CNET has pored over Apple's iPhone 5, the long-awaited update that includes 4G LTE, a larger, 4-inch screen, and some new design tweaks. CNET's Scott Stein goes hands-on with the excellent smartphone.
Apple's iPhone 5 is dressed to impress
We have to hand it to Apple, the company has a knack for perfecting design that borders on the obsessive. How else could the Cupertino, Calif., company have produced a rebooted iPhone 5 that feels both fresh and familiar?
Happily, the new flagship phone for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon comes with 4G LTE, which the iPhone 5's predecessors lacked. You can see it strong and clear on this model for AT&T.
The phone's dorsal side is sleek and gorgeous, especially the white model I reviewed. Gone is the glass backing that had a tendency to shatter, replaced instead by a metal back, mostly. The top and bottom panes still earn a glass covering for that premium sheen.
The iPhone 5's lightly updated iSight camera module contains the 8-megapixel lens and an LED flash. Inside, the software enables dynamic low lighting, image stabilizing in the video mode, and the ability to take still shots while shooting video (previously an Android-only trick).
The iPhone 5's slimmer build measures 0.3 inch thick and 3.9 ounces on the scale, making it both leaner and lighter than any other iPhone, and a top contender for thin, light smartphones against its rivals.
3D mapping is new to Apple's improved, and now proprietary, Maps app. Sailing over the streets and buildings is fun, at least during my trial week, and the facades below reminded me of a real-life SimCity video game. Google Street View is gone, though, now that Apple divorced itself from Google's mapping service. I won't lie, it will be missed for smaller cities, since flyovers only take place in urban centers.
Viewing videos on the iPhone 5 is a far better experience than on the iPhone 4S. Here, an HD episode of "Planet Earth" fills the screen. On the iPhone 4S (below) the image shrank even more because of the letterboxing effect.
This is also a good photo for seeing the iPhone 5's front-facing FaceTime camera rearing its cyclopean eye above the speaker.
You won't be able to pay by tapping your iPhone 5 to anything (unless you tack on your own NFC sticker), but the iPhone 5 does have Passbook, Apple's take on the virtual wallet. It wasn't yet live for in-depth testing ahead of the official iPhone 5 launch, but it will store your loyalty card information and other files created with the Passbook file-type by compatible apps. It's location-aware, with the idea that relevant coupons or tickets will present themselves when you reach the appropriate destination.
For many, Apple's iPhone 5 will find a natural home among the rest of your stuff. It isn't the flashiest of phones, and it may not have every bell and whistle of every rival, but the iPhone 5 is a world-class device that fits into your day-to-day rhythms. It certainly fit into mine.