The rumors have been rampant for months, but now we know plenty about the iPhone 5. How is it different than the original and should you upgrade?
Apple’s newest smartphone packs a larger 4-inch display with 1136 x 640-pixel resolution, support for LTE 4G data networks, and a beefier A6 processor for more efficient video rendering.
The newer iPhone ups the display size from 3.5 inches to an even 4. With that uptick in screen size comes a pixel boost to 1136 x 640 pixels on the iPhone 5 from 960 x 640 pixels on the iPhone 4S. For those keeping track, that’s a pixel density of 326 PPI, which is roughly the same as the iPhone 4S.
On a comparative note, that resolution doesn’t put the iPhone in the same league as high-definition 1280×720-pixel displays such as the Motorola Droid RAZR HD or the HTC One X. What it does accomplish is a long-needed change in the iPhone’s display size, which has been the same 3.5 inches since its birth in 2007. You can now see an extra row of icons and more info in all sorts of apps without scrolling, such as the browser and calendar.
The iPhone 5’s screen also boasts 44-percent improved color saturation, now supports widescreen video formats, and integrates the touch layer directly into the display for improved response time.
Design and Connector
While the iPhone 5 is taller than before, everything else stays slim. The front of the device climbs in size to 4.9 inches from 4.5 inches, but the width remains at 2.3 inches. The iPhone 5 is a thinner 0.3 inches, compared to 0.4 inches on the iPhone 4S.
Speaking of shrinking, the 30-pin connector is dead. In its place is the new Lightning Bolt port, which has just 8 pins, and is a quarter of the size. The Lightning Bolt port is reversible, and so skirts the unavoidable flip-to-plug-in motion that slightly delays charging. Folks with 30-pin docks on their iPhone accessories can purchase an adapter, which will cost about $30.
The iPhone 5’s camera has the same 8-MP resolution as the iPhone 4S, but in a package that’s 25 percent smaller. It also includes better low-light support and uses a sapphire crystal lens cover that’s thinner, clearer, and more durable than the previous iPhone’s glass shield. Thanks to improved CPU and camera integration, the iPhone 5 also takes pictures faster with better spatial noise reduction, though we’ll have to test that for ourselves during our hands-on and full review. Meanwhile, the front-facing camera can now take video in 720p, a nice bump from the iPhone 4S’s VGA visuals.
Data and Connectivity
Just like the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 will initially be available for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon subscribers. The upside is that the newer iPhone will also support 4G LTE networks, where the iPhone 4S could only access 3G networks. The iPhone 5 also supports HSDPA+ and includes 802.11 a/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi (the 4S only supports the 2.4GHz band) and Bluetooth 4.0.
Whereas the iPhone 4S saw an incremental increase in processor power when it debuted last fall, the iPhone 5 takes a full step upward to Apple’s new A6 processor. We don’t know its clock speed yet, but Apple did reveal that it the CPU is expected to be twice as fast in general speed and graphics as the A5X chip inside the iPhone 4S.
Apple estimates that the iPhone 5 should get up to 8 hours of Web browsing over LTE and 3G, and 10 hours over Wi-Fi. By comparison, the iPhone 4S should get up to 6 hours of browsing over 3G, and 9 hours over Wi-Fi. This extra endurance will certainly be welcome for iPhone 4S owners who have complained about the iPhone 4S’s short runtime.
Just like previous generations, the iPhone 5 is available in 16, 32, and 64GB sizes with respective price tags of $199, $299, and $399. The starting price for the iPhone 4S has dropped to $99.
Overall, the iPhone 5 has a lot of great upgrades that make it a superior phone, from the larger display and 4G LTE speeds to the longer battery life. And you get all of this in a thinner and shockingly lighter package. You’ll need to decide if that’s enough to make the switch.