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iPhone 5: First Impressions Hands-On Review
After today’s iPhone 5 launch event, I had a chance to play with Apple’s new phone. So far, I see plenty of reason for me to upgrade. Below, what I like and what you may wish to consider.
How Android Won Me Away From The iPhone
First, some background. For the past two years, I’ve been primarily an Android user. I’ve owned an iPhone since the iPhone 3GS, upgraded to the iPhone 4 and currently have an iPhone 4s.
But in 2011, the 4G LTE speed of the Droid Charge wooed me away to making that my primary phone in 2011. The iPhone I use as a secondary phone (I live a strange multiplatform life, I know).
How The iPhone Started Winning Me Back
In 2012, I moved to the Galaxy Nexus, and it hasn’t been an enjoyable experience. It still gives me the 4G speed I want, as well as turn-by-turn navigation I’ve found so handy. I hate to leave home without that.
The times I switch to using my iPhone 4S, it’s like a relief. Things feel like they work better, and that’s not just because I’m just used to the iPhone. Remember, I’m an every day Android user. It’s just that the iOS operating system, the apps written for it and the hardware all just seem to work together better, in my opinion. You might disagree, and that’s fine. There’s no wrong phone. What works for you works for you.
Hurray! 4G LTE & Turn-By-Turn GPS
What’s held me back from using the iPhone as my day-to-day phone has been its lack of true 4G (which to me is 4G LTE) and turn-by-turn GPS. The iPhone 5 solves both of these issues, which makes it a strong candidate to replace my Galaxy Nexus for my regular usage.
Bigger Screen, Not Super-Sized Screen
What about screen size? If you want a giant screen, look elsewhere that the 4″ screen the iPhone 5 offers. Some people love big screens, and that’s great. If that’s a priority, you’ll probably want to think twice about choosing the iPhone 5.
Personally, I find screen size not so much an issue. I’m often zooming in on web pages regardless of whether I’m using my iPhone 4S with its smaller screen or either my Galaxy Nexus or the Samsung Galaxy S III from Samsung that I’m currently testing. The extra space for my particular activities with those devices isn’t that important.
Still, the iPhone 5 will give you more screen real estate than previous versions of the iPhone. Perhaps I’ll really notice that extra space when I start using the phone on a daily basis. But in playing with it today, it didn’t feel hugely different. I could see a little more of a web page at-a-glance:
The screenshot above shows the iPhone 4S with the mobile version of Techmeme loaded. The iPhone 5’s larger screen shows me about two more lines of the last story shown on the iPhone 4S. The Samsung Galaxy S III shows me two complete additional stories.
By the way, yes, the Samsung’s screen looks dimmer. I had cranked the brightness up all the way, but it might have powered dimmed as I set up the shot. That’s not the main point of the picture. It’s really about screen real estate. And even then, like I said, if you’re actually viewing an article, what you see can change if you decide to zoom in. So these types of comparisons are tough.
Related to the screen quality, there’s no doubt that the Retina resolution of the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 screens makes a huge difference (at least to me) when viewing side-by-side with a non-Retina display. But when I’m using a non-Retina device, I’m never thinking that somehow, I can no longer see or only with great difficulty. It’s a very nice feature, but it’s not an essential feature likely to anyone on a budget.
Back to screen real estate, another example of that extra space with the iPhone 5 not making that much of a difference is with email, if I shift into landscape mode:
It would be nice if, as with the iPad or with my Galaxy Nexus if my inbox list showed to the left with a preview screen to the right. There just might be enough room. But then again, maybe not. The main point is there’s clearly not enough extra room to make a dramatic difference with email, and that’s one of the most popular apps anyone does on a phone.
Still, I appreciate I get more screen real estate without having to give up “thumb reach.” I’m a thumb typist. I like to walk and type with one hand, which means one thumb. I can do that easily with the iPhone 4S, because the predictive typing is excellent and my thumb can all the keys.
On the Galaxy Nexus, it’s a longer thumb reach. On the Galaxy S III, is an even harder reach, plus the predictions are so bad that I have to shift to two hands to do corrections.
Yes, I know there are other keyboards and things I could (and may) try with the Samsung, But out of the box, the iPhone and the Galaxy Nexus don’t make me have to do this. And that leads to the iPhone 5. Consider this:
That’s my iPhone 4S on top of my iPhone 5. The width across the screen is pretty much the same on both devices (if it’s different, it’s so tiny as not to be noticeable. That means you’ve got more screen but not more thumb reach. I like it.
Now consider this:
That’s the iPhone 5 on top of the Galaxy Nexus. You can see the extra width of the Galaxy Nexus clearly, which is great if you want more screen (and some do) but bad for thumb reach (which won’t bother some, of course).
How’s the phone feel? Great. It’s much lighter than the iPhone 4S, noticeably so. The extra tallness isn’t a problem. Here’s me holding it as I would my regular phone:
It’s also actually just a bit thinner than an iPhone 4S:
Siri Gets GPS
How about the GPS navigation? I was pretty impressed that I could say “Siri, I want to go to the Metreon” (a theater complex in San Francisco), and it fired up a list of possible matches that, after I selected the theater location, launched navigation.
I’m used to doing a similar thing with my Android phones, but you have to remember to start the spoken command with “Navigate to…” followed by where you want to go. Generally, this works really well. But Siri understanding the casual “I want to go to….” as a navigation request? That was smart.
LTE Issues & So Much For A “Global” iPhone
As for LTE, the downside is that even though Apple is using a single chip for this and talks about it being a global phone, there are carrier-specific versions. Your AT&T phone, despite having LTE, won’t be configured to work if you decide to change to Verizon. So if there’s a global iPhone, it doesn’t recognize the US as effectively two separate countries.
That’s disappointing, but it’s hardly uncommon, as is the case with the Samsung Galaxy S III, as I’ve covered before. The Verge also has a nice article about some of the issues to consider, on this front.
Panorama Photo Shooting
Overall: No Killer Feature, Still Killer Phone
More? I only had about 15 minutes total with the phone, so there’s no way I can offer anything beyond the quick first impressions that I’m giving here.
For example, the new Maps application looks nice, but the phone also wasn’t configured with the Yelp app, so I couldn’t test how well the integration between Maps and Yelp really work (though I suspect it’ll be fine).
Those are my first impressions. Life with the phone may prove much different. Overall, it doesn’t feel that Apple has any killer features in the iPhone 5. But making it more solid with LTE and GPS, along with a bunch of other small changes, seem to add up to one killer phone.
- Review: Real Life With The Galaxy Nexus Android 4.0 Smartphone
- Live Blog: Apple’s iPhone 5 Launched With LTE, Starts $199
- Apple Demos Local Search (Maps) And Siri Enhancements For iPhone 5