Every new iPhone we expect faster performance, and Apple delivers every time. This year is no different. Powered by the all-new A6 processor, Apple claims that the iPhone 5 is twice the speed of the 4S -- including graphics performance -- while having better battery life.
When testing the handset under Geek Bench 2, it scored 1630, which is more than double of the iPhone 4S, which scored 629. Surprisingly, the speed increase isn't that noticeable when compared to the iPhone 4S in real-world usage, especially apps that don't require that much processor speed, like Facebook or Twitter. Day to day, apps on an iPhone 4S running iOS 6 doesn't feel any different than the iPhone 5 on text, web, and emails.
Apps in general do load noticeably faster, and graphic intensive games such as Infinity Blade II perform marvelously without any lag. If you really want to test the performance, and compare the differences between the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5, you can see for yourself when running the Maps in 3D. The iPhone 5 is obviously much faster. Since the A6 is still new, it's going to take some time for more apps to take advantage of this processor.
Communications and 4G LTE The iPhone 5 supports a broad spectrum of networks going from GSM/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA , DC-HSDPA on the GSM version. On the CDMA side, you have all the above, plus CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B. There is also the usual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth A2DP capability as well. Best of all, both the GSM and CDMA versions finally support LTE.
LTE has been around for over a year on Android phones, which left many of us disappointed that the iPhone 4S didn't support it. This 4G standard is a welcome addition to the iPhone 5, as many of us now depend on fast network speeds to post pictures on social networks and stream music and movies on the go.
In the Los Angeles Metro area, I managed to get 16MB down and 3.5MB up on AT&T. With Verizon, I can get up to 30MB down and 18MB up! It's just a matter of how good your network coverage is, but based on my tests, Verizon seems to be the best choice for most people.
Those who depend on fast mobile network speeds, 4G LTE alone is a great selling point for those thinking about upgrading to the newest iPhone.
Software iOS 6 is this year's new mobile operating system, and it drives the iPhone 5. Last year I said that iOS 5 wasn't that great of a leap from version 4.3 and unfortunately for this year, the jump from iOS 5.1 to 6 is an even smaller leap. That's not to say that iOS 6 is bad in any way. It's simple, smooth, stable, dependable, and intuitive which is why many of us, including myself find it "boring" when comparing it to Android's Jelly Bean OS.
There are some nice additions to iOS 6, such as having the ability to reply to a text message when you don't want to take a call, or have a Do Not Disturb mode where you can set a time when only certain people can contact you.
With Facebook integration of this year on top of Twitter from last year, we are now finally able to share pictures and post updates to these social apps from within the operating system. However, open still hasn't opened it up to Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.. All which are possible on Android. There is certainly a lot of room for improvement but nevertheless; it is still a great mobile operating system with the largest selection of applications and third-party support.
Talking about iOS 6 is a huge topic on it's own so I'm going to focus on what's relevant to the iPhone 5.
Maps Turn-by-turn navigation! FINALLY! After depending on options like Navigon (Paid app) or Waze (free) for the past few years, turn-by-turn navigation is built into iOS 6's version of Maps. With Google Maps no longer built into the operating system, the Maps application is provided by Tom Tom. Performance is very fast and smooth on the iPhone 5 and the 3D Flyover Mode is amazing. I had no issues getting around Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Luis Obispo in California.
Unfortunately when compared to the previous Google Maps, this new one seems half baked. For those who depend a lot on Mass Transit like trains and busses, iOS 6 Maps is useless -- directing you to the App Store to download third-party alternatives.
Quite a few users have complained that the new maps list fewer points of interests, missing local places such as schools, and the visual data and street views are way off when compared to the data that Google Maps provides.?
Apple's response to this is "We launched this new map service knowing that it is a major initiative and we are just getting started with it." Since when does Apple release something half-baked?
Email Apple still has one of the best email clients on a mobile device, especially for Exchange users. It is simple, clean, organized and this year the company introduced the VIP box (think Gmail's Priority Inbox). You can now be alerted when someone you mark as VIP sends you an email as a pop-up notification and it will be listed in the VIP Inbox.
The ability to add pictures or videos to already-existing messages is a long-overdue improvement.
Siri Siri has learned a bit more this year, as this voice-recognition system with spoken responses can now get sports statistics and let you know when the next time the Lakers are playing. She can even compare stats between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordon.
For other practical uses, you can now post on Facebook through Siri, and also responds noticeably faster with more accuracy in speech recognition and data searching.
Entertainment There are over 725,000 apps in the app store to keep you amused for over a lifetime. Entertainment on the iPhone remains king, as it has already become a direct competitor to portable gaming devices such as the Nintendo 3DS/DS and the Sony PSP and Vita. Whether you like RPGs, Puzzles, Arcade, Action, etc... there's a huge selection available for everyone.
The iTunes Store had become one of the best places to get music and movies, and if you have an Apple TV, you can stream your content onto your TV or AirPlay-capable device. There's also a selection of third-party apps with Airplay support such as Crunchyroll and Stream to Me, which I use to stream my movies and anime onto my TV. With the new lightning port, we have to wait till Apple releases a lightning to HDMI display adapter if you don't have an Apple TV accessible.
With the lack of NFC support on the iPhone 5, Passbook is sort of Apple's answer to having a virtual wallet. For example, if you use Target, Starbucks, American Airlines, Fandango, etc... your tickets and coupons will be collected and organized Passbook. Right now it's not really that useful so we are going to have to wait and see how this evolves, but as of right now it is nowhere near what you can do with NFC to make payments or check into places.
The Passbook app is similarly incomplete. This is Apple dipping its toes into the virtual wallet space, providing the ability for companies to write custom apps that will slot in here and provide access to things like movie tickets and value cards. But, as few major players have pledged to deploy their services here, this serves as a framework for something that will be cool rather than something that actually is right now. We're expecting good things.
Cameras Apple continues its trend of providing amazing cameras in its handsets with the iPhone 5. The iPhone 4S has one of the best cameras, and can go head to head with the Samsung Galaxy S III on picture quality. The iPhone 5, even though it has a thinner body than its predecessor, has a thinner body than its predecessor, takes outstanding photos. The camera isn't significantly better than the iPhone 4S under normal circumstances (although they do seem a bit sharper), but you will see the difference when it comes to taking low-light photos.
Videos are recorded at 1080p resolution, and the camera still performs as well as the one on the 4S for this task, so there really isn't that much improvement in that end either. The front-facing camera on the iPhone 5 has been renamed the FaceTime camera, and it's an upgrade from the previous VGA cameras -- people can see your face in higher detail when video chatting or when taking self portraits.
With iOS 6, you can now finally take Panoramic pictures (on the 4S as well) from the camera. It guides you when panning across a large scenic view, stitching the photos to as high as 30 megapixels. Sure there are third-party apps that let you do this but it's now built into the stock Camera app.
Again there are small improvements, but that's in no way a bad thing. You can go wrong with taking photos, videos, and self-portraits with the new iPhone.
Battery Life Thinner, lighter, faster processor, larger screen, and LTE all at once means poorer battery life right? Wrong. Although not as good as the iPhone 4, the iPhone 5 battery life outlasts the iPhone 4S by about two hours.
As part of my testing, I took the battery off the charger at 8 AM using the phone as normal with texts, email, Facebook, Twitter. I had Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on as well. The battery didn't quit till after 10 PM. With the iPhone 4S with the same amount of usage, the battery wouldn't make it past 8 PM.
So with all the bells and whistles and not having to disable features, the iPhone 5 can make it through a regular day.