Apple iPhone 5 review
iOS 6, 4.0in 1,136x640 display
The iPhone 5 was Apple's flagship handset for late 2012, but it had a very truncated lifespan, being available only a year before it was superseded by the iPhone 5S and replaced by the iPhone 5C. The latter handset had the same internal specification as the iPhone 5, but used a colourful plastic shell instead. We thought this was a pity as the iPhone 5 was a lovely phone, and the new 5C wasn't really any cheaper given its plastic construction.
You can't buy a new iPhone 5 anymore, but you can get them secondhand and O2 do refurbished handsets on contract, although they're not a particularly great deal. Still if you're looking for a smaller, cheaper iPhone then a 5 isn't a bad option if you see one cheap SIM free.
Looking for a newer handset, why not read our guide to the best smartphones currently available?
Size and weight
There's a very simple way to describe the Apple iPhone 5: thinner, lighter and a bit taller than the iPhone 4S it replaced. While that gets across the general look of the phone, it rather underestimates what's gone into the design to achieve this.
For starters, Apple has managed to shave 1.4mm of the thickness of its previous phone. When you compare them side-by-side, what Apple has done is immediately obvious. While the iPhone 4S' screen and back bulged out from the side, the iPhone 5 has a flush back, while the screen is barely raised at all.
There's no denying that the iPhone 5 is impressively thin
It's easy to tell the difference in size from photos, but weight's an altogether harder thing to describe. In pure stats, the iPhone 4S weighed 140g while the iPhone 5 is 28g lighter at just 112g. Trust us, this is a big difference and it's immediately noticeable when you pick the iPhone 5 up: you get the feeling that it simply should weigh more, it's that light.
While the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 are clearly related, there are some cosmetic changes to the new model, which give it a different look and help keep the weight down. Gone is the all-glass rear, replaced instead with an aluminium panel that covers most of the back of the phone, bar two glass panels at the top and bottom. We've been told that during manufacturing the rear of the phone is photographed with the aluminium panel in place so that the best-fitting glass panels can be found. Our review model was certainly well put together, with a flush fitting rear.
A new aluminium back panel gives the iPhone 5 a different look and feel
One of the biggest reasons for the change in size of the iPhone 5 is because it has a larger 4in screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio, rather than the 3:2 aspect ratio used on the iPhone 4S. What this means in practice is that both screens are the same width, but the iPhone 5's is slightly taller, with a resolution of 1,136x640 (the iPhone 4S had a resolution of 960x640), maintaining the same high 326ppi. That's still a Retina display, which Apple defines as a screen where you can't see the individual pixels.
A 16:9 screen means the iPhone 5 is taller than its predecessor
Extra resolution is useful, as you can now fit five rows of icons on the home screen, up from four on the iPhone 4S. It also makes sense when you use a lot of the applications: you can view more calendar appointments and emails in a list, for example.
More resolution means that each app can display more information
Typing with the phone in portrait mode is also easier, as there's more space above the keyboard for text, making it easier to see what you're writing and correct any mistakes is necessary.
The higher resolution means you can see more when you type
It's not just a bigger screen, though, as the iPhone 5's display embeds the touch components with the actual pixels, removing a layer from the old screen. As well as being thinner, the new screen is brighter with higher colour saturation. Compared side-by-side with an iPhone 4S, we really noticed the difference with the iPhone 5 looking a lot more vibrant, with more pleasing colours. The screen is evenly lit and viewing angles are excellent, with the display easy to see from any angle. A 16:9 display also makes more sense if you're watching a lot of TV programmes or films on your phone, as the screen better suits the aspect ratios typically used, leading to a reduction or complete removal of black bars.
While Apple used to be a way ahead of the competition in resolution, we're seeing more Android phones with full 720p displays. The trade-off is that these Android devices typically have a larger screen with a slightly lower PPI. As we see it, a larger screen will give you more resolution, but you'll lose some of the pocketability of the iPhone 5, so it's a matter of choosing what is most important to you.