A Personal Review Of The Apple IPhone5
The iPhone 5 is a clear evolution of the stark, industrial design introduced two years ago with the iPhone 4. That collection of square edges and raw materials was a huge contrast to everything else the company was producing and, frankly, everything else on the market. It was like an artifact from another dimension where ergonomics lost out to purity of vision, and Apple saw no reason to compromise that purity for the 4S nor, as it turns out, for the 5.
Visually, much has stayed the same, but the biggest change is impossible to see. Pick up the iPhone 5 and you're immediately struck by the reduction in weight. At 112 grams it's 20 percent lighter than the 4S, a figure that doesn't seem like it would make much of an impact. It does-- so much so that it's the lightness, not the bigger display or the thinness, that nearly everybody praises when first getting a chance to hold the iPhone 5 in their own hands.
Meanwhile, the changes in dimensions are surprisingly difficult to detect. That's largely thanks to the iPhone 5 being exactly as wide as the 4 and 4S that came before. This continuity of proportions on the x axis brings familiarity, while a slight increase on the y axis adds functionality. The iPhone 5 measures 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3 inches (124 x 59 x 7.6 mm), making it about a third of an inch (nearly 1cm) taller than before. Since all the extra room happens outside of your grip you hardly notice it, and this also shifts the phone's center of mass away from the center of your hand, which we think helps augment the perception of lightness.
The new height makes room for that 4-inch, 1,136 x 640 display-- the most progressive change by a long shot. Steve Jobs famously said that the 3.5-inch screen size is the \"sweet spot\" and, frankly, it was about time Apple added a little more sugar. The new height results in a phone with more usable space and better presentation for HD content (the iPhone is finally 16:9). Yet, it's still easy to use with one hand. Each corner is comfortably reachable by thumbs of nearly all sizes.
An all-new aluminum construction extends around the back, which is either anodized black or left raw depending on whether you opt for the darker or lighter of the two offerings. The white phone is bright and clean-looking; the black, dark and menacing. We'll let you draw conclusions about personality based on color preference, but we will say that the black surface seems to suck up fingerprints that are difficult to clean. Even so, we're glad the all-glass back has been retired, though traces of it remain: two slivers of the stuff punctuate the top and bottom of the back sides. These glossy bands break up the matte uniformity, but help boost antenna performance.
That said, the antennas still comprise the rim of the device, thinner now and the gap between them filled with a material whose color matches the body-- yet more evidence of the design team's attention to detail. These are the same sort of dynamically reconfiguring antennas used on the 4S and, as with that phone, we weren't able to death grip our way into any sort of signal issues.
The face of the device is still fashioned out of glass (no surprise there) and while Apple wouldn't confirm whether that front is indeed the sort of primate-proof silica produced by Corning, we 'd hazard a guess that it is. With the metal back now sitting flush to the chamfered edge of the device, the slightly elevated glass surface gives the profile view of the phone a bit of unfortunate asymmetry-- it's now thicker on top than on the bottom.
But that elevated glass does mean your finger doesn't hit any rough edges or unfortunate surfaces when tracing the edges of the panel. The front-facing FaceTime HD camera now sits centered, directly above the earpiece. The Home button, meanwhile, has moved a fraction of a millimeter down and its resistance feels slightly different than that on the 4S, a touch more progressive with a more definitive detent. Hopefully the internal mechanism will prove more durable over time.
The position and design of the other buttons is likewise largely unchanged from the 4S, with the discrete, circular volume up and down buttons on the left just below the (slightly thinner) toggle switch. The headphone jack now moves to the bottom, a change that will cause some to modify their well-established pocket-retrieval mannerisms. But, as users of the iPod touch will tell you, having that jack on the bottom feels quite natural, and we agree. This is a good move.
The phone's speakers are also positioned on the bottom, playing out through a series of 26 holes that flank another major change in the iPhone 5: the Lightning connector.