iPhone 5 Review: The Best Smartphone for the Masses

Is the iPhone still the best smartphone around?

ByABC News
September 21, 2012, 1:02 AM

Sept. 21, 2012 — -- For months one technology question has drowned out all the others: Should I wait for the iPhone 5?

Two million people ordered the larger and faster phone as soon as it went on sale -- sight unseen. Sure, they knew that the new phone had a different design, a larger 4-inch screen, LTE, and a faster processor, but they might not have known much more than that. Did it make calls well? Was it faster than other phones?

That's a testament to Apple's brand and its products, but the question remains: Does the iPhone 5 live up to its impressive list of specs when you finally get it out of the box?

A Phone Too Beautiful to Cover
This is not a phone you will want to put a case on. Okay, yes, many people will understandably want to protect their new phones from scratches and nicks. But this is a device you want to keep bare so that its beautiful aluminum and glass body is visible.

But it's not just how the phone looks, it's also how it feels. Even though it's only an ounce lighter and .07 inches thinner than the iPhone 4S, it feels dramatically lighter when you pick it up. Yet, it doesn't feel too light -- it still feels very substantial, weighty enough to suggest great build quality. The new aluminum back changes how the phone feels in comparison to the 4S' glass, but I prefer it, especially since it is no longer a fingerprint magnet.

Yes, the 4-inch screen (compared to the 3.5-inch screen of all the other iPhones up until now) makes the phone taller, but not too tall or big like some large Android phones. The size feels just right to me, and I've been using the 4.65-inch Galaxy Nexus for about six months now.

But it's really the 1136 x 640-resolution screen that lets you now see more on the display, including an extra row of home-screen icons. In the Facebook app a full image and the "Like" count are visible; on the 4S the bottom of the image was cut off. (Not all apps have been updated to take advantage of the screen, however, and distracting black bars flank them.)

To me, though, the biggest benefit is that the keyboard is wider in landscape mode. The extra room makes it easier to type notes or emails.

The screen itself is stunning -- its bright colors look realistic (not too green or yellow like some AMOLED screens) and vivid.
Sharp Shooter
That screen quality is matched by a sharp 8-megapixel camera, which is still one of the best on any smartphone out there. The iSight camera has been updated with some new features, including better low light performance, but by and large it is the same camera as the one on the iPhone 4S. I did find that the iPhone 5 captured clear shots at night in New York, but not drastically better than the iPhone 4S.

You can see the quality by clicking the photo below:

The biggest camera improvements are in the speed with which you can take photos. There's no waiting between shots. The new panorama feature, which is software based, stitches images together as you turn. It works very well if you get the pacing right.

The front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera shows some significant improvement. The step up also makes for clearer video calls over Facetime, which you can now make over 3G and LTE. Calls over Facetime and over AT&T's cellular network were clear and callers at the other end said the same thing.