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By James Walker
Even if you consider yourself to be out of touch with the tech world, you would have struggled to miss the release of Apple’s sixth and newest iPhone model – the iPhone 5. With such a huge market share and reputation in the smartphone industry there were inevitably high expectations at the press conference last Wednesday in San Francisco. Whilst the newest model appears to have satisfied the Apple community, it’s unlikely that they’ve done enough to win over the large and growing Android fan base.
What’s new on the outside?
The iPhone 5 has a number of additional features which the iPhone 4S doesn’t have. Most noticeably, it is half an inch taller at 4 inches, allowing for an extra row of icons in the home screen and more real estate for app developers to play with (or more realistically, to use for advertising). There’s good news for wearers of super skinny jeans as the new model is also 18% thinner, as well as being 20% lighter, making it even more portable. Apple have also reverted to the metal back casing of the original iPhone, which should hopefully be more robust than the glass backing found on the 4S, which was prone to shattering. This could possibly mean less need for a case, freeing up more pocket space.
Another obvious difference is the new “lightening” dock connector, which is smaller than its predecessor and reversible, meaning you can shove it in either way up. With the rest of the tech industry moving towards the micro USB charging format, Apple has unsurprisingly refrained from standardisation with an all-digital 8 pin connector. Despite its name, the new connector doesn’t promise faster syncing and, contrary to many rumours, has stuck with USB 2.0 rather than the faster USB 3.0 standard for connectivity. The lightening connector will also mean that in order to use the iPhone 5 with any old docking stations, you will need to buy an adaptor, setting you back £24, and presumably bumping up Apple’s net profits by £23.50.
What’s changed on the inside?
In an attempt to free up even more internal space, Apple has continued the trend of decreasing sim card size by introducing the nano sim which is only 12.3mm long. The iPhone 5 also comes with an A6 chip which is supposedly twice as fast as the A5 chip found in the 4S. This should mean noticeably faster application switching and faster graphics but what does this mean for battery life? The iPhone 5 offers no improvement on the 8 hours of 3G talk time but does boast 8 hours of web browsing using mobile data, an improvement from 6 hours in previous models.
As predicted, the iPhone 5 supports the new 4G LTE mobile networks, which promises significantly faster data download speeds than 3G services. However, in the UK, this will only be available under the newly rebranded EE network (formerly T-mobile and Orange) which has controversially been given permission by Ofcom to start providing the 4G service ahead of other networks, beginning this month.
Along with the new iPhone comes a new mobile operating system: iOS 6. Apple says that this new operating system, with over 200 new features, will be available to owners of older iPhone models back to the 3GS from September 19. Most notably, this upgrade will mean integration with Facebook, as seen with Twitter in iOS 5, in addition to new Siri features and FaceTime over 3G. After failing to renew a 5 year contract with Google, the new iOS will not have a built in Google maps app but comes with Apple’s own flyover 3D maps with turn by turn navigation. The native YouTube app has also been ditched in an attempt to divert revenue and traffic from Google but the search engine has responded by creating a free independent YouTube app, currently the most popular app in the App store. iOS 6 sees the introduction of a new app, Passbook, which collects all your tickets, passes, gift cards and coupons into one place. Security may be an issue for this app but Apple claim to have it covered.
What the iPhone 5 doesn’t have…
There has been much talk since the release of the new iPhone of the omission of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology which was first seen in Google’ Nexus phones and can be found in Samsung and Nokia’s latest devices. This technology uses radio communication between devices which are almost touching to make contactless transactions and exchange data. It allows you to convert your phone into a wallet by waving it over a retailer’s sensor like a credit card. “The decision to omit NFC in the iPhone 5 could cost Apple,” said Fred Huet, managing director at Greenwich Consulting.
So, should you buy one?
If you are already an iPhone user who has a spare £529 and would really appreciate a faster, more powerful phone with super speedy mobile internet, then my advice would be to go for the upgrade which is available from September 21. You also get the added convenience of being able to sync from an iTunes backup of your old iPhone to keep all of your settings, pictures and texts just the way there were. However, if you’re not a dedicated Apple fan or you’re looking to buy your first smartphone then do a bit more research before splashing out on the Apple premium. The Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy s3 and Nokia Lumina 920 are all top competitors boasting similar specs but lower price tags.