iPhone 5 Review: The Best Smartphone for the Masses


New Speed, Equal Endurance

I believe LTE is the biggest upgrade you get by going from the 4S to the 5. While other Android phones have been using LTE for two years, the iPhone has been poking along on 3G. Until now.

I have been testing the AT&T version of the phone around New York City and have seen incredibly fast website load times on the network. The desktop version of ABCNews.com popped up in four seconds; it took the Verizon 3G iPhone 4S eight seconds to load the same page at the same time. Similarly, streaming video using Google's new YouTube app was smooth, with almost zero load time.

Coupled with a new processor inside, the entire phone feels faster. The power of the two together is apparent when you fire up Apple's new Maps app. In 3-D mode, New York skyscrapers just popped up and panning around didn't delay the rendering of the buildings in the distance. Multitasking also seemed faster; while using the maps app's turn-by-turn directions the phone was able to manage simultaneously loading pages in Safari and showing traffic data using Waze's navigation app. The phone did get warm during heavy use; it wasn't uncomfortable, but it was noticeable.

Also, during heavy use you'll watch the battery level slowly creep downward. After 4.5 hours of almost non-stop use with brightness cranked up, the phone had a little bit less than half a charge left, which is on par with what I'd get on the iPhone 4S. That's impressive considering the thinner body and more powerful parts.

But you'll still have to charge the phone and the new dock connector is likely to be a small frustration. The new Lightning port is smaller and is cleverly reversible, but it does mean you'll have to invest in new accessories and cables. There is a $30 adapter so you can still use your old cords.

Improved, Not Overhauled Software

It wasn't a coincidence that I was using two navigation apps. In iOS 6, the operating system that ships with the iPhone 5 and was recently released for older iPhones and iPads, Apple has ditched Google Maps for its own homebrewed Maps App. The maps are graphic-rich, especially the 3-D satellite views, and in New York they have been quite accurate in providing turn-by-turn driving and walking directions.

However, they lack the Street View of Google's Maps, and while they have traffic data, it isn't as robust as what you get with Waze's app. (Even though Apple has been working with Waze on the solution.) Others have noted that the maps will wrongly route you, but I haven't experienced that in New York City. There's also no transit data pulled in as of now either. Apple has said that the maps will improve as more people use them and that it is working to fix the issues.

But Maps are just one part of the software. The other additions, like Facebook integration, the Do Not Disturb feature, and Siri's improved IQ are well implemented and easy to use. I found Siri to be more accurate than before, and the inline movie times and sports scores are handy. Check out our full review / guide to iOS 6 here.

Overall, the new features make iOS 6 not only a worthy upgrade but also make it the most user-friendly mobile operating system. While some have complained that the general look and feel of the operating system hasn't changed -- the grid of apps, the four shortcuts on the bottom of the home screen -- third-party apps continue to grow in quantity and quality and are the best of any other mobile platform.

Bottom Line

The iPhone 5 is beautiful and even though it's thinner and lighter, it's much faster and still has strong battery life.

Apple says it's the biggest thing to happen to the iPhone since the iPhone. Yet this iPhone enters a world very different from the one of the first iPhone, or even the last iPhone. It's a world in which Android phones (and soon Windows Phones) with comparable features are a dime a dozen.

So is the iPhone better than Samsung's Galaxy S 3, which I consider to be the best Android phone at the moment? Samsung's phone is fast and packed to the brim with features, but they aren't always easy to find. And the iPhone highlights that; new features are as easy to use as old ones. Also, Apple's phone is much more eye-catching.

The iPhone 5 is hands-down the best smartphone for the masses. While there are many other phones out there with similar spec sheets, this is the one all those people were waiting for. And luckily for those two million, it proves to be worth the wait.

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