• iPhone 5 Review - Is it everything it's hyped up to be?

    The iPhone 5 was released in Australia on Friday. Today we take a hands on look at the phone and see whether it meets the hype.

    My iPhone arrived by courier at about 11am on Friday. I pre-ordered via Telstra on a contract upgrade, and comparing it to fighting your way through a queue at an Apple store or trying to find stock at another retailer, it's an experience I can highly recommend to get your hands on an iPhone 5 quickly. Its hasn't all been plain sailing so have a look at the end of the article for an overview of the pre-order process itself as I don't want to bore those people who have no interest in it. There is some good and bad feedback in there.

    Unpacking

    The unpacking is pretty much the same as every other iPhone with the exception of the box size and colour on the black iPhone 5. Yes, you heard correctly, Apple have gone to a black box for the iPhone 5. Mine arrived still sealed from Telstra so I was fortunate enough to break the virgin seal myself.



    Open the box and itís exactly what you've seen with every other iPhone. The phone at the top in the usual sealed plastic that Apple puts on virtually every product they supply. Underneath that you find a plastic container to hold the phone in place, the thin cardboard sleeve that houses the quick start guide and some stickers and the sim ejection tool. Under that, you have the charger, cable and the new Apple headphones. Other than the content themselves, its the same box configuration.



    Backing up and restoring

    If you have an existing iPhone, you obviously be left with the simple task of backing up your phone and restoring all your content to the new phone. You'll be happy to hear that the new cable is not only smaller, but seems to backup and restore quicker. I didn't do formal benchmarks (nor could I find any) but the entire restore of the phone seemed about twice the speed of normal although I'm not sure if you could attribute this to the phone speed or the cable.



    It is worth noting that the iPhone 5 is still USB2, which came as a big surprise given Apple has already introduced USB3 in its laptops. I'm sure a number of users (myself included) are disappointed at this prospect. If there was one single surprise and disappointment for me on the iPhone 5, this would be it although given most users are using cloud based functions, its unlikely to have a major impact on users. I'm lucky if I connect my phone to my laptop once a week. I will say that I don't think people understand how small this connector is and none of the photos I've seen do it justice.



    Construction

    Everyone says they notice the lightness on the iPhone 5 when they pick it up for the first time. Its not a myth or their mind playing tricks on them. The new iPhone is noticeable lighter and thinner and the old phone looks much larger in comparison. One of the interesting things with the long thin screen is it actually makes the phone look smaller than the older 4/4s unless you put them side by side. Its a little like a woman wearing heels. The longer phone makes the entire phone look much narrower and you immediately get the impression its actually smaller than the 4 when in reality its not.

    From a construction perspective, itís typical Apple. The finishing is impeccable and itís nearly impossible to see any manufacturing marks with the naked eye. I have heard of a couple of people having issues with some small chips on theirs so I advise you to check your phone when it arrives as the ones I heard of were all out of the box.



    From a durability perspective, I'm actually going to use a relatively unusual source for Mactalk and point to one of the Android sites called Android Authority where the iPhone 5 was tested side by side with the Galaxy S3. The iPhone not only came out remarkably well, but it beat the S3 hands down. Cudo's to the Android Authority guys for actually posting it. I know of sites that have enough bias not to show information, which paints their favourite product in a bad light.



    Speed

    Apple claim itís twice as fast as the 4S. Benchmarks say itís twice as fast. Geek bench says itís faster than the Galaxy S3, which has a quad core and 2GB of ram. In short, itís faster than a toddler on RedBull. (No I haven't tested the theory yet before you send child services my direction). Coming from an iPhone 4, which was half as fast as the 4S, this thing is ohmagodthisthingisincredible fast. Apps open instantly with almost no lag. Facebook is an absolute pleasure in comparison to my iPhone 4 which felt like it was using more code to communicate with the Facebook servers.

    LTE

    LTE is something special. I know people didn't see it as a special announcement in the iPhone 5 presentation, largely because enough phone manufacturers out there already have it that its not special or unique to Apple. It may not be unique to Apple, but if you're fortunate enough to be on Telstra in an LTE supported area, it's special. In excess of 40Mbps or roughly 6MB/s could see your 1GB Internet quota disappear in 3 minutes of use or 8GB disappear in less than half an hour. It's almost as quick as the NBN and its likely to make a lot of home connections seem slower than lawn bowls in an extreme sports competition.

    Have a look at the Mactalk speed thread for some interesting results.



    Screen

    I'm not going to go too much into the screen. It is pretty similar to last year's screen with the exception of the size. Obviously the pixels aren't stretched so its higher resolution. This adds an extra row of icons on the bottom of your screen so you'll need to do some reorganisation when you migrate to the new phone.



    Camera

    The camera has a number of improvements. The front camera is now 720P and obviously the rear camera is 8MP which is pretty good by phone standards. I'm not a big believer in phone cameras. They're nice to have their but I've never been able to produce decent prints off a phone so its a last resort. The video I do use often but thats about it. There is a marked improvement in low light however which will keep a lot of users happy.

    Its not going to replace a camera completely but they're not far off with every release. You can check out Apple's gallery here. There are some good pictures but maybe I'm just spoilt in my expectations due to DSRL's.

    The new headphones


    The new headphones are another item that have been a long time coming. Fortunately they won't have as much impact as the new Lightning cable but the addition of the new headphones is likely to keep a lot of people happy.



    Overall, the new headphones are actually very good. I'd put them on a par with the previous $100 headphones that Apple used to sell separately with the exception that these don't seem to shock you (yet).

    Quality of sound is surprisingly good for a packaged set of headphones and these headphones are likely to prevent a number of users from upgrading although I have my doubts about the long term durability of them as this is an issue that has plagued most of the cheaper headsets. Its great to see Apple include a better quality set of headphones but let us know what the feedback is on durability if any of you have problems with yours.



    My accessories are redundant!

    Okay, its not that bad but you may find some of your accessories becoming redundant. My TomTom car kit is now no longer useful but itís past its use by date with 3 years of use. Unfortunately I was forced to head to the Apple store and purchase a couple of USB to lightening cables as it's just not practical to have a single USB to Lightning cable per phone. I purchased 4 extra from Chadstone for my wife and I, one for each of us to carry in our laptop bags, one for my car and a spare for the lounge where we sometimes charge a phone. The two that came with the phones will remain in our bedroom for overnight charging. $50/phone to add to the total phone costs.



    The way I see it this has been a long time coming. Realistically this connect has been around since 2003 when space was probably not as much of a premium as it is today and was probably bleeding edge at the time. By today's standards, its larger and slow and they have no place in the modern digital world. RIP 30 Pin Connector, you'll be missed, but not until I replace my iPad. Sure we may lose out on a couple of accessories but thatís life. Inevitably there is always some form of sacrifice for the long term good and this is one of them. Reminds me of when Apple removed the Floppy. Lots of complaints but eventually it'll die down.



    Cables are in short supply so if you need them, you may battle with stock. Keep an eye on the Apple stores. Someone said they didn't have stock left on Friday but Saturday they had plenty otherwise you're stuck with a 2-3 week wait in the Apple store.

    Conclusion

    Itís obviously the best iPhone yet, that's why its the 5. The question is whether itís worth an upgrade. If you were on Telstra, Iíd say without a doubt. The LTE is incredible. Even if it looked identical and had no CPU improvements, Iíd recommend upgrading purely for this reason but other network users may have a harder time justifying the purchase if they didn't have access to LTE depending on the coverage in their area.

    I wasnít one of the people looking for the extra screen size, but Iím also not bothered by it. For this reason, I probably wouldnít have purchased it solely for this reason but I also have no doubts there are many people who feel this is important and that will probably impact some decisions.

    The iPhone 5 is an innovative product per say. Its the evolution of a great phone that is hard to innovate on. Every improvement is a logical improvement. Its faster, thinner, has the best construction on the market and is now capable of achieving the fastest browsing speeds in Australia and if you look at the video drop test with the S3, its clear that the construction differences are substantial.

    Obviously there are some things Apple missed, USB3, NFC and a couple of others but I don't think its likely to have much of an impact in the next year anyway and thats where Apple was probably lacking the same level of hype as previous years. They did still sell about 6-8 million phones so clearly the market understood.



    About the author

    Athol Hill is the Practice Lead for Stonebridge Systems, an SAP & OpenText implementation partner specialising in web and content management implementations and strategy.

    He is a certified SAP and Project Management Professional with a large number of implementations spanning the globe including Australasia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. When he isn't kitesurfing or spending time with his family, Athol writes part time for Mactalk on a range of subjects including iOS/OSX in the workplace, bleeding edge, product reviews and anything Mac. If you have something new and exciting to review, feel free to get in touch. He can be contacted via twitter on @themissionman or email on athol.hill@mactalk.com.au. Opinions noted here are Athol's own and aren't any official policy of position of his employer.

    Telstra iPhone 5 pre-order process

    The whole Telstra pre-order process has been a blessing and a curse, but overall, if you want a phone on launch day, it's a whole lot better than standing in a queue.

    We pre-ordered two 64GB iPhone 5's as our contract ends coincided with the launch of the 5. I pre-ordered both in a couple of minutes. The 3am on the Thursday I got a shipping notification from Telstra for my wife's phone (ordered first) and at 2pm I got my shipping notification. 3 minutes apart in ordering time and 11 hours apart in shipping? Anyway, my wife's order seemed to be doomed from the start. The shipping link pointed to nothing and the Startrack site said the parcel didnít exist. Mine worked fine so I phoned Telstra as was told some shipments had problems with the tracking numbers. Surprisingly both phones arrived together on the Friday at 11am and I started the process of backing up my old phone and restoring to the new one.

    Activation with Telstra has been a mixed bag. I activated mine at lunchtime via phone (about 15 minutes hold probably due to the iPhone 5 demand and all the activations happening at the same time). The activation process of moving everything across to the new phone took about an hour after completion of the phone call for the actual system activation to take effect. My old phone lost network signal and the new phone bounced into life. If that had been the case with both phones I'd be a very happy customer as I got my phones on day 1 and everything on the activation worked perfectly.

    That's what happens when it goes well. It doesn't always go well and my wife has been less fortunate. I wouldn't mind that much if it was just my wife, but as my wife's personal technology slave, if she has problems, it means I'm doing all the work. 20 minutes on hold for the first activation call to answer, then 15 minutes on the line to activate, another 20 on hold to find out why it hasn't activated, another 10 minutes of people not actually doing their job properly, 20 more minutes on hold later, someone finding out the previous person didn't do their job and promising someone would contact me who could solve it. And so the problems went on. I spent so much time on hold; I was dreaming Telstra's hold music. Telstra wasted hours of my life just on hold. Some of the staff clearly didnít know what they were doing while others seemed great. I phoned one who said they reactivated my visual voicemail (MessageBank Plus) and when I phone back later to resolve my wife's issues, I asked about it and was told their department doesn't do that so it would have been impossible for the activations person I previously dealt with to have done this. Why tell someone you have done it if you don't?

    To date, my wife's phone is still not activated. Some staff have told me they saw and error with the process and it has to be referred to management. Other's have said its just taking time because of the number of activations. That tells me that either staff don't know what they are doing, or they are lying to me, neither of which makes me happy or wastes less of my time. The last time I had a problem like this it took nearly two weeks to get my wife's phone activated and they found some error in the activation itself. Let's hope its not the same this time around.

    According to Telstra call centre staff, on the weekend of the iPhone launch, there is not one person in the call centre you can escalate a problem to and thats a major issue for me. I can't believe someone wouldn't plan for this on the weekend of the iPhone launch.
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