There’s not much reason to write an iPhone 5 review, as John Gruber truly said it best:
I own things that cost and remain worth more (e.g. my car). But I own nothing this nice.
There is however a few things that I have noted in my week plus of using the device that I thought worth sharing.
The first time I heard rumors of a larger screened iPhone I was immediately against it. Even when seeing it announced from Apple, I thought it was a bad idea.
My concern: how could I comfortably use a bigger screen? Turns out that, aside from the first day, I can’t remember having an issue with the larger screen size after only a week of use. How quickly we adapt and this coming from a guy who used his iPhone more than his Mac over that first week.
The way I see it there are two disadvantages to the larger screen size and a multitude of advantages.
No matter which hand you hold your iPhone 5 with you are going to have to strain to reach the farthest corner of the screen. Note that the strain is not uncomfortable, but it is there. You can see it in the muscles in your hand, but after a day you don’t notice that you are doing it.
There seem to be two solutions for this: get used to it, or learn to shimmy the phone around in your hand. For me it took about a day to get used to, but I imagine smaller handed folks will have much trouble with this on a more on-going basis. This is the true disadvantage of the larger screen size: it sucks for smaller handed people. There’s no getting around that.
The second major disadvantage is that developers can “just” stretch their apps. For some apps, like App.net clients, this makes sense. However for a great many other apps this doesn’t make any sense. Take Apple’s weather app for instance, it would have been easiest to stretch the UI, but instead they rethought how the app should work for the larger screen. I have two longterm concerns about this:
- iPhone 4S and older users will be punished with crappier UIs while developers focus on creating UIs for the larger iPhone 5 screen. Thus leading to inconsistent apps within a daily consistent (to date) app platform.
- Developers that already have an existing app will take the easy way out and instead of rethinking their interfaces for the larger screen they will just go for the “stretch”. So far I have only seen a handful of developers do such a rethink for the larger screen, and that worries me. Again, many apps (think content centric apps like reading apps) don’t need such a change, but there are plenty of apps that I had hoped would get a rethink that didn’t, or haven’t yet. This is a major longterm concern I have. I really think the larger screen is best taken advantage with by creating new layouts for it, not by stretching an existing layout — again that’s not universal.
There are a ton of advantages to the larger screen, but only one I think worth pointing out. Apps with an extra row of keys added to the top of the keyboard (like Scratch or Writer) now have ample room remaining to type in the text fields. I think, I hope, this drives more content creation apps to add special keys atop the Keyboard for faster access because now keys can be added without eating up too much of the typing area. This could be a big win longterm — especially if Apple extends the built in keyboard by a row in the future.
- Occasionally when I am typing and I switch to the numeric keyboard there’s some staticky-fuzz-stuff that happens on the keyboard, like a display glitch. It’s very odd and never stays for long, but concerns me. If I could consistently replicate it I would take my iPhone to the Apple Store. Update: A lot of users are writing to tell me they see this too.
- I mentioned the chipping issue already, but oddly enough it stopped after the first day. I have two ideas as to why: bad paint adhesion in certain spots, or the paint just wasn’t fully cured when I got it. Either way I have about four or five small nicks and they don’t bug me much now since they don’t seem to be continuing.
- Twice now I have noticed that the automatic time setting feature goes haywire and jumps around, the only fix is to restart the phone. I think a network settings restore may fix this, but I don’t want to lose those settings just yet.
- Call audio quality seems worse when you are in an area with low reception, worse than with the previous iPhone. What I suspect is that this is a difference between AT&T and Verizon and not a difference in the iPhone itself, but I cannot be sure.
Why It’s Worth the Upgrade
- We lowly iPhone users finally get LTE, and boy is it fantastic. As I noticed with my iPad, LTE is true broadband speeds in most areas and is something that you immediately notice. It is my favorite feature of the new phone.
- The camera is really good. Not just better in low-light, but all around better. I talked about why I think this is important to Apple, but I left out another obvious reason: the iPhone is probably the most used camera among most iPhone engineers. And it shows with the work they put into each version. The larger shutter button, low-light ability, and the new hardware make for an excellent pocket camera. I’ve been leaving the GX1 at home more now that I have this upgraded iPhone camera than ever before. It won’t replace something like the GX1 for me, but it’s really good.
Everything about this iPhone is better than every iPhone before it — it’s something that is said every year, but the leap from a 4S to a 5 feels much larger than any previous leap. It’s like going from an original iPhone to an iPhone 4.