Apple iPhone 5 review

Aside from some 4G limitations, the iPhone 5 remains a great phone, and a better one than the 5C that replaced it

Our Rating 
5/5
Price when reviewed 
529
inc VAT

Specifications

iOS 6, 4.0in 1,136x640 display

Operating system

The iPhone 5 ships with iOS 6, which is available for older iPhones and iPads as a free upgrade. This in itself is a massive benefit of going with an Apple handset, as you'll get the next OS upgrade the day it's released: Android still lags painfully behind, with some manufacturers taking months to release a new update.

For the most part iOS 6 is a tweak to what's gone before, making the iPhone work better in the cloud and with other Apple devices. Improvements are mostly small but handy, such as Safari now having iCloud Tabs, where you can see browser tabs open on your other Apple devices. We like the way that you can share Photo Streams with people on iOS 6 devices or, for everyone else, via a public website.

We have to comment on new Maps app, which is built by Apple rather than Google. In terms of interface, it's the same as before, but the underlying data and search just isn't as good at the moment. There are plenty of omissions (there's no Tottenham Court Road station), it often struggles to find what you're searching for and does strange things, such as jumping to the US rather than looking up a UK street address.

As it currently stands using postcodes is currently the only sure-fire way of finding the address that you want. Apple is working on its problem at the moment, but it's a little sad that Maps has currently taken a step backwards.

iPhone 5 Maps route

Turn-by-turn directions are nice to have, if you can find where you want to go

In its favour, Maps introduces turn-by-turn directions. You're given a clear choice of three routes, with traffic problems highlighted, making it quick and easy to choose your own journey. Prompts are spoken clearly by the Siri voice, and we like the way that the next turn indicator counts down the distance, so you know exactly when to make the manoeuvre.

Apple iPhone 5 3D

3D Cities is a neat way to explore, although it's limited to a few cities at the moment

We also like the 3D Cities view, which gives you a 3D model of the place you're looking at to virtually fly over. The centre of London is covered, but that's about it for now in the UK, although Apple is expanding its content.

iOS 6.1

Apple has now released iOS 6.1, which is a minor update to the operating system. It fixes some bugs, but it's main change is increased support for 4G operators.

Apple controls which LTE operators its 4G devices can connect to, in order to ensure the best possible service. What this means is that you can't simply take an iPhone 5 and get it working on a new 4G operator as the launch.

Currently, the UK only has Everything Everywhere supported, so as the other operators roll out their own 4G networks, the iPhone 5 currently won't work.

However, as Apple has released one update to support other worldwide LTE providers, the signs are there that it will do the same thing again when more services roll out in the UK. With 4G due to take off later in 2013, we'd expect a new update to be available by or shortly after a launch.

Until then, if you really want 4G on the iPhone 5, your only choice is to buy a contract from EE. For more information on supported LTE networks, you can keep an eye on the Apple iPhone 5 LTE website, which is updated to include all supported carriers worldwide.

Google Maps

While Apple Maps continues to be a disappointment, the good news is that Google Maps is now available for download on all iPhones from the 3GS, iPod Touch from the 3rd generation and all iPads.

Having Google Maps back is brilliant and the new app brings in all of the features that you know and love from the original iPhone Maps app, and even adds in turn-by-turn voice directions for navigation.

As this app is the sole work of Google, the interface has changed from the original Maps app, although this isn't a bad thing, as it's still incredibly easy to use. A search bar dominates the top of the map. The brilliance of Google Maps is that you can search by practically anything to find a location, from a city or address, to the name of a shop or type of business. It's incredibly accurate, very fast and makes finding a location an absolute doddle. It's by far the best map app and shows just how wrong Apple got it when it decided to make its own Maps app.

Apple iPhone 5 Google Maps

Google Maps makes it easy to find a location

Navigating round the map is really easy, using your finger to scroll and pinch-to-zoom to highlight more detail in the map. You can also slide up and down the screen with two fingers to change the 3D perspective and rotate two images to change the orientation of the map. Luckily there's also a button to quickly re-orientate the map so that North is up.

Once you've found a location, you can just tap the red peg to pop-up an information bar at the bottom. Slide this up and you get more information on the location, including (if available) a call button, reviews and a link to the website. If the location's also on Street View, you can tap the button to view it for real. Street View is still completely brilliant and being able to see first-hand can be incredibly useful.

The information bar also gives you a car icon to access navigation. Walking and public transport options are included, but it’s the driving navigations that are new to iPhone, with complete turn-by-turn instructions with voice prompts.

Navigation quality is pretty good with clear prompts and a choice of routes before you start your journey. It may not compete with the best standalone TomTom system for clarity and quality of directions, but for lighter use it is excellent and, of course, completely free.

Map options are now accessed by hitting the small tab at the bottom of the screen, which lets you choose to view Traffic, Public transport information, toggle Satellite imagery and view the current location in Google Earth. The only feature not built in is Google Latitude, which lets you find your friends, but this is available as a separate app if you want it.

Apple iPhone 5 Google Maps Options

Options are now in a side bar, accessed by hitting the small tab at the bottom of the screen

Google Maps hugely makes up for issues with Apple Maps and easily makes the iPhone 5 our current favourite smartphone. Our one slight issue is that you can't override Apple Maps as the default mapping application. This means, for example, clicking on a contact's address opens it up in Apple Maps rather than Google Maps. However, this is a minor irritation, but Google Maps on iOS6 at least means you can find your way round with confidence again.

Siri

Siri has had a few improvements to make it faster to respond, while you can also post Facebook or Twitter updates using it. Again, Siri swings between scarily accurate and annoyingly wrong, but it's often a quick way to use a feature: we think it's brilliant for setting reminders.

Passbook

Passbook is a brand-new app, which is a digital wallet for tickets, store cards and coupon codes. At launch there wasn't a lot of support for it, but as time has gone on, more and more companies have started working with it.

Virgin Atlantic is the first UK airline to support it, although United Airlines, American Airlines and Lufthansa also support Passbook. We tested out the new Virgin Atlantic system, although the process is similar for the other airlines.

Once you've checked-in online, you get the option to have your boarding pass sent to you for Passbook, provided your departure airport supports the technology (London airports do, but support elsewhere isn't as good, although expanding). The boarding pass is sent in an email, which opens in Passbook when you click the attachment.

iPhone 5 Passbook

Passbook boarding passes are stored in the app

When you get close to your flight, the phone's lock screen shows you your airline and flight time. However, unlocking the screen doesn't display the ticket. Instead, you have to open the Passbook app, where your boarding pass is displayed first. On check-in and at security, your phone is simply scanned.

iPhone 5 Passbook

The lock screen tells you about upcoming flights

It works well enough, although you'll still need to scrabble around for paper, as you'll need your passport. In actual fact, having a printed boarding pass folded inside your passport is arguably quicker.

Also in the UK is the Starbuck Card, which you can top up with cash and use to pay for drinks. It's quick to access through Passbook and, as it contains cash, is pretty useful as you use it to pay for everything in one go without needing your wallet.

iPhone 5 Passbook

Store cards can be useful, particularly if you can use them to pay

There's not a lot of use for Passbook in the UK at the moment and it's arguable in some situations if it's easier than paper. However, as more companies join, having all of your cards in one place without having to bulk out your wallet would be brilliant. Ultimately, Passbook would be better if you could also use your phone to pay for items, so you could do everything with a single device.

App store

While Android is getting a lot closer in terms of the quality and range of apps available, Apple's App Store is still the best. It's got a wider range of high quality apps, and it's still the first platform that companies generally launch on. However, the gap is closing fast.

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