The last significant redesign of the iPhone platform came in 2010 with the iPhone 4. It was an update that literally touched all aspects of the device, from SoC to display to baseband and of course, chassis. Last month’s launch of the iPhone 5 is no different in magnitude. The sixth generation iPhone makes some of the biggest changes to the platform since its introduction in 2007.

Visually the device begins by evolving the design language of the iPhone 4/4S chassis. From the launch of the iPhone 4 it was quite obvious that Apple had picked a design it was quite proud of. Thus it’s not too surprising that, from a distance, the iPhone 5 resembles the previous two iPhone models. We’ll get into material differences shortly, but what make the iPhone 5 design such a radical departure is its larger display.

All previous iPhones have maintained the same 3.5-inch, 3:2 aspect ratio display. With the rest of the world quickly moving to much larger displays, and with 16:9 the clear aspect ratio of choice, when faced with the decision of modernizing the iPhone platform the choice was obvious.

The iPhone 5 embraces a taller, 4-inch, 16:9 1136 x 640 display opting to lengthen the device instead of increasing its area in both dimensions. The result is a device that is distinctly an iPhone, albeit a modern one. The taller display doesn’t do much to make desktop web pages any easier to read as a result of the width staying the same. Those longing for an HTC One X or Galaxy S 3 sized device running iOS are out of luck. Reading emails and typing are both improved though as there’s now more room for lists and the keyboard no longer occupies as much of the display. The taller device can be more awkward to use if you have smaller hands, but the added screen real estate is honestly worth it. Once you get used to the iPhone 5’s display, going back to the older models is tough.

The taller chassis went on a diet as well. The iPhone 5 is now considerably thinner and lighter than its predecessor, which is yet another factor that contributes to it feeling more modern.

Internally the device changes are just as significant, if not more, than those on the outside. The iPhone 5 includes LTE support, which in areas where LTE networks are deployed can be enough reason alone to warrant an upgrade.

The iPhone 5 also includes a brand new SoC from Apple: the A6. For the first time since the introduction of the iPad, Apple has introduced a major branded SoC on an iPhone first. The iPhone 4 used the A4 after it debuted on the iPad, and the 4S picked up the A5 months after the iPad 2 launched with it. The A6 however arrives first on the iPhone 5, and with it comes two of Apple’s first, custom designed CPU cores. We’ve always known Apple as a vertically integrated device and software vendor, but getting into CPU design takes that to a new level.

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4S Samsung Galaxy S 3 (USA) HTC One S Apple iPhone 5
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 136.6 mm (5.38" ) 130.9 mm (5.15" ) 123.8 mm (4.87")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 70.6 mm (2.78") 65 mm (2.56") 58.6 mm (2.31")
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 8.6 mm (0.34") 7.8 mm (0.31") 7.6 mm (0.30")
Weight 140 g (4.9 oz) 133g (4.7 oz) 119.5g (4.21 oz) 112 g (3.95 oz)
CPU Apple A5 @ ~800MHz Dual Core Cortex A9 1.5 GHz MSM8960 Dual Core Krait 1.5 GHz MSM8260A Dual Core Krait 1.3 GHz Apple A6 (Dual Core Apple Swift)
GPU PowerVR SGX 543MP2 Adreno 225 Adreno 225 PowerVR SGX 543MP3
RAM 512MB LPDDR2-800 2 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2
NAND 16GB, 32GB or 64GB integrated 16/32 GB NAND with up to 64 GB microSDXC 16 GB NAND 16, 32, or 64 GB integrated
Camera 8 MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8 MP with LED Flash + 1.9 MP front facing 8 MP with LED Flash + VGA front facing 8 MP with LED Flash + 1.2MP front facing
Screen 3.5" 960 x 640 LED backlit LCD 4.8" 1280x720 HD SAMOLED 4.3" 960x540 Super AMOLED 4" 1136 x 640 LED backlit LCD
Battery Internal 5.3 Whr Removable 7.98 Whr Removable 6.1 Whr Internal 5.45 Whr

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the new iPhone. Whether it is understanding the architecture of the A6 SoC or investigating the improved low light performance of the iPhone 5’s rear facing camera, we’ve got it here in what is easily our most in-depth iPhone review to date. Let’s get started.

Design
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  • Spunjji - Friday, October 19, 2012 - link

    Incorrect. See HP Elitebook, Sony Vaio S15, Asus Zenbook, etc... that does depend on your definition of "trackpad that doesn't suck", but personally I'd take an Elitebook with actual buttons over the Apple effort any day, so that bit really is swings and roundabouts. Reply
  • doobydoo - Friday, October 19, 2012 - link

    'so that bit really is swings and roundabouts'

    That's like saying a Ferrari is overpriced because you prefer cup holders so therefore you get more car for less when you buy a Skoda.

    Also, you have to consider size, weight, battery life and performance.

    You can't find a single laptop which matches the air on all of the above.
    Reply
  • Sufo - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    You're right to an extent, however it's worth mentioning that it's a lot easier to find unlocked non-apple phones at good prices on auction sites etc. It's very hard to get much less than list price on iphones, even several months after release.

    As for Macs, it depends entirely on which country you buy them in - in the UK for example, it is cheaper to buy a plane ticket to the States and buy a 15" w/ retina there than it is to buy one locally - the same could not be said for similarly specced PCs.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Friday, October 19, 2012 - link

    Truth. Unfortunately Apple prices are subject to the perception that Apple products hold their value better, which in a purely practical sense really isn't any more true than for any other product. But the market does as the market does. :) Reply
  • Spunjji - Friday, October 19, 2012 - link

    People who defend Apple's prices with fake numbers just want to whine about people who don't like Apple... see how easy that argument is to return? Please. Reply
  • A5 - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I'd say the smartphone market does a fairly good job of dropping prices on products that need it.

    The only product I can really think of that is an outstanding "value" proposition would be the $350 unlocked GNex combined with a prepaid plan. The current high-end devices (One X, GS3, iP5) all seem to be fairly priced relative to each other.
    Reply
  • steven75 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    When I was looking at what I should price my 2.5 year old iPhone 4 at, I found the GS3 is already down to iPhone 4S prices on the resale market.

    Android phones just don't hold resale value vs iPhones, even the flagships, it's Mac vs PC all over again in that area. ;)
    Reply
  • pseudonymmster - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    "A processor license gives you the right to taken an ARM designed CPU core..."
    I think "taken" should've been "take" :D
    Reply
  • karasaj - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Nice review guys... all I have to say :P Reply
  • jjj - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    On the scuffing, would you buy a car that rusts if you drive in the rain? This is clearly a design flaw, a sane company would recall the product and use a more apropriate material.You shouldn't be telling people to deal with it (except the ones that are happy to own the first colour changing phone).
    The size of the SoC in phones matters less and less as we go forward,more integration,more specialized cores,just because it's there it doesn't mean that much of the area is powered at the same time and the cost of silicon is less of a problem too.The limitation is power and /heat not area.

    " if everyone moves to Cortex A15 based designs." - everybody ,in the high end, moves to quad Krait since A15 is likely to be just dual core for a while.

    Nice review overall but,as always, your battery of benchmarks is misleading and no storage perf,really hoped for more to better understand this new core.
    Reply

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