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Apple iPhone 5 review

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It's smaller, thinner and faster with a higher-resolution screen, but the new Maps app is a disappointment

Review Date: 5 Dec 2013

Price when reviewed: £529

Buy it now for: £499
(see more store prices)


Reviewed By: David Ludlow

Our Rating 5 stars out of 5

User Rating 4 stars out of 5

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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.


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.


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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