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 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

Page 3 of 5Performance, battery life and hardware


iOS 6, 4.0in 1,136x640 display


Along with its new phone comes a new processor, the Apple A6. Apple promises that it's twice as fast for the CPU and provides double the graphics performance. Impressively, it's also 22 per cent smaller. It's hard to fully test a phone's processor, but this dual-core model certainly proved itself in the tests we performed.

The Sunspider Java test completed in 944.1ms on the iPhone 5 and took more than twice as long on the iPhone 4S, completing in 1,917.3ms. Web browsing in general is very quick, with the BBC News home page rendering in less than four seconds.

We noticed that the iPhone 5 was every-so-slightly snappier than the iPhone 4S, opening applications, such as Photos, which was filled with images, that little bit faster. As you'd expect from Apple, iOS is beautifully smooth throughout, effortlessly rendering all of the little animations. Google has come on a long way with Project Butter in Android 4.1, which made its debut on the Google Nexus 7, but Apple maintains its crown for smoothness.

Battery life

Battery life is quoted by Apple as the same as on the 4S, which is impressive considering the iPhone 5 has the larger screen. In our video playback test, the iPhone 5 lasted 12h 4m, which is pretty much the same as the iPhone 4S in the same test.

Lightning dock connector

Gone is the old Universal Dock connector, which had been in place since the first iPod. Instead, there's the new Lightning connector. Anyone with loads of existing peripherals will probably be gnashing their teeth. Apple will sell a Dock-to-Lightning adaptor for the princely sum of £25, but we haven't been able to try it out as there's currently no stock until . If you want to charge at home and at work, you'll need to buy extra Lightning cables, with Apple selling each one for £15.

Apple iPhone 5 Lightning

The new Lightning connector is more robust and easier to use, although a little annoying if you have old peripherals and docks

It's also a little annoying that the headphone port has been moved to the bottom of the phone. If you buy a Lightning charging dock at some point in the future (there aren't any at the moment) you can't charge and listen to your headphones.

A new SIM card

iPhone 5 SIM card comparison

The Nano SIM (top) is considerably smaller than the tiny Micro SIM (bottom)

While the iPhone 4 introduced the Micro SIM, the iPhone introduces an even smaller version: the Nano SIM. If you're buying an unlocked phone, you'll need to get your operator to switch your old SIM for the new one. Your operator should do this free of charge and you should be able to make the switch in-store, but phone to check.

Apple iPhone 5 SIM slot

As with previous iPhones, the SIM slots into a bay on the side of the handset


Talking of headphones, Apple has revamped its in-ear set, introducing the EarPods. These are definitely good news for any commuter, as no longer will you be bombarded with irritating, tinny, leaky noise coming from people that haven't upgraded their bundled headphones.

With the EarPods, the slightly strange design sends the audio into your ear, rather than letting it leak. We have to say that it's a big improvement in sound quality, too. With the EarPods, there's more range, better balance and even a sense of bass. In fact, we'd go so far as to say that they're relatively pleasant to listen too.

iPhone 5 EarPod

The EarPods are a massive improvement, but you'll still want to buy a decent set of headphones for the best sound quality

Not that we're getting too carried away. The sound is still slightly muddy, lacking fine detail and the full range from other sets. As such, we'd say that you should still invest in a decent set of headphones, but the EarPods are a decent backup pair.

As with the old buds, the EarPods have a built in microphone and responsive in-line remote with volume control and a multi-function button (tap once to answerhang-up a call or pauseplay a track, and double-tap to skip tracks). Call quality is pretty good over them, with the microphone clearly picking up our voice.

Wireless and 4G

Apple has completely upgrade the wireless technology inside the iPhone 5. First up is 802.11n dual band, which means it will connect to 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. The advantage of 5GHz is that there's less congestion, so you'll get better throughputs. You'll need a dual-band router, though.

This is also the first iPhone with 4G built-in and the phone works with the Everything Everywhere 4G network. We had the opportunity to test the 4G capabilities using an EE SIM with our review iPhone. Regardless of what you think about EE's pricing and download limits (our EE 4G review goes into more detail on this[/a], there's no denying its impressive speeds.

Testing in our office using the app, we saw download speeds of around 24Mbit/s and upload speeds of around 18Mbit/s. Speeds will vary depending on signal strength and network congestion, but this is still a long way ahead of what 3G can offer and puts 4G on the iPhone 5 in the same category as home broadband speeds.

Apple iPhone 5 4G Speed

4G is certainly impressively fast on the iPhone 5

It made a big difference for web browsing, too, with the BBC News homepage downloading and rendering in just 2 seconds. That's the real benefit of 4G: no waiting for your favourite sites and services to load.

In some regards, the iPhone 5 can use 4G better than on Android. For example, on the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE we found that the BBC iPlayer app used a low-quality version of the video on 4G, even though there was plenty of bandwidth. On the iPhone 5, we got the same stream over 4G and Wi-Fi, meaning the same high quality with a sharp and clearly-defined image, which is exactly what you want from a fast connection.

Apple iPhone 5 Wi-Fi BBC iPlayer

On Wi-Fi you get the high-quality, sharp BBC iPlayer stream

Apple iPhone 5 4G BBC iPlayer

On 4G you get the same high-quality stream from iPlayer as when you're on a Wi-Fi network

There's no denying, then, that the iPhone 5 is a great 4G phone if you want to take advantage of the faster networking technology.

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