service from them. Whenever I’ve had a problem with a device, I’ve taken it to a store and almost every time it’s been replaced with minimal time or fuss. This level of customer service is worth the extra few bucks you pay in the first instance.

I’ve had my iPhone 5 for a few weeks now, and I can say that it isn’t as “magical” as the first iPhone. The novelty effect has worn off quicker than expected. Sure there are new features, but it’s just “new” anymore. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve gotten so use to iOS, I’d quite easily defect to the Samsung Galaxy S3 at least for the next two years for something different.

Maybe it is too much to expect from Apple to deliver something truly innovative in this day and age when the competitors have caught up (if not surpassed) the iPhone brand. Back in 2007, the playing field was very different. For Apple to release a new iPhone that is a “revolution” instead of just a natural evolutions isn’t as easy anymore. However I still yearn for that day when Apple gets its magic back and reminds us what made the first iPhone so iconic. I’m sure many fans would want that and feel Apple is dragging their feet with the iPhone 5 almost looking identical to the iPhone 4 from two years ago, and introducing features that we’ve seen on Android smartphones since 2011. This is just my opinion, though. Only you can really know if the iPhone 5 will be worth the upgrade for you.

Dwayne is a jack of all trades. Not only is he an executive editor and collaborates on many stories here at Autoomobile, but he also does artwork and handles the running of the website on a daily basis. We’re not sure what we would do without Dwayne, especially on those days when we have a great scoop and our servers can’t handle the influx of traffic.