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  • Reviews - Written by on Monday, November 19, 2012 14:57 - 54 Comments

    Apple iPhone 5: Review

    review In late September Apple released an iPhone with the features most people seemed to want from an iPhone: A larger screen and support for the 4G mobile networks which are springing up like weeds. But in a year where Australia appears swamped in great smartphones, does Apple’s venerable iPhone line continue to hold up against the competition? Read on to find out.

    Design
    At first glance the new iPhone doesn’t look much different from the old iPhone. It’s still a flat black or white oblong, in the same rectangle with rounded corners which Apple founder Steve Jobs loved so much, right from the formation of the company. The same round home button sits beneath its rectangular touchscreen, and the same power button sits on top. The same volume controls and ringer mute buttons sit on its left-hand side, and overall you just know it’s an iPhone, when you pick the iPhone 5 up. Perhaps no other company has as much design consistency as Apple right now.

    When I first saw the iPhone 5 demonstrated in online videos, the impression I had of the handset was that it was boring. After all, we live in an era where companies such as HTC, Samsung and Nokia are setting smartphone design alight right now, with vibrant colours and sensuous polycarbonate which caresses the hand; an age where significantly larger screen sizes are rapidly becoming the norm and manufacturers are openly drawing inspiration from artistic concepts such as ‘nature’ and ‘water’ to bring life to their hand candy. Do we really need another flat black oblong iPhone, I asked myself?

    However, when spending time with a review unit of the iPhone 5 over the past several weeks, I’ve come to understand why so many reviewers have stipulated that you don’t know what you’re dealing with when it comes to the iPhone 5 unless you’ve held it.

    Having been an iPhone 4 user for several years, I’m familiar with how the iPhone line looks and feels in the hand. However, what is remarkable about the iPhone 5 is that it takes every single element of previous iPhone designs and makes it better. The iPhone 4 and 4S’s glass backing and steel frame becomes anodised aluminium on the iPhone 5, and the feeling of this futuristic material is every bit as nice as the polycarbonate I’ve come to love on HTC’s One XL handset, or the slick smooth plastic of Samsung’s Galaxy S III model. The iPhone 5 is noticeably thinner than the iPhone 4S – 7.6mm compared with 9.3mm – and you notice this difference in your hand and in your pocket. It’s also quite a bit lighter – 112g compared with 140g. The headphone socket has been moved to the bottom of the screen, alongside speakers and the new, smaller Lightning connector.

    The width of the iPhone 5 is the same as that of the iPhone 4 and 4S, but it’s slightly longer, to accommodate its larger 4” screen and accompanying 16:9 aspect ratio and resolution (1136×640). Yet, unlike the 4.7” and 4.8” screens which are becoming common with Android manufacturers these days, the iPhone 5’s screen is not so large that you have problems reaching all of its corners with your thumb when holding it in one hand. And perhaps one of the nicest elements of the iPhone 5 is the chamfered edges where its sides meet its back and front plates. Apple says these have been cut with “crystalline diamond”, and they certainly look and feel lovely.

    It’s this culmination of small improvements which makes the iPhone 5’s design so different from that of the iPhone 4 and 4S before it. It’s really hard to show in a video, but the impression I got from using the two different designs side by side was that the iPhone 5 was a much more highly sophisticated evolution of the iPhone 4/4S design. Once you’ve played with it, you’ll probably find it hard to go back to an iPhone 4/4S; the iPhone 5 just feels that nice in the hand. We particularly loved the larger screen coupled with the iPhone 5′s new lightness for the experience of reading eBooks on the iPhone 5 (although for video viewing, when you definitely want a larger screen, the larger 4.7″/4.8″ screens of the Galaxy S III and HTC One XL trump the iPhone 5).

    To sum up, as mentioned, I was initially a critic, but following testing of an actual unit, I have no doubt that Apple’s statement that it re-engineered the iPhone 5 from the ground up is accurate. This feels like an entirely new device – not a reworked iPhone 4/4S. It fits perfectly in the hand and in the pocket, and you’ll find it hard to use any other smartphone after a week with the iPhone 5. Its build quality is second to none right now, as is its hardware component integration.

    Features
    Given how far smartphones have come over the past several years, it should be no surprise that the iPhone 5’s list of improved features is relatively small. Frankly, the years where we can expect amazing new features with every new smartphone release are probably gone, at least for the short-term; until radical new technologies come into play.

    However, the iPhone 5 does what it needs to do to keep up with the competition. Both HTC and Samsung have had smartphones supporting 4G networks in Australia for many months; HTC’s support for Telstra’s flagship 4G network (one of the best in the world by any measure) in particular dates back almost a year at this point. In this context, Apple’s iPhone has languished behind the competition. This is one of the main reasons why I personally switched to a HTC One XL earlier this year.

    The iPhone 5 rectifies this, adding support for the 4G (LTE) networks of Telstra and Optus on the 1800MHz band; the same band which Vodafone is planning to launch its 4 network on in 2013. When you’re in a 4G area with an iPhone 5, the ‘LTE’ label will come up on the screen, replacing ‘3G’, signalling you are able to take advantage of the dramatically faster speeds.

    Probably the second major feature which many iPhone fans have been crying out for is a larger screen. Although the iPhone 5 doesn’t go as far as HTC and Samsung have, with their 4.7” and 4.8” models, it does significantly improve on the 3.5” size Apple has used as standard since the first iPhone launched in 2007; taking that display up to 4” by lengthening it. In practice this means the iPhone shifts to a 16:9 movie aspect ratio, from the previous 3:2 ratio, while maintaining Apple’s pixel density of 326 ppi. It’s still a “Retina Display”, to use the marketing term ;) In practice, you get an extra row of icons on your homescreen, and apps have a little more room.

    Aside from these two hero features, there are a slew of other minor improvements. Apple’s new A6 processor is included, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi is there, and Apple is also claiming better battery life due to a more power-efficient setup. Apple’s traditional 30 pin data and power connector never seemed particularly large, but the iPhone 5 comes with the much smaller Lightning socket, which is a solid improvement and bring the iPhone into line with the industry standard microUSB sockets used for charging and synching on virtually every other smartphone these days.

    Perhaps the other major feature included with the iPhone 5 isn’t actually part of the iPhone – it’s Apple’s new EarPods: New and improved headphone earbuds which Apple says delivers an improved sound over its old models, including noise-cancelling technology to wipe out background noise.

    And, as is usually the case with Apple releases, Apple has improved the camera in the iPhone 5; focusing on delivering panorama shots, cutting the speed of photo capture and enhancing the 1080p video recording. The front-facing camera for video calling has also been boosted to ‘FaceTime HD’ levels.

    The other new feature which the iPhone introduces is version 6 of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, although the software can be deployed to previous iPhone models, so it’s not specifically a feature of the iPhone 5. iOS 6 introduces a host of improved small features, such as improvements to the Siri voice assistant, integration of Facebook throughout iOS, improvements to photo sharing, a new e-ticket feature dubbed Passbook (for plane tickets and so on), and the ability to make FaceTime video calls over mobile networks, instead of just over Wi-Fi networks. There’s a bunch of new features; too many to list in this review, and many of them appear to work best with the iPhone 5. But even owners of previous generation iPhones (for example, we upgraded our iPhone 4 to iOS 6 and have been enjoying the experience there) will benefit from iOS 6.

    However, it is perhaps the removal of some traditional iPhone features which is most notable with the upgrade to iOS 6. This is the first time for many years that we’ve had to write in a review about features being removed for a software “upgrade”; let’s hope we don’t have to do that too often.

    Here we’re talking about the removal of several services previously provided by Google – the YouTube and Maps apps, thanks to what appears to be a disagreement between Cupertino and Mountain View. You can get YouTube back, thanks to a separate app developed by Google, but there’s no such fix for Google Maps; Google hasn’t provided its own app to remedy that functionality yet. Apple has developed its own native replacement option; we’ll go into the limitations and improvements of that service later in this review.

    If we were to sum up the new features included with the iPhone 5, we’d have to say that Apple has done what is needed here, but doesn’t appear to have innovated past its competition. High-level smartphones such as the HTC One XL, the 4G Galaxy S III and the upcoming Nokia Lumia 920 are all neck and neck with the iPhone 5 in terms of feature parity. Each manufacturer offers little tidbits and extra features on its own platform to try and get ahead of the others, and certainly Apple does this a lot more than the others, but by and large if you’re after a major feature in a smartphone, you can get it on the iPhone or you can get it from a competing model; there’s not a huge amount of difference in the market right now on the big ticket features.

    Performance
    There are probably four major elements which you’re interested in when it comes to the iPhone 5’s performance; and by and large, for many people, especially technology early adopters, these areas need to be up to par, especially considering the strength of the competition arrayed against Apple at the moment. To our mind, they are 4G support, battery life, software support and generally, how the handset feels and works in the hand (we’ve already gone through this last area: the iPhone 5 is fantastic in this regard).

    In the first and most important aspect, 4G speeds, the iPhone 5 clearly delivers. We tested the handset around Sydney on Telstra’s 4G network, and regularly achieved speeds every bit as good on the iPhone 5 as we’ve seen on competing handsets such as the HTC One XL and 4G Galaxy S III (up to 40Mbps or so). Have no worries about the iPhone 5’s 4G support; it’s solid. This plays out in instant Internet access to virtually anything, including streaming video.

    Secondly, there is the related question of how the iPhone 5 delivers in terms of battery life. With handsets such as the HTC One XL, it’s been evident that early support for 4G speeds required a bit of a battery hit; our HTC handset rarely makes it through a long day in the office and out at night these days without needing a top-up. Turning off 4G speeds helps this quite a bit, but we’ve always been leery about making this compromise, given access to 4G speeds was a key reason for buying the handset in the first place.

    Thankfully, despite the addition of 4G support to the iPhone 5, we didn’t see any significant hit to the handset’s battery life. You can still expect to get through several days of normal use (including 4G) before you will want to consider hooking the iPhone 5 up to a charger, although if you’re constantly streaming video from a site like YouTube over 4G or using your iPhone for Wi-Fi tethering, the battery will go much quicker; you’ll see the bar gradually sinking over a period of several hours with this kind of usage. If you leave the iPhone 5 on a desk and walk away, you can expect it to last the best part of a week, but we didn’t think it had quite the longevity that we’ve seen from models such as Nokia’s recent Lumia line, which is a standout in this regard.

    In general, we felt that despite the addition of 4G support and a larger screen to the iPhone 5, that it performed about on par with the previous generation iPhone 4 and 4S models. That is, it has solid battery life, amongst the best in the industry, but that if you’re using it for certain tasks – playing graphics intensive games such as Infinity Blade or streaming video over 4G, the battery will certainly head south rapidly. In this sense, the battery improvements touted by Apple for the iPhone 5 seem to keep it on par with previous models; an achievement in itself, when you consider the battery-sucking new features found in the handset. You can find other views on the iPhone 5′s battery life here and here.

    Software support is probably the area of most contention in the new iPhone. In general there are two statements to be made here; both related to iOS 6. The first and most obvious one is the incomplete nature of Apple’s new Maps service.

    In our usage, Apple’s new Maps app is actually pretty great for the basics. It feels smoother than the previous version, and it didn’t have any problem finding addresses around Sydney that we wanted, or giving directions between locations. However, when you start looking for that layer of metadata on top that Google does so well – such as the locations of cultural hotspots such as restaurants, cafes, businesses and so on – it didn’t so well. Some of the data was just out of date, and there was quite a bit missing. The other aspect is the missing Street View feature which we’ve come to know and love with Google Maps; and internationally wider problems have been well-documented, with Apple infamously destroying famous landmarks in cities such as New York.

    In Australia, mapping support for features such as public transport directions and times as well as 3D landmark imaging has never been fantastic to start with, so I feel as though Australians will be less impacted by the removal of Google Maps from the iPhone than our American cousins will be. We’re used to getting less Down Under, after all, even though we don’t like it. To sum up: Apple’s new Maps isn’t the best it can be, but we have no doubt that it will improve and that Google will eventually launch its own iOS Maps effort. With this in mind, and the fact that Maps does the basics well, we don’t have a huge problem with the app.

    The second aspect of software support which we feel is lacking on the iPhone 5 is the freshness of iOS as a whole. In a world which has the vibrancy of Android (especially with add-ons such as HTC Sense) and the slick sliding menus of Windows Phone 8, iOS is looking dated. It’s the most functional mobile operating system on the planet, but it’s no longer the most beautiful; and it’s not hard to see why when you consider that the iOS user interface was designed more than half a decade ago. Things have moved on since then in mobile OS UI, and we’d like to see some of this new dynamic thinking come to iOS. The iPhone 5’s hardware is stellar; its app support unparalleled; but it’s basic user interface needs some more vibrancy to get us excited all over again.

    All of the other features of the iPhone 5 perform strongly, as you’d expect. It’s the fastest iPhone we’ve ever used, the camera is great (see some comparison shots below) and the quality of the EarPod headphones is very strong (and they’re comfortable). The speakers are good for a smartphone and we really like the new Lightning connector. But then, you kind of expect all of this from an iPhone; you’d be surprised if these things weren’t satisfactory. The truth is that there was nothing wrong with most of these aspects of the iPhone in the iPhone 4S, and they’ve been moderately improved in the iPhone 5, as you would expect.

    Click the photos below to see larger versions (all taken on the same day at the same time).

    Apple iPhone 5:

    HTC One XL:

    Motorola RAZR HD:

    Conclusion
    Right now, in Australia’s smartphone market, buyers have a plethora of great options from manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, Nokia and even Motorola. All of these companies have great handsets with awesome touchscreens, support for 4G speeds, great cameras, modern mobile operating systems and so on. So what sets the iPhone 5 apart – why would you buy it instead of one of its rivals?

    The main reason to buy an iPhone 5 is if you’re already invested in the Apple ecosystem and don’t want to leave it. Put simply, if you already have any previous iPhone and like it, then you should be thinking about upgrading to the iPhone 5. This handset is a fundamental reworking of the iPhone’s design and adds enough new features (such as 4G support and larger screen) that even those who own its predecessor, the iPhone 4S should look at upgrading. If you want an iPhone, this is the best iPhone, and it’s worth picking it up.

    If you’ve made the switch to Android or Windows Phone, then there’s probably no reason to switch back to the iPhone 5; it doesn’t really have any amazing features that the other operating systems don’t, apart from better app support. The iPhone 5 is more about catching up to Apple’s rivals, particularly when it comes to a larger screen and 4G speeds, than it is about exceeding them. And you’ll have more choice of handset design on either rival platform, plus the likelihood of enticing new models being disclosed at CES in January and Mobile World Congress a few months later. But if you are thinking of switching back, now is a very good time to do so; the iPhone 5 is a very strong handset.

    For those that don’t yet have a smartphone (and there are surprisingly a lot of these people out there), the iPhone 5 is probably the handset which you should look at picking up. It’s got a bigger app ecosystem and a gentler learning curve than rival models, and everyone knows how to use an iPhone by now. The iPhone 5 represents the ideal introduction to smartphone life.

    In our personal pantheon (bearing in mind that we haven’t tested the Lumia 920 yet), we consider the iPhone 5 as one of the two best handsets in Australia at the moment, with the other being Samsung’s 4G Galaxy S III (look out for our review of that model tomorrow). The two handsets are neck and neck for features, performance and build quality, in our opinion, with only personal preference and third-party app support really dividing them. With such great models on the market, it’s a great time to be a smartphone buyer.

    Other reviews we liked: The Verge, Engadget, CNET Australia, PCWorld Australia.

    Image credit: Apple

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    1. Mark
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink |

      What with the even handedness of this review? I want more apple/samsung fan boy put downs!

      • Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink |

        lol I wish I could; but the truth is I consider the iPhone 5 and the 4G Galaxy S III about on par right now — and ahead of the rest of the competition :) They are both amazing models.

      • Simon Reidy
        Posted 20/11/2012 at 12:56 am | Permalink |

        I came here to post the same thing. It was so refreshing to read a fair Australian review of the iPhone 5 that has highlighted the positives and negatives so accurately.

        Its interesting timing reading this review tonight, as I made the decision just this afternoon to get one, after having my first comprehensive look at one in store. I eventually walked out with a 32GB model with Telstra. The form factor and screen is the perfect size for me, and the build quality is really nice.

        Renai and other reviewers are absolutely right that its a phone that has to be held to be fully appreciated. You wouldn’t think such a minor change in weight, thinness and aluminium back would make such a big difference, but it really does. My iPhone 4 feels like a brick in comparison.

        However I agree with Renai that there’s no doubt that while the phone is very fast and fluid, the general UI and functionality of iOS needs a big overhaul and I’m missing Google Maps already (thankfully confirmed as being close to completion as a 3rd party app now).

        The good thing about Apple is you are guaranteed a minimum two years of OS upgrades, so its almost given that iOS’s appearance and capabilities will improve significantly during that time. Particularly now that “skeuomorphism loving” and map-mangler Scott Forestall is gone, and Johnny Ive will be in charge of Apple’s software division moving forward.

        To be fully satisfied with an iPhone there will always been the need to break free of Apple’s boundries and tweak iOS though in my opinion, particularly with so many cool unofficial apps available now. There was the first bit of real news about an iPhone 5 jailbreak last week, with a well known hacker publishing a screenshot of Cydia running on his iPhone 5 and saying they are making progress on an iOS6 jailbreak for all devices, but still have a while to go. Once that drops I can’t wait to install all my Cydia tweaks, customise the hell out of this thing, and really put that A6 chip to work :)

    2. daniel
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink |

      How was the battery life ?

      My friends previous iPhones versions have slowly dying batteries…

      • Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink |

        Secondly, there is the related question of how the iPhone 5 delivers in terms of battery life. With handsets such as the HTC One XL, it’s been evident that early support for 4G speeds required a bit of a battery hit; our HTC handset rarely makes it through a long day in the office and out at night these days without needing a top-up. Turning off 4G speeds helps this quite a bit, but we’ve always been leery about making this compromise, given access to 4G speeds was a key reason for buying the handset in the first place.

        Thankfully, despite the addition of 4G support to the iPhone 5, we didn’t see any significant hit to the handset’s battery life. You can still expect to get through several days of normal use (including 4G) before you will want to consider hooking the iPhone 5 up to a charger, although if you’re streaming video from a site like YouTube over 4G, the battery will go much quicker; you’ll see the bar gradually sinking over a period of several hours with this kind of usage. If you leave the iPhone 5 on a desk and walk away, you can expect it to last the best part of a week, but we didn’t think it had quite the longevity that we’ve seen from models such as Nokia’s recent Lumia line, which is a standout in this regard.

        In general, we felt that despite the addition of 4G support and a larger screen to the iPhone 5, that it performed about on par with the previous generation iPhone 4 and 4S models. That is, it has solid battery life, amongst the best in the industry, but that if you’re using it for certain tasks – playing graphics intensive games such as Infinity Blade or streaming video over 4G, the battery will certainly head south rapidly. In this sense, the battery improvements touted by Apple for the iPhone 5 seem to keep it on par with previous models; an achievement in itself, when you consider the battery-sucking new features found in the handset. You can find other views on the iPhone 5′s battery life here and here.

    3. daniel
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink |

      Thanks Renei – was pretty big review.

      Another question: can you replace/take out the battery in the new iPhone 5 ? (without avoiding warrenty)

      The issue I have always (and friends) is that if the phone freezes up due to Apple or an apps fault then you can’t take out the battery – on Nexus Galaxy phones you can.

      Is that possible ?

      • Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink |

        No worries!

        “can you replace/take out the battery in the new iPhone 5 ? (without avoiding warrenty)”

        Not to my knowledge.

      • Brett Haydon
        Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink |

        I’ve never had a freeze that a hard reboot didn’t fix (holding home and power together).

        • djos
          Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink |

          Same here and I’ve had iPhone’s since the day they arrived in Aus!

      • Johhny
        Posted 19/11/2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink |

        RESEST – Hold Lock and home button down until phone resets.

    4. Michael
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink |

      I got a Galaxy S3 at the same time as my wife got the iPhone 5. This was my first Android device since my Acer Iconia tablet on Honeycomb which I detested. Android 4 is – IMHO – the first version of the software that is professionally comparable to IOS in terms of stability and intuitive usefulness.

      I think we each made the right choice for our use patterns. My wife like the simplicity and consistency of the Apple product where I like how much more flexible Android is. The difference in screen size is surprisingly irrelevant once you’ve tried/help both for a while.

      One major point though is battery. The Galaxy CANNOT go a full day’s use without recharging whereas the iPhone does so fairly effortlessly. On the flipside though, I can swap batteries on the Samsung (aftermarket batteries are already only ~$5 each) and have it back online within about 15 seconds which I prefer as even a really long day (which might finally tax the Apple) won’t leave me out of juice with the spare battery (or 2) I can easily keep in my bag.

    5. Andrew Mitchell
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink |

      Hi Renai,

      Thanks for the review.

      I haven’t yet upgraded to the iPhone 5 but I think there may be an issue with the battery life. Out of six people I’ve asked about it, three of them (all on Telstra) have complained that it’s hard for them to get through a full day with 4G on. This is without video and without tethering. One close work colleague has even gone to the extent of turning off 4G unless he really needs it.

      I find it hard to believe that these are the only cases. I’d be interested to learn how wide-spread this issue is.

      Regards,
      Andrew.

      • Brett Haydon
        Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink |

        Apple did make a pretty serious fail on the upgrade path to IOS 6 and iPhone 5 for existing users.

        To pretty much guarantee that the battery experience is to spec you need to avoid migrating your existing data via restore from backup. They may have fixed it since latest patch, but that’s how the Apple Genius Bar was dealing with customers who have issues.

        It’s debatable whether this is better than the usual no or delayed upgrade on Android but it I would argue that QA should have been prioritised over features for their customer base – people like me who don’t want to spend hours setting up and tweaking phones.

      • Douglas
        Posted 08/01/2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink |

        I am mostly in LTE covered areas and was finding battery life to be a huge issue (couldn’t get through a day).
        I turned off push email and this made a massive difference to the battery life for me. I can now sometimes go two days without a charge.
        I really don’t need push, as I get emails so often that every time I look at my phone I check the email client anyway.

    6. Simone
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink |

      I own iphone4s and will switc to Lumia920!
      Simply astonishing..

    7. Simone
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink |

      I meant: “SWITCH” TO Lumia920

    8. djos
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink |

      “The second aspect of software support which we feel is lacking on the iPhone 5 is the freshness of iOS as a whole. In a world which has the vibrancy of Android (especially with add-ons such as HTC Sense) and the slick sliding menus of Windows Phone 8, iOS is looking dated. “

      Really? I hated Sense when I had a HTC Sensation and either ran ASOP rom’s or ARHD which removed the worst of the HTC Sense bloatware! From what i’ve seen across the Droid fan-base, most geeks hate the Samsung & HTC UI makeovers and prefer Google’s stock rom UI (ASOP) just like the you get with Nexus series.

      Coming back to iOS was really nice with it’s complete UI consistency and generally better quality apps – I did miss the facebook integration of Android but thankfully Apple fixed that with iOS6.

      • AJ
        Posted 20/11/2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink |

        Sense on ICS is much more toned down than before and is mainly just window dressing widgets and themes the themes are ok but the only one I like is Aluminium the others look meh

        But the bloat is gone have a look at a htc one series phone next time you are in the shop to see the differance

        • djos
          Posted 20/11/2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink |

          No thanks, I like to by phones that are at the mercy of Telstra, Optus et al for OS upgrades!

          The simple difference between iOS and Android, when you boil it all down, is that iOS is designed for Joe Customer and Android is designed for OEM’s and their Carrier partners!

          And if you dont mind being at the mercy of your carrier, who just wants to sell you a new handset every 2 years and doesnt want to waste effort supporting existing owners, then be my guest, buy an Android.

          Me personally I’ll stick with a company that actively supports it’s customers directly.

          eg the HTC Sensation, a 1.5 year old phone, is still running on Gingerbread (v2.3) from Australian carriers! compare that with the iPhone 3GS, a 2.5 year old phone, that was given the iOS6 upgrade along with the other newer phones on the same day regardless of your country of residence or carrier!

          You may ask why this matters, good question; joe average is not going to be able to root his phone, geeks yes, average folk no. Also many of us Geeks work for large multi-nationals that forbid rooting/jail-breaking even BYO phones due to the potential for security problems to arise (we will get reprimanded or even fired if caught with a non-oem/carrier supported OS).

          • djos
            Posted 20/11/2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink |

            Oh for an edit post button! my spelling is atrocious!

            “No thanks, I like to buy phones that aren’t at the mercy of Telstra, Optus et al for OS upgrades!”

          • Simon
            Posted 20/11/2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink |

            That’s what the Nexus range is for (if you want pure Android, to stay up to date with OS upgrades directly from Google, and no carrier crapware whatsoever). I really like the Nexus 4 (going by reviews and benchmarks at least – haven’t held one yet) but the lack of LTE and the average camera (much better than the previous Galaxy Nexus, but still average) were too much of a compromise for me to make. Not to mention buying it outright and staying with the lowest $50 plan with Telstra would have cost me the same amount of money over a 24 month period as the iPhone 5 is on contract.

            I seriously think Android 4.2 is by far the more innovative and capable phone OS at this stage, but when it comes to slick hardware and the highest quality range of apps, Apple still have the edge. For me it was also largely a matter of common sense staying within the Apple ecosystem as I have an iPad3 and AppleTV which all work very well together. Plus a significant investment in App Store and Cydia apps.

            I’m just hoping the iOS7 is when we we see some real innovation from Apple on the software front as stock iOS while super fast, is also visually stale and missing common sense things like quick access to toggles and widgets (two of the biggest reasons I’m hanging for a jailbreak already).

    9. Douglas
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink |

      Great review Renai.
      My wife got the 5 recently and I jumped the iphone ship a few months back to go to the One XL. A decision I will regret each day for the rest of my 2 year contract! :)

      • Posted 19/11/2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink |

        curious to know what you don’t like about the one xl? i have one at the moment and whilst i may not get another android phone once my contract expires (back to wp8, or it’s successor), i haven’t found anything wrong with the one xl…

        • Douglas
          Posted 19/11/2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink |

          Hi Shannon,
          Like most things, it’s all subjective. My personal gripes (which may or may not reflect anybody else’s):
          -I was excited about the big screen, but I find it is hard to use single handed, and it absolutely chews through the battery (which is a problem in general with this phone).
          -UI lacks the consistency of IOS
          -The power button has developed a fault and is bloody hard to push in now (only works on one corner, and I have not dropped it).
          -All my music was deleted in a HTC software upgrade, should be easy to restore, but see next
          -No itunes equivalent for mac (that might have been fixed recently, I gave up checking the website). I’m sure some ppl would say this is a good thing :)

          I’ll leave it there. Not bashing Android (I did buy the phone after all!), but my own personal experience has been it’s a long way off the new iphone 5.

          Android seems to lack the “polish” of IOS, IMHO.

          • Posted 20/11/2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink |

            Hi Douglas,

            Your usage seems fairly suited to an iPhone ingeneral- you want something that just works, as many do. Android still has a bit to catch up on for that. However, saying that, I have the One XL:

            - I have tiny, girly hands and I’m still considering going to the Galaxy Note II….sure, one handed it can be a little cumbersome, but when you’re using it AS a smartphone, you almost always use 2 hands….and for 2 hands, the One XL is still too small…let alone the iPhone 5….The battery is an issue for some. But considering it is MicroUSB and I, like many workers, would be in or near the office most of my work day….it’s not exactly hard to charge. It only takes 30 mins to grab 30% charge.

            - The UI does lack the CONSISTENCY of iOS, but it is MUCH more attractive and productive. I’d prefer to wait a few seconds, but have the ability of widgets and the beautiful animations of Sense and Android. That’s me though.

            - That’s a shame about the power button. If you’re with Telstra the support time is woeful too….

            - There are several iTunes equivalents. One good one is doubleTwist:

            http://doubletwist.com/

            It is available for Mac and takes advantage of Android’s drag and drop nature, rather than the iPhone’s refusal to open up its’ file system. It works quite well from what I’ve been told.

            Overall, I’m not all that impressed with the iPhone 5- 2 people in our office already have one. I’m a self-confessed Apple disliker (I used to be an Apple hater, but in my “old-age” I’ve learnt moderation ;-)) because they stifle the industry. But this time around, for the first time in their iPhone history….they’re playing catch up. And that is just not Apple.

      • djos
        Posted 19/11/2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink |

        I know what you mean, my work gave me a HTC Sensation after my previous employer had supplied a 4S and I really disliked it – it was even worse when my employer decreed all company phones where to be reverted to OEM supported stock OS versions on pain of being fired/heavily disiplined!

        I solved my problems by buying an iPhone 4S (still had 4 months to go till the 5 was released) as thankfully my employer has a BYO policy (which also has a OEM supported OS policy attached) and now I dont have to worry about being stranded on an ancient OS version like I was with the Telstra branded Sensation (they still dont have Droid 4.x because Telsra dont care).

        • Douglas
          Posted 08/01/2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink |

          I jumped back to apple with an iphone 5 in the end and sold the One XL on ebay. Very happy camper :)

    10. Steve
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink |

      What about the ethos of the two companies Google and Apple. I’ve heard that their profit models are completely different with Google making its money from advertising via its Android OS. Does the OS track your web traffic and push adds to your phone?

      • AJ
        Posted 20/11/2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink |

        No ads are put into apps like angry birds ect which instead of costing money on iOS are free on Android and the developer makes money from the ads.
        Generally an ad free version of apps are avaliable if you wish to pay for them

        • djos
          Posted 20/11/2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink |

          it’s no different on iOS!

          Although you can be sure any app/game you buy will actually work on an iPhone due to the consistency of the HW platform.

          Many apps in the google play store wont even let you install them unless they have tested the app on your specific phone!

          • James
            Posted 20/11/2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink |

            “Many apps in the google play store wont even let you install them unless they have tested the app on your specific phone!”

            I fidget with apps and widgets daily and have never experienced this issue, but if it does come up, why not just sideload them?

            Get hold of a .apk file for the app, turn on “Allow installation of apps from unknown locations” in the security settings, then install it manually.

            Some 3D games/apps might not work on older devices, but that’s the same on every platform.

            • djos
              Posted 20/11/2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink |

              Sideloading doesnt work when your droid phone is locked down by Exchange Security policies that dictate google play store as your only app source!

              • James
                Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink |

                Makes sense, sideloading can increase risk of installing malware in versions of Android under 4.2 if you don’t have a safe source for the .apk

                What app have you tried to install that wouldn’t work?

                • djos
                  Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink |

                  for about 2 months I couldnt get eWallet which I’ve been using for years to store password etc

                  • Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink |

                    @djos

                    No Android phones should be locked for Sideloading. Sideloading doesn’t require rooting. You simply select “Install from untrusted sources” in the Security menu.

                    It’s a shame you see Android that way, but each to their own.

                    • djos
                      Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink |

                      I know exactly what setting your are talking about but you guy’s are missing the point, big corporation’s lock down EVERYTHING via exchange security policies and if the app doesnt come from the Google Play store it aint getting on the phone!

                      That setting simply isnt available on a locked down droid!

                      • Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink |

                        @djos

                        I’m sorry, but that is just untrue.

                        I’ve owned:

                        HTC Desire
                        HTC One XL
                        Samsung GS2
                        Nexus 7

                        ALL have that setting. They are NOT locked for sideloading in Australia. That ONLY happens in the US and some parts of Europe.

                      • Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink |

                        Oh, you mean COMPANY phones. You didn’t say that.

                        That’s up to the company, not the phone manufacturer or Telco. That’s not Android’s fault.

                      • James
                        Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink |

                        7T,

                        He means when you get a work phone the company can lock it down to not install anything other than Google Play content.

                        I don’t see how that’s different from only ever being able to install from the Apple App Store/Windows Phone store.

                      • Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink |

                        @James

                        Yes, I got that now.

                        I agree, no different from what companies do to Apple phones. In fact, many lock them from installing all but specified apps, so that’s even worse.

                        This isn’t something that is specific to Android.

                      • djos
                        Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink |

                        I did say when locked down by big companies, several times.

                    • djos
                      Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink |

                      ST, with all due respect, you need to go back to the start of this conversation to understand the context – the initial point was that if the app you want hasnt been tested on your HW/OS combo then google play wont let you install/buy it.

                      James then suggested sideloading and I made the point that this was fine but if you where locked down by exchange security policies (as I was) this is not possible.

                      • Posted 20/11/2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink |

                        And I’m sorry djos, but I don’t accept the premise of your initial argument, which is why I weighed in, though I do apologise for not understanding about Corporate lockdowns- you didn’t indeed say that.

                        However I’ve been using Android for 3.5 years. I’ve never come across an app that wouldn’t let me install it.

                        If you have issues with eWallet, I’d be talking to the developer. Google Play doesn’t prevent you from installing any App that I’ve ever seen. eWallet accepts Android Gingerbread through JB. That’s all it requires.

                    • just_a_bloke
                      Posted 20/11/2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink |

                      ST, device/OS fragmentation is a well known problem in droid land – it’s a fact.

                      That was my one example, sure it was fixed after a couple of months but for 2 months I was with out a very good app i rely on – that sort of issue never happens on iOS period and thats the point really.

                      • Posted 20/11/2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink |

                        With all due respect just_a_bloke I have never had that issue. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I’m saying any decent developer will have 3 versions or update it within a few weeks of a new OS.

                        Believe it or not, fragmentation is also an issue on the iPhone. The 3Gs c, nor 3G, of which there are many millions still being used, will not upgrade to iOS6. Just like my Desire will not upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwhich. he new res of the iPhone 5 is already causing weirdness across popular apps on older iPhones.

                        Android is not perfect. But I’d rather have a system that gives you the freedom to choose what YOU want to load, even if it doesn’t work 100%, than one that doesn’t even give you the choice. If you prefer the walled garden that means you’ll never see those apps, fine. That’s personal choice. But the iPhone ecosystem is now far from defragmented and perfect. Android has gotten steadily better while, IMO, Apple has gotten very slowly worse.

                      • djos
                        Posted 20/11/2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink |

                        argh, Delimiter logged me off and then chrome remembered an old alias I used for a little while! :-p

                        anyway, was just trying to describe MY personal experiences and why Android isnt for me – and also why I’ll never recommend it to non-geeks.

                      • Posted 20/11/2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink |

                        Lol.

                        Well, that’s your choice. But of all my family and 2 of my 4 best friends, I got them on Android and they love it.

                        Each to their own experience.

                      • djos
                        Posted 20/11/2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink |

                        Dont get me wrong, im not a google hater or Apple fan Boi, I luv Chrome and dislike Safari (even on my iOS devices) and I own PC’s and a WHS2011 Server (HP MicroServer), I dont own any Mac’s and but the computers I actually REALLY enjoy using are my classic Commodore 64 and my Amiga 500′s (yes I have 2). :-)

                      • Simon Reidy
                        Posted 20/11/2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink |

                        @SevenTech

                        “Believe it or not, fragmentation is also an issue on the iPhone. The 3Gs, nor 3G, of which there are many millions still being used, will not upgrade to iOS6.
                        Just like my Desire will not upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwhich. he new res of the iPhone 5 is already causing weirdness across popular apps on older iPhones.”

                        To an extent I agree. And that’s coming from a new iPhone5 owner. However 90% of the apps I use are updated now to the 4″ screen size, so that’s not really a big issue, just a temporary one while slower developers update their apps.

                        Also the type of fragmentation you mention for the 3GS is not really comparable to the thousands of different Android devices out there. In fact the 3GS got updates for a full 3 years, which is over two years better than some Android manufacturers will provide. Look at the amount of devices promise an upgrade to ICS and then Jellybean which never materialised (thankfully there’s custom roms to help overcome issues like that ).

                        Having said that, my understanding is that the advantage of Android, and the main reason fragmentation isn’t such a big issue any more (apart from games) is that most of the good Android apps are resolution-independent and vector based, which will scale well to a variety of screen sizes. Unlike iOS which has predefined resolutions only, that developers must exactly match unless they want letterboxing or a 1:4 scale for non-retina optimised assets. Not as efficient as Android, but the pro of that requirement for iOS is that apps are made with high res screen elements to take advantage of a small range of specific resolutions and screen sizes. Which is also why iOS tablet apps are often much better than their Android counterpart. Hopefully the Nexus 10 drives innovation in dedicated high res Android tablet apps as that’s one area iOS still undoubtedly dominates.

                        “Android is not perfect. But I’d rather have a system that gives you the freedom to choose what YOU want to load, even if it doesn’t work 100%, than one that doesn’t even give you the choice. If you prefer the walled garden that means you’ll never see those apps, fine. That’s personal choice. But the iPhone ecosystem is now far from defragmented and perfect. Android has gotten steadily better while, IMO, Apple has gotten very slowly worse.”

                        I actually mostly agree with this as well. Some of Apple’s core apps are now looking a bit stale and some are lacking fundamental features (i.e. Maps), in comparison to Google’s core apps which are all going from awesome to awesome. I think Apple know they are in trouble if they don’t start to lift their game in that area though, and I like what’s happening with the recent shake-up at Apple in terms of who’s now running the software division. Wishful thinking for change? Maybe, but we’ll see.

                        As for Apple’s walled garden, it has its advantages, as it keeps all the malware and most of the junk-ware out, but in terms of restrictions Apple places on their devices, I admit iOS can be annoying as hell. However I always jailbreak my devices to escape the walled garden (and replace half the default apps) so I will be free once again soon :) . Not many people know that there’s a thriving secondary ecosystem to iOS via Cydia, which now has tens of millions of registered devices. Jailbreaking is in a way comparable to the innovation brought about by rooting and flashing custom ROMS, so both OS’s can be be better when modified (admittedly Android is much more capable out of the box without the need for rooting).

                        I bought the phone 5 only after I had confirmation a jailbreak was coming from the dev team, which should give you an idea of how passionate I am for the iOS hacker scene (and how much stock iOS pisses me off ;-) ). Sure its a hassle waiting for jailbreaks and playing cat and mouse with Apple, but at the end of the day I’d still rather the hardware of an iPhone 5 than I would any Android device currently available. That’s not a knock against Android, its just that the iPhone is a better match for me in screen size, weight, and build quality. I was actually pretty close to buying the Nexus 4 instead, but with no LTE and limited storage capacity (I really need 32GB) it wasn’t quite there. And with an AppleTV and iPad3 (also both jailbroken :) ) and a small investment in both the Appstore and paid Cydia apps, it simply makes sense to stick to iOS for now.

                        I have almost no doubt that I’ll switch back to Android again at some stage (last Android phone was an HTC Desire) but it would take something like a Nexus 4 but with a smaller screen size, better camera and LTE (and preferably not made by LG). I hate skins, carrier bloatware and waiting for OS updates which means ‘Nexus only’, and I have a feeling the next generation of Nexus will entice me enough to buy one. For now I’ll stick it out with a ridiculously fast, but limited iPhone, while I await the jailbreak. And in the hope that that iOS7 brings some real innovation and a long overdue graphical overhaul to the OS and native apps.

                        tl:dr – Both Android and iOS are excellent at different things, and it is actually possible to like both :)

          • AJ
            Posted 20/11/2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink |

            Consistency of hardware platform in other words we only release 1 phone and you will bloody well like it

            It is interesting that what I like about Android is the freedom it provides you can update to any firmware you want and install any app you want.

            In a totally locked down environment the iPhone and Android are level IMHO there are very few apps these days that dont run on everything through the Play store and you have the freedom of getting the phone you want not the phone Apple will sell you

    11. Greg Hutchison
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink |

      Damn good review Rennai

      However still thinking of getting a Nokia 920 just to spite Apple!

    12. stoffs
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink |

      I’m glad this wasn’t filled with the usual fanbois bias…

      What i hate are the iphone 5 ads on TV where they show that your thumb goes from here to here…. and wow, it’s the same dimensions as an iphone 5…

      I actually yell at the screen “SURE COS EVERY PERSON IN THE WORLD HAS THE SAME SIZE HANDS!”…

      I’m jumping ship to a lumia … actually be pretty glad to leave apple and itunes behind.

    13. damien
      Posted 19/11/2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink |

      Too little, too late. I’ve been wanting to upgrade my iPhone 3GS for years, but something always pops up to thwart my ambition. First it was the whole antenna-gate thing (no, I don’t want no bumper fix) and what should have been an iPhone 5 release turned out to be a 4S – meh, I thought, might as well wait for the actual 5.

      So the 5 comes out and it totally stuffs up mapping – a downgrade I simply cannot accept, especially with no StreetView. Total debacle! What’s more, the phone just got a bit longer? Really?

      Thanks, but no thanks. The only thing the iPhone has going for it today is build quality and a nice display. That’s nowhere near enough in 2012/2013.

      So I’ll be getting the Samsung Galaxy Note II LTE. Guess what it can do? It’s big enough to read web pages comfortably. You can expand its memory to 64GB. You can REPLACE its battery when it’s knackered. You can have access to its file system and transfer files from your PC without having to load a piece of malware (iTunes), which never worked properly on the PC and is a huge resource hog. You can customise the UI any-which-way. No proprietary connectors or Apple specific media files. Oh the freedom!

    14. Posted 26/11/2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink |

      Admiring the hard work you put into your blog and in depth information you offer.
      It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t
      the same unwanted rehashed material. Great read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.




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