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Initial iPhone 5 reviews arrive: Critics praise new screen

The first crop of iPhone 5 reviews has hit the Web. Reviewers like the larger screen and faster wireless networking.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
5 min read

Less than a week since its debut, some of the initial reviews for Apple's next iPhone have hit the Web.

The consensus is mostly positive, with reviewers praising the larger screen, faster LTE cellular networking, and iOS 6 software features. Less hot, it seems, is Apple's new maps application and Lightning connector technology. Critics say the maps app is impressive, but not as full-featured as Google's, and that the new Lightning connector is nice, but a move that requires an investment in new cables and adapters.

Another common thread is a lack of near-field communication (NFC) technology, something many of the reviews highlight as missing, though also acknowledge might have added size and weight to the device.

CNET's own senior editor Scott Stein rated the iPhone 5 four out of five stars, awarding it the editor's choice.

"The bottom line is, we said last year that the two big missing parts of the iPhone were 4G LTE and a larger screen. The iPhone 5 has them, plus a new processor, plus a new design, plus iOS 6, plus a lot more. It's the best iPhone that's been made," Stein wrote.

You can read CNET's entire review right here.

Some of the highlights from the other reviews around the Web tonight:

David Pogue for The New York Times says:

If you have an iPhone 4S, getting an iPhone 5 would mean breaking your two-year carrier contract and paying a painful penalty; maybe not worth it for the 5's collection of nips and tucks. But if you've had the discipline to sit out a couple of iPhone generations -- wow, are you in for a treat.

Pogue adds that the one downside is the switch to Lightning, Apple's new connector technology, which replaces the 30-pin adapter.

Ed Baig for USA Today says:

People have always had lofty expectations for the iPhone 5, especially as the competition stiffens. In delivering a fast, attractive, LTE-capable and larger-screen handset, Apple has met those expectations with a gem.

Walt Mossberg, writing for All Things Digital , says:

Apple has taken an already great product and made it better, overall. Consumers who prefer huge screens or certain marginal features have plenty of other choices, but the iPhone 5 is an excellent choice.

Hands-on with the sharp, slim iPhone 5 (pictures)

See all photos

Tim Stevens writing for Engadget says:

The iPhone 5 is here -- or will be soon, anyway -- and it's every bit the device that people were asking for when the iPhone 4S came out. Its new design has less mass yet leaves room for a larger display and LTE wireless, all while increasing battery life. In nearly every respect, this is an upgrade over the 4S that came before, though it arrives almost a year later than many had hoped.

MG Siegler at TechCrunch says:

Those worried about the talk of "disappointment" surrounding the iPhone 5, I suggest you simply go to an Apple Store starting on Friday and try it for yourself. My guess is you'll immediately recognize just how ridiculous that bluster actually is. This is the smartphone nearly perfected.

Jim Dalrymple at The Loop says:

My experience with the iPhone 5, iOS and the EarPods has been great. The iPhone is everything Apple said it would be and with iOS 6 built-in, it's clear to me that Apple has another winner on its hands.

I can't think of any good reason why anyone wouldn't upgrade or purchase the iPhone 5.

Vincent Nguyen writing for Slashgear says:

Competition between mobile platforms keeps the industry moving and innovating. That can often present itself as a surfeit of innovation: feature upon feature, piled high in an all-singing, all-dancing device. Right now, the iPhone 5 has the best balance of everyday usability and performance, without the distraction of functionality that is clever but unintuitive. It's an area in which Apple excels, and it's the reason the iPhone 5 is one of the best smartphones on the market today.

Rich Jaroslovsky writing for Bloomberg says:

Arriving in Apple (AAPL) stores Sept. 21, the new model lacks any single gee-whiz breakthrough, like the Siri voice assistant introduced with the iPhone 4S. But the new version brings it up- to-date in a host of areas, particularly speed, without sacrificing the things that made it special in the first place.

Stuart Miles over at Pocket Lint says:

What Apple has created with the iPhone 5 is an extremely polished smartphone that oozes appeal. It's incredibly well built, easy to use, features a beautiful screen, and comes packed with enough speed and power to service all your requirements. The hardware is just stunning. It really is impressive how much is crammed into such a tiny box.


It's a phone that, until you start craving the iPhone 6, will serve you very well indeed.

Luke Peters at T3 praises the new screen, battery life, and performance though says iPhone 4S owners shouldn't upgrade. Peters also says the device is good, but not as much as Android rivals:

Given that iPhone 4S users can upgrade to iOS 6 and do just about everything the iPhone 5 can do, and that Android users can get similarly impressive handsets for less dosh, we reckon the smart money won't all be going on a new iPhone this year, even if the mass market can't get enough of it. It's good, very good. But it's no longer the best around.

Shane Richmond for the Telegraph writes:

The iPhone 5 is a great smartphone made even better. It's fast, lightweight and backed by the largest application store for any device. It's also probably the most beautiful smartphone anyone has ever made.

Harry McCracken for Time likes the 5, andsays it has more polish than chief competitor, Samsung's Galaxy S3:

The bottom line, in case it isn't clear already: The iPhone 5 is one terrific smartphone. Ignore the naysayers -- even without any awesome technological breakthroughs, it's a sizable improvement on the iPhone 4S. For many upgrades, LTE alone will be worth the price of admission.

How does it stack up against the Galaxy S III, the current champ among Android phones? It's really not that complicated a question. The Galaxy does more stuff; the iPhone 5 does somewhat fewer things, but tends to do them better. (And when the iPhone doesn't do something right out of the box, there's often an App Store app that will.)

In other words, it boils down to a basic decision: features or polish? Only you can decide what's important to you. It's obvious which one Apple cares most about -- and the iPhone 5 is the most artful, pleasing expression of its priorities yet.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball says:

The question everyone who hasn't yet pre-ordered wants answered: Should you upgrade? My answer is simple. If you can afford it, yes.

There's a reason why, just as with all five of its predecessors, it just says "iPhone" on the back. The iPhone 5 is all new technically, but it's the exact same thing as an idea. Apple is simply improving upon that idea year after year in infinitely finer detail, like a fractal. It's nice.

The iPhone 5 goes on sale this Friday at 8 a.m. local time, an event that is preceded by the release of iOS 6 at some point tomorrow.

Updated at 7:32 p.m. PT with additional review snippets.

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