• Revolution or Evolution: Our iPhone 5 review

    While iPhones have changed dramatically since the first one was launched 4 years ago, one thing that hasn't changed is the size. They've all sported 3.5Ē displays. While, I think 3.5Ē works well on an iPhone, itís hard to ignore the giant screens found on itís competitors.

    As such, the new iPhone 5 sports a 4Ē display. The biggest ever found on an iPhone though still much smaller than pretty much all itís competitors. But as they say Ďsize doesn't matterí.

    While the new screen is the same width as every other iPhone, itís taller. What this means is typing in portrait mode feels exactly the same as it does on my other iPhones. The screenís aspect ratio is now 16:9 which means you can view videos captured from the camera without having horizontal bars on the top and bottom of the screen. 16:9 is also a more game friendly ratio.

    Keeping the same width also means most users can easily reach across the screen with their thumb. Itís a good way to enlarge the screen without taking away the iPhoneís familiar user experience.

    Screen resolution has changed from 960x640 to 1136x640. Pixel density is unchanged so itís still a Ďretinaí, in that increasing the pixel density wonít make the screen appear any sharper when you hold it at a normal viewing distance.

    The new screen has more or less the same brightness as the one found on the 4s. I do notice that the screen appears to be slightly more saturated plus the colour temperature noticeably warmer without looking Ďdirtyí. You can actually see the difference if you compare icons in the picture of the 5 and 4s above.

    When it comes to the bright outdoors, the 5ís display is adequate when used in direct sunlight.

    Maximum black levels are identical to the 4sí. Hereís a tip, if you find black levels are too gray for you, get the white iPhone 5. On my black 4s, I always noticed the black levels more because my bezel was darker than the screen.

    Overall, the screen is an evolution of the one you find in the 4s. Itís a good screen but the one on the HTC One X is better.

    The home button feels different than the 4sí. The 5ís has a much more satisfying feel when you press it. That said, itís a bit louder so it might bother your significant other if theyíre a light sleeper.


    One area where the iPhone does well is in the materials department. From iPhone 4 onward, iPhones have been very tactile. From the all glass back to the metal sides there aren't many sub $1000 phones that feel like an iPhone save for maybe the Blackberry Bold 9900 and to a lesser extent the HTC One S/One V.

    The iPhone 5 ups the ante in the material department. While thereís still a bit of glass on the back most of it is now brushed aluminum on the white one and anodized aluminum on the black. The sides are still metal but the corners have a new finish which makes the metal edges feel more interesting. The speaker and microphone grills are now drilled holes (like on some Nokia and HTC phones) instead of just a hole thatís covered in mesh.

    That said, out of the box, my iPhone 5 had some minor blemishes. Thereís a very small scratch next the letter on the back plus the Apple logo has minor flaws in it. Maybe Apple is drop testing iPhones before sending them out - itís a new manufacturing technique ĎiDropí.

    Another thing, while metal is cool, I think the back of the 5 looks worse than the 4s. When I opened my white, I felt some regret because the back looks ugly. Then I saw my friendís black 5ís which also look strange so I guess Iíll just have to not look at the back too much.

    Anywayís flaws aside, most other phones feel a little plastic fantastic next to the iPhone.

    Power button

    mute switch, volume buttons

    SIM card tray

    speaker, microphone, accessory connector, headphone jack.

    The headphone jack has been relocated to the bottom. While the iPhone 5 still has a proprietary jack, itís a new connector called Lightning (Apple figures youíll pay more for a cable if itís call Lightning).

    While part of me is disappointed that Apple didnít just use a micro USB like everyone else, the new connector is pretty nice. Itís slightly smaller than microUSB and more importantly, it can be inserted either way. One big downside is that thereís a chip inside which makes it harder for third parties to make compatible cables.

    Another new feature which really annoys me is the nano SIM. Just when everyone is starting to use micro SIMís Apple releases a new, slightly smaller SIM card. Itís really not that much smaller and it makes me wonder if itís really necessary. It makes switching between the iPhone and other phones much more complicated. Then again, maybe thatís the point.

    The built-in speaker is very loud - one of the loudest on the market. Compared to the 4s, the 5ís is about the same loudness but it sounds slightly better. That said, you wonít notice unless you have them side-by-side.

    To me, the iPhone 5 still has a great form factor. Iím glad Apple didnít put a monster 4.8Ē display on their device. I love my Galaxy S III but itís too big. The width of the iPhone makes it easy to hold and use with one hand.


    On paper, the 5ís camera is unchanged from the 4. 8MP with a f/2.4 lens. Thereís a new panorama feature. While panorama programs have been around for years - I personally like using 360 and Photosynth - the iPhone 5ís records panoramas at a very high resolution. Iím not sure of the maximum resolution but Iíve taken panoramas with resolutions as high as 27 megapixels.

    Unlike Photosynth and 360, the iPhoneís panorama feature only lets you move left-to-right (like Sonyís sweep panorama).

    While it doesnít like it there are moving subjects in your panoramas overall, as long as your careful it does a decent job. Look at my stunning panorama of Costco.

    As far as camera performance goes, the 5 has very good low-light performance. I compared the 5 with the 4s, HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III. I did a quick test outside my office when it was dark. For the One X and GS3, I set both to their respective night or low light modes. The One X has an advantage here because it has a f/2.0 lens while the GS3ís f/2.6 lens is a bit slower than the 4s and 5ís f/2.4 lens.

    I should also point out that I have no control over how long each camera leaves itís shutter open. The night modes on the One X and GS3 will tell them to leave the shutter open longer but the iPhone lacks this sort of mode.

    Anyways, here are the results. The GS3 does quite well here but it has to open the lens for Ĺ seconds which is a really long time to hand hold. It uses a gain of ISO 640.

    The One X doesnít do that well even though it has a f/2.0 lens. Its using a shutter speed of ⅛ which is 4x shorter than the GS3 which is one of the reasons why it does badly. Gain is ISO 1250.

    The iPhone 4s does terrible here. It uses the slowest shutter speed here at 1/15 which is 7.5 times slower than the GS3. Gain is ISO 800.

    The iPhone 5ís shutter speed of 1/15 ties the 4s here as being the slowest here. Despite that, it does the best here. Itís got the best colour and is more or less tied with the GS3 details-wise. Itís gain is ISO 3200.

    So the iPhone 5 with itís sensor that can go up to ISO 3200 wins the test here. That's very good low-light performance. While the GS3 does okay here, itís Ĺ shutter speed isnít very usable unless you have very, very steady hands. Despite itís fast lens and high ISO number, the One X does poorly here.

    Subjectively, the iPhone 5ís camera feels a little faster than the 4s which is no slouch. You can take more pictures quickly plus focus feels a bit faster. It also launches faster.

    While LTE has been around on Android phones for about a year now itís new to the iPhone 5. When people ask me about LTE and what use all the extra speed is I have 2 things to say about it. 1) right now, the extra speed isnít the point, 2) LTE has lower ping times, 3) LTE networks tend to be less congested.

    One of the reasons why LTE tends to be less congested is due to the fact that the iPhone 4s didnít have LTE. Now that the iPhone 5 has LTE weíre going to have an influx of iPhone users downloading Apps, Facetiming, iMessaging and doing other things to clog up the network. Whether this will result in so much congestion that the LTE networks becoming crippled remains to be seen.

    iOS 6

    Iím an Apple developer so Iíve had it running on my iPhone 4s for a couple of months now. While there are various changes the big ones are that the YouTube and Maps apps from Google are now gone. There is now a YouTube app from Google that you can download from the app store which is much better than the old one. In fact itís quite similar to the one you get on Android phones. The map app has been replaced by one from Apple.

    While the new maps app from Apple looks much nicer than Google maps for iOS ever did, Iím disappointed that thereís no navigation.

    There are also reports that the mapping information isnít as detailed or accurate as Google Maps. While I didnít test this exhaustively, recently, I was in downtown Toronto with forum member DerekToronto when he asked Siri to find the closest all-you-can-eat Sushi restaurant. It found us a restaurant in St Catherines (over 100km away). Still, I tried it later and it worked.

    Since the 5 has a longer screen not all apps fit it properly. If youíre using an app that doesnít support the new resolution there will be black bars on the top and bottom of the screen in portrait mode and on the sides in landscape mode. Still, Iím sure many developers will eventually update their apps to support the new screen resolution ones. iOS devs had to deal with the same thing when they released the iPad.


    When Apple launched the 5, one of the big improvements over the 4s is that the 5ís A6 chip is double the speed of the A5 in the 4s. Letís see if itís true.

    SunSpider is a benchmark that measures javascript performance. Whatís cool about it is that it runs in virtually any browser so you can use it to compare devices across platforms.

    SunSpider 0.9.1 (ms, lower is better)

    Apple iPhone 5 911.7
    Motorola ATRIX HD LTE 1246.6
    HTC One X 1550.9
    Apple iPhone 4s 1762.7
    Samsung Galaxy S III 1781.5
    Sony Xperia ION 1835.7

    GL Benchmark 2.1.5 (Egypt on screen)

    GL Benchmarkís 2.1.5 is a gaming benchmark that compares gaming performance.

    Apple iPhone 4s 6555
    Apple iPhone 5 6777

    According to this test, the iPhone 5 has about the same graphics performance as the 4s. Turns out that GL Benchmark score is capped at 60 frames per second (probably an OS limitation). So, since the 4s can pretty much run the entire test at 60fps, the 5 can do this too. If nothing else, it tells us that even though the 4s is a year old, itís no slouch in the graphics performance.

    Luckily, GL Benchmark 2.5 came out recently. It has more demanding tests, which do a better job illustrating the differences between the 4s and 5

    GL Benchmark 2.5.1 (Egypt on screen)

    Apple iPhone 4s 21fps
    Apple iPhone 5 39fps

    Now we get a better idea of how much faster the 5 is than the 4s. Despite the fact that the 5 has a higher resolution screen itís score is over 85% higher than the 4sí.

    GL Benchmark 2.5.1 (Egypt offscreen)

    The off-screen test runs at 1920x1080 and thus doesnít fit on my phones screen.. This test is a little more abstract since most games run at whatever the the screen resolution is. Still, it allows us to compare graphics performance with devices that have different resolution screens.

    Apple iPhone 5 29fps
    Samsung Galaxy S III 13fps
    Apple iPhone 4s 12fps
    HTC One X (Tegra 3) 9.7fps

    It would seem that the A6 chip in the iPhone 5 is seriously packing. Itís over 2x as fast as the Adreno 225 in the Galaxy S III or the A5 chip in the 4s. There could be many reasons why there is such a difference. The Adreno 225 is a bit older and is in the process of being supplanted by the Adreno 305. Maybe the A6 has more memory bandwidth because it will presumably used in the successor to the iPad 3 later on.

    Battery Life:

    I hate battery life tests because itís impossible to replicate real world usage in a controlled environment. Still, I do it so we have numbers to compare. To test battery life, I charge the battery, max out the brightness, turn on airplane mode and playback a video until the the phone turns off.

    Battery test (mins, higher is better)
    Apple iPhone 4s 422
    Apple iPhone 5 388
    Samsung Galaxy S III 368
    HTC One X (Tegra 3) 262

    Anyways, when it comes to battery life, my Ďseat of the pantsí feeling is more important than a number a benchmark spits out. The problem with iOS (and itís not really a problem) is that some of the higher end games are devastating to battery life. Playing Infinity Blade 2 for half an hour is going to make a huge dent in your battery life. My feeling is that the iPhone 5 probably wonít make it through the day unless youíre a fairly light user. It does seem to last a little longer than the iPhone 4s but itís still not enough.

    I wish Apple had made the 5 the same thickness as the 4s and stuck a bigger battery in it. The 5ís battery is about the same size as the one in the 4s.

    As a Phone:

    One of the best things about using the iPhone as a phone is that it has one of the loudest earpieces and speaker on the market. Sound quality is good.

    HSPA RF performance seems similar to the 4s.


    I donít normally comment on bundled headphones. To be honest, I canít remember the last set of bundled headphones I tried. Theyíre usually normally cheap, donít sound that great and should be the first thing you replace if you listen to music on your phone.

    Still, Apple is making a big deal about their new Earpods headphones so I figured Iíd give them a shot. At first, I didnít like how they fit in my ears - turns out you need to press them in. Once you do that they fit really well.

    They sound pretty decent. The fact that they come Ďfreeí with the iPhone is plus. Compared to my Sony XBA-3ís the EarPods have slightly more bass and and comparable volume but theyíre slightly less revealing. I think most people will at the very least find that the EarPods are a lot of fun. Just watch out that you donít damage your hearing!

    If you buy an iPhone 5 and donít already own a pair of fancy headphones give the EarPods a try first. Theyíre quite a pleasant surprise.

    iOS or Android:

    Android or iOS is such a loaded question. With so many fanboys out there there's no correct answer. After all, it's easy to focus on one problem and blow it out of proportion.

    First off, which Android phone do you compare with? Right now the best Android device out there is probably the HTC One X. That said, the One X has a fatal flaw - it only has 10GB of storage. The Galaxy S III is much more popular but itís screen doesnít work well outdoors. On the software side, do you go with a pure Android device like the Galaxy Nexus or something very customized like the Galaxy S III?

    Anyways, I decided to compare with my Galaxy S III running the default Samsung software - itís what most people will experience if they buy an Android phone. I've also been asked the question "iPhone or Galaxy?" countless times.

    I was taking the train the other day. I had my iPhone 5 in one hand and my Galaxy S III in the other. It was when I was using both at the same time that I realized what I liked about my GS3 and what I like about my iPhone. Note that this is NOT meant to be an exhaustive comparison between the 2. Rather, itís just some random points that stuck out to me.

    In my hand thereís no comparison. The iPhone 5 is easier to hold. Itís narrower so I can use it easily with one hand. I kind of have to balance the GS3 because I have to constantly re-position my hand my hand. Thereís also the materials. The iPhone 5 feels much fancier. The GS3 doesnít feel cheap but it feels much more plastic-y.

    Since plastic is more shock absorbent than metal you could argue that the GS3 can take a drop better than the iPhone 5. Personally, Iíve seen both GS3ís and iPhones (and other phones like the HTC One X) with cracked screens. Donít forget, the GS3 is harder to hold onto because itís so big. Bottom line, donít drop your phone.

    When it comes to surfing the web, itís hard to beat the GS3. On both my GS3 and iPhone, I use Chrome instead of the stock browser. I find the iPhone is a little smoother but what I really notice is that the extra screen size on the GS3 makes a difference. According to my measurements the GS3 screen is over 40% bigger.

    Sometimes my phone is in my pocket and I like to just take it out, look at it and put it back in without unlocking the screen. The iPhone has its lock screen while the GS3 has its notification area. To me, the iPhoneís lock screen is more useful. I can quickly view my emails, texts, facebook messages by pressing power and scrolling up and down. The GS3 notification area is less focused. It gets cluttered and shows less important information.

    One area where the iPhone really lags behind Android is when it comes to sharing. When viewing a picture on the iPhone, you can send it via; Email, Text message, Twitter, Facebook or copy it to your clipboard. Thatís not so bad right? Those are probably the 4 most popular choices. On my GS3 I can send it to all those plus my Picasa web album, Facebook Messenger, Bluetooth,Wi-Fi Direct, Dropbox, etc. Further, you can always add more destinations if you want. If I want to send a picture to my Picasa on my iPhone I need to go find a Picasa app and then use that to upload.

    Since I was taking the train, I decided to take a look at each phoneís built-in mapping program to figure out how to get where Iím going. The new mapping program in the iPhone 5 look amazing. Itís very clean and feels streamlined. However, it has one huge problem - while it has navigation and guidance, thereís no support for public transit. Does Apple think that all their users drive cars?

    I was in New York recently and was using the public transit features on Google Maps extensively. I would have been in deep trouble if I had to reply on Appleís Map. Presumably Apple Maps will get this feature eventually but as of right now, out of the box, itís useless.

    Keyboards are a very personal thing. I find that the iPhoneís key spacing and auto correct feel more natural to me. I actually use Swiftkey on my Galaxy S III and find itís a bit better than the Samsung keyboard but I still prefer the iPhoneís.

    On the train I like to watch videos. Here the Galaxy S III blows the iPhone out of the water. My GS3 is able to playback many more video formats and more importantly, it supports picture-in-picture. Iím able to watch a video while I surf the web, Foursquare, Email, etc. On my iPhone, Iím constantly hitting the home button.

    Since we're talking about video don't forget that the GS3 has a MicroSD slot and that video chews up a lot of storage. My 16GB GS3 costs around 599 while my 64GB MicroSD is around $60. A 16GB iPhone 5 was $599. If I wanted a 64GB version it would be another $200.

    Customization is tricky. On the iPhone, you can customize your wallpaper and ringtones. Icons can be organized into folders. You can do all these things with the GS3 but you also have home screens, widgets, live wallpapers, etc. Another thing you can do with a GS3, is that you can connect it to your computer and manage many of your files.

    Speaking of customization, people who like to tinker with their phones will find a GS3 much easier to tinker with. On the iPhone, you have to make sure you donít update it, wait for jailbreaks, that sort of thing. Android doesnít care if you tinker with your phone (as long as you don't break it). Apple will do everything they can to stop you.

    Since the iPhone is a) very popular b) only comes out once a year, there are countless accessories which are made for the iPhone. Itís not to say that there are no accessories for the GS3 but the iPhone wins here.

    People ask me whether they should get an iPhone or an Android (actually they say, iPhone or Galaxy). Itís just too hard to say because theyíre too different and both are really good.

    If you own an iPhone and like it you should probably stick with it. If you think iPhones are cool and you want to be cool then get an iPhone. The iPhone has that effect on people.


    Apple somehow managed to add a bigger screen, a LTE radio yet increase battery life while using roughly the same size battery as the 4s. I guess thatís the advantage of being vertically integrated like Apple. That said, like all other smartphones, battery life can stink if youíre doing a lot with it. If you use your phone lightly then youíll find the battery life tolerable. If you play Infinity Blade, youíll think the battery indicator goes down in increments of 10%.

    Apple made the new iPhone 5 thinner and lighter than the 4s and to be honest, if you donít stick it in a case, itís too thin and light. I understand the need to have a phone thatís more svelte than the competition, but I would have rather Apple made the the 5 the same thickness as the 4s and put a bigger battery in it. Thereís no replacement for a big battery.

    While the iphone 5 contains many incremental changes from the 4s, theyíre not really that noticeable. Yes, apps, especially games load a little quicker, plus the LTE makes a difference if you find HSPA to be overloaded. But overall, itís not a day and night difference.

    But thatís kinda the point. I find that on Apple you only really need to upgrade every other generation. If youíre coming from an iPhone 4 then the iPhone 5 will be a big change. If you own a 4s then the difference doesnít feel as dramatic. If I may Segue
    a little, itís actually like this on Android too now - at least with the current generation of Android hardware. The difference between Galaxy S II and III isnít massive.

    It's an evolution, not revolution of the iPhone line.


    • fast
    • camera
    • speaker is loud
    • big screen (for an iPhone)
    • included headphones
    • LTE (new feature for the iPhone)
    • thin and light


    • too thin and light (buy a case)
    • maps
    • new SIM card format
    • new proprietary connector
    • finish is delicate
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Revolution or Evolution: Our iPhone 5 review started by howard View original post
    Comments 16 Comments
    1. LoUiEvUiTToNd0n's Avatar
      LoUiEvUiTToNd0n -
      whats with this white iphone take over?
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      Quote Originally Posted by LoUiEvUiTToNd0n View Post
      whats with this white iphone take over?
      I had a black iPhone, 3G, white 3Gs, black 4 and 4s.

      It goes black, black, white, black, black, white. So it was time to buy a white iPhone again.
    1. LoUiEvUiTToNd0n's Avatar
      LoUiEvUiTToNd0n -
      Quote Originally Posted by howard View Post
      I had a black iPhone, 3G, white 3Gs, black 4 and 4s.

      It goes black, black, white, black, black, white. So it was time to buy a white iPhone again.
      interesting... my friend told me the same thing when he got his white iphone... except he was black, black, black, black... lol
    1. mandrsn1's Avatar
      mandrsn1 -
      Good review. I think the white looks way better.
    1. jabohn's Avatar
      jabohn -
      One of the best things about using the iPhone as a phone is that it has one of the loudest earpieces and speaker on the market. Sound quality is good.

      Seriously? Both my brother and I, coming from using BB, think the iPhone earpiece is way too quiet. You can never hear anything in places like a crowded restaurant when on BB there was no problem. Mind you we both have iPhone 4's... is this improved with iPhone 5?
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      You're sort of right. I just dusted off my Bold 9900 and its earpiece is slightly louder than the 5's but the difference is minimal.

      I guess I've been reviewing so many quiet Android phones I forgot about my Blackberries.

      Quote Originally Posted by jabohn View Post
      One of the best things about using the iPhone as a phone is that it has one of the loudest earpieces and speaker on the market. Sound quality is good.

      Seriously? Both my brother and I, coming from using BB, think the iPhone earpiece is way too quiet. You can never hear anything in places like a crowded restaurant when on BB there was no problem. Mind you we both have iPhone 4's... is this improved with iPhone 5?
    1. darc's Avatar
      darc -
      That was the best review I have read on the iPhone 5 thanks Howard you rock
    1. RightThere's Avatar
      RightThere -
      Thin and light is both a Pro and a Con?
    1. gordhunt's Avatar
      gordhunt -
      White phones are for girls

      Sent from my SGH-I747M using Tapatalk 2
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      Quote Originally Posted by RightThere View Post
      Thin and light is both a Pro and a Con?
      Depends on whether you like a super thin and light phone so I put it as both.
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      Forgot to mention, when I preordered and had to decide on colour I got white because I figured the black one would flake off. I have a Blackberry Storm that has an awesome black metal battery cover that partially flaked off so I figured the same thing would happen with the black iPhone - I was right.
    1. Kthompson04's Avatar
      Kthompson04 -
      I personally really like the backside of the iPhone. It kind of pays homage to the original iPhone I think with that finish. Nice review. I guess it would be asking too much for the iPhone 5 to be a "revolution".
    1. fabri's Avatar
      fabri -
      Thanks for the review. Set up a Black today. The 3,4 and 4S were nice to set up and use, but this one is really impressive in the hand.
    1. bluesamg's Avatar
      bluesamg -
      I want this, the gnote 2 or the next nexus.
    1. VArase's Avatar
      VArase -
      How is a shutter speed of 1/15 second slower than a shutter speed of 1/2 second?

      To me it looks like it's 7.5x faster.
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      Opps, got confused there. Thanks for pointing it out. It should be fixed now.

      Quote Originally Posted by VArase View Post
      How is a shutter speed of 1/15 second slower than a shutter speed of 1/2 second?

      To me it looks like it's 7.5x faster.