iPhone 5 Review: Part 3

This is my Next First: 32GB Black & Slate

Part 1 of The Review

Part 2 of The Review

Introduction

Entangled and confused was I mere weeks ago, when my saddened pockets yelped at the mercy of a terrifying thought; my large hands reaching, but failing to grasp what I was aiming for, among the lottery of objects that clanged around as I roamed the streets of downtown. However, as the sun settled towards the bleak, muddled cluster of clouds that quickly approached, I would need to heed the advice that my pair of jeans had longed for me to follow. Comparing the present penitence in my soul to the maps that I would soon replace, I decided to follow my destiny, and proceeded to open the black box that presented itself to me. With my Samsung Infuse and old iPod Touch both tucked within a chamber of solitude, an immediate feeling of courage overcame me. It had been more than two years since my “phone without the phone” had been removed from its case, and just over a year since I had felt the power of half a dozen widgets magically dilute the battery of my Infuse. I hesitated, followed the contour of the glistening (and patented) shape with my finger, and spoke what seemed to be the first words of relief of mine in a long time; "Hello, iPhone 5."

Lightning Fast: 30-Pin gets Struck Down

Score: 7 out of 10

All previous generations of iPhone have included the same connector; a 30-pin docking port that has been a staple for Apple’s mobile devices for over a decade. However, with the iPhone 5, and most recently the iPads (late 2012), they have all transitioned towards a newer cable dubbed Lightning. Overall, the new connector has a few changes that differentiates it from the previous port: specifically, it is smaller, reversible, and digital. However, there are also many concerns associated when switching from an older, widespread technology to a newer one. Those concerns will be discussed, along with some possible ideas and implementations of the cable for the future.

Outcries were abundant when news came of the 30-pin’s demise, as the Lightning connector was called-out for its USB 3.0 incompatibility out of the box (and many other reasons!). Described simply as a change for the sake of change, Apple’s profit-obsessive behavior was also called into question, as adapters and an entire ecosystem of accessories were affected by a mere, small move. However, when looking back on 10 years of including the 30-pin connector with its products, it actually seems that Apple has done the opposite. They have extended the lifetime of their proprietary connector for as long as I think they should have; maybe even longer. When looking at the bigger picture, Apple would have changed connectors anyways, for the sake of progression; they just happened to do it now. And for us consumers, no matter how invested we are financially in our technology, it will always go through eventual changes; occasionally, we must be able to let go. I have, and since my purchase, I have been able to experience both the Lightning connector’s benefits and detriments.

After using the actual hardware for about a month, I can truly say that the physical aspects are a big step-up; the smaller size and reversibility are areas where I think the improvements are really noticeable in one’s daily life. For example, plugging in the connector in low-light does not require glancing at the connector anymore; it will fit either way into the iPhone 5. Also, the smaller ‘insert’ allows it to be carried within smaller bags, and makes it overall volumetrically smaller, which is also great for pockets and alike. As for the difference between the previous connector, there are obvious areas where the new form factor is a detriment; the lack of accessories is obvious, but there is another reason. With my 3rd Generation iPad and my previous iPod Touch, I could switch between one connector for charging both, but now both of my MacBook Air’s USB ports are used up. With needs for both a lightning and 30-pin cable, there is more clutter than I would like, which I believe also goes against Apple’s original intention.

However, I believe that the Lightning connector’s technical aspects (‘all-digital’) are also areas where possible innovation could come for the future. I don’t believe that all the possibilities of Lightning have been taken into account, but for now I do understand how it as a pain for many. That is why I have chosen to give it the score that I have, but I do hope that once it becomes widely-adopted, my original rating no longer holds true. Until then, I am eager to see if Lightning’s prospects can propel the connector to another level, and towards [hopefully] greater things for the future.

Cellular: Fast LTE, but take with a grain of salt

Score: 9 out of 10

When the iPhone 4 was released, many believed that the ‘4’ stood for 4G (or speed for the ‘S’ in 4S). However, LTE chips at the time were not very widespread in smartphones, and many of the first generation chips would cause battery-life to take a tumble. Personally, my previous Samsung Infuse had indeed the 4G moniker attached to both the box and notification screen, but as I discovered, it was merely an HSPA+ mortal. With the iPhone 5 though, true LTE speeds have arrived to the iPhone, and I will discuss them more thoroughly, along with my only caveat for users to be wary of; carriers, carriers, carriers.

I remember late 2010, when Apple offered their customers something both surprising but justified; free bumper cases for their iPhone 4 customers, many of who complained of the now infamous ‘death-grip’. At the time, I believed that the issue was justified, but whether a mountain was made out of a molehill, I don’t think that anyone can argue that when held in a certain manner, the reception of the iPhone 4 did indeed weaken for many. With the iPhone 4S, Apple then introduced dual-switching antennas, which mediated the issue for the next-generation of iPhone-purchasers. Through personal use, I could identify that with the iPhone 4S, there were no issues concerning the device’s signal, and with the iPhone 5, I also found the same to be true. Overall, users should not have issues when concerning strength of their cellular signal, and even placing a case has not affected reception for me.

I’ve also found that I have grown used to faux-4G, since last year, when my Samsung Infuse purported that it included a fast, “4G” experience, which was indeed untrue. It must then be only fair that after over 12 months, I am able to truly experience what I have deserved all along. With my new iPhone 5, I consistently experienced LTE speeds when not in a basement/shielded behind rows of walls, and it has been a great experience overall. For those that do not previously know the great power and responsibility that LTE brings, they will probably be very happy with doing tasks such as web surfing, email-attachment downloading, and especially media streaming. And for those that already recognize how significantly faster data speeds can change the smartphone experience, the lack of impact on battery life will be another great addition. Overall, I did not test numerical speeds in my area, as they fluctuated too greatly to gather relevant data. However, I can confidently state that the speeds were much, much better than what I received on both my 4S, and Infuse. When LTE was not available though, the iPhone 5 reverted back to the 3G connection that I was so used to (as other LTE phones do). However, since my area has great LTE connection, I did indeed experience ~20mbps speeds most of the time.

As an important side note, the iPhone 5 does use a Nano-SIM card, instead of the Micro-SIM included with previous generations. For those that want to switch phones that do not have a Nano-SIM, the current SIMs are not compatible with the new chips. However, some carriers (and Apple) provide the new Nanos, which might make the transition easier for some.

Overall, I noticed no decrease in daily battery life from my 4S, and in optimal situations, the overall longevity was even longer on some days (something I will discuss more below). When heavily using LTE data, I went through a day of use, with over 20% of juice still left after over 8 hours. Still, there is one variable that makes the realization of having a fast, fluid, reliable connection a little, well, variable. As a customer with Rogers, I am able to enjoy (yes, enjoy!) somewhat reliable signal strength wherever I go, and even though the prices I pay are pretty ridiculous, they are the only complaint about my current service. However, because of the diversity with global carrier support and cellular speeds, I cannot speak for everyone. That is why I am unable to give the cellular speeds a higher score, but it is also why my score may also not reflect your experiences at all. Therefore, I believe that the score I have given should be taken into context, and overall I hope that many other users share that their experiences have been as pleasant as mine.