November 11, 2012

A Week With the iPhone 5

I've had my iPhone 5 for a week and because I feel the need to share my thoughts about stuff… here they are. It wasn't a “normal” week as I was traveling for most of it. You usually wouldn't want to test a brand new phone out when you have to depend on it so much, but I felt safe with the iPhone, and it passed with flying colors as expected.

Decision to upgrade

I was really late on the iPhone bandwagon. The first iPhone I ever had was the 4S. Leading up to that announcement there were a lot of rumors that it would be going to a larger screen, which I was really hoping for. As we all know, it did not. At that time my current phone was on its last legs and there was no way I could wait any longer. I decided to go ahead and get the 4S and it was awesome. When they announced the 5 and it did in fact have the larger screen and the non-glass back I was sad that I was stuck with the 4S for another year.

My wife got the 4 a few months after it had come out so she was eligible for upgrade. She is not nearly as obsessed with technology as me, and she reluctantly agreed that I could take the upgrade and she would get my hand-me-down1 4S. Her 4 was starting to have a lot of issues with the home button2. It was driving her insane so at this point she was just happy to have a phone with a home button that worked predictably.

When the 5 was announced I had a little bit of doubt about getting it. I wanted a larger screen, but I wanted them to make it wider, not just taller. I've always liked the solid heft of the iPhone 4/4S and didn't think I wanted one that was significantly lighter. I was worried the iPhone 5 would feel cheap. The lightning connector is a nice technology, but I had a couple accessories that used the 30 pin. I didn't want to give them up.

Ultimately whatever that thing is in your head that makes one think he has to have the newest and the best tech won out. A week and a half after it came out I went to the AT&T store only to find out there was a 4 week wait. I went home and continued to be wishy washy, only to go ahead and order it at the beginning of October and get it at the very end of the month.

The good

By now everybody who cares about knowing what the iPhone 5 is like has probably read tons of reviews or gone to the store and held one. This thing is light! It feels way lighter than the 4S. I was initially worried about this, but now I love it. It stills feels like an extremely solidly built Apple device, but it doesn't feel like a brick in your pocket. I really like for form factor. The slightly thinner body is nice as well, but the weight (and not having glass on the back) are the best things about the new design.

Before I got the phone I wanted the black version but have the silver band around it like the white one does. I'm not sure why. I guess I was just used to that look. I also didn't like the idea of scratching the coating off and having the silver showing through. Now that I have the phone I really like the look of it. I feel like I am using Batman's phone. It is all dark and mysterious. The black band seems more high-end now. When I see the phones with the silver band it seems way less cool than it did a couple months ago.

The other major plus about the 5 is that it is fast. I never felt like my 4S was slow, but this feels way faster. I'm talking about the processor. The LTE is also fast, and now when I go back into 3G(4G) it makes me sad.

The not so good

Take note that I don't say “the bad”. I'm am still not sure how I feel about the taller screen. I guess it is an improvement over the previous one, but I'd really like a little extra width to go along with it. The taller screen is definitely harder to use one-handed anyway, so why not give us a little width to make typing easier? I do like the extra real estate when using apps, but it isn't as big of an improvement as I'd expected.

I am not convinced the camera is any better. In fact, there have been several times I've used it and it seems worse than the 4S. The photos seem nosier than the previous model. Things just aren't as crisp as they seemed to be before. I haven't used it a ton and this is all anecdotal evidence. I'm sure it is all in my head.

The lightning connecter…. it is way littler… it feel secure when I snap it in… but now I can't charge on my alarm clock.

My week of use

I got the phone in the mail on a Thursday and we went to the AT&T store to activate it that night. I used it without incident on Friday, but on Saturday I got the “NO SIM” error. I tried restarting with no luck. I went back to the AT&T store and they popped the sim out, then back in, and it started working again. Hmm… I don't know if I was convinced the issue was resolved, but it was working so I went with it.

I left for Dallas Monday morning. This was my first chance to really give Apple maps a test. It was a crazy morning and I unintentionally didn't even look at the route. I'd never made the trip before, so I was just going to blindly follow whatever my iPhone told me to do.

Everything went well until we got into construction and I missed an exit. I was immediately re-routed on a totally different set of roads that I didn't think was optimal. I decided to turn around, expecting it to see this and put me back on my initial route. It did re-route me again, but not back on the initial one. Now I had a third routing… with no ability to look back at the other two. If I had prepared a little better I would have probably known which was the “right” way. However, I had to take what she was giving me. Overall it added about 20 minutes to a 5.5 hour trip, so nothing major.

I used Apple maps to get around town for the week and it worked well. When I left I was able to follow the directions as they were initially given and it went much smoother. I like the maps interface and find the directions easier to follow than our Garmin.

The battery life on the 5 was good all week long. It easily lasted through the day and I recharged it each night. I wouldn't say it is significantly better than the 4S, but it definitely isn't worse.

Assuming the 4S was better than all the iPhones that came before it, I can say the 5 is the best iPhone yet. The new form factor is nice, but the experiences in the software are not much different than what you get on the previous phones. The faster processor and addition of LTE make it shine, along with that blacked-out metal band running around its perimeter. I'm looking forward to using the 5, and really hoping I don't drop it on cement and ruin that pretty exterior.

  1. I used my iPhone 4S for a little over a year. I had a case on it part of the time, but most of the time it was naked. It was never dropped and didn't have a scratch on it. It looked and functioned like brand new… so I like to think that we both got an upgrade.  ↩

  2. I know several people with the iPhone 4 that developed issues with the home button not working. Apple has great design, but I think the mechanism behind the home button might have been one of the shoddiest pieces of crap they ever put out there. The home button stopped reliably working on an iPod touch I had a few years ago. I've heard the home button was updated for the 4S, and it feels like a totally different mechanism on the 5.  ↩

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