iPhone 5 Review (2014)
Apple stopped selling the iPhone 5 back in September but that doesn’t mean that Apple’s flagship from 2012 has completely vanished. No, it’s still alive and well thanks to carriers like Straight Talk and sites like eBay. It has been 480 days since the iPhone 5 first landed on shelves and we want to take an updated look at how the device’s performance.
In September of 2012, Apple took the curtain down from around the iPhone 5 and its brand new iOS update, iOS 6. The iPhone 5 represented a massive change from the iPhone 4s. It introduced the current industrial design used by the iPhone 5s, a design comprised out of glass and metal. It introduced the 4-inch display standard, found on the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. And it also delivered 4G LTE data speeds to iPhone users for the first time. Needless to say, the iPhone 5 emerged as one of the best smartphones of 2012, a torch that it carried into 2013.
In 2013, Apple introduced the iPhone 5s, a device that built upon the foundations of the iPhone 5. Surprisingly, Apple killed off the iPhone 5 when it announced the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iOS 7 last September. Instead of keeping it around as a budget option, the company stuck with the iPhone 4s, a device from 2011.
The iPhone 5 is no longer available inside Apple Stores and major American carriers no longer have it in stock. But that doesn’t mean that the iPhone 5 isn’t available to those in the hunt for a new device. Smaller carriers still offer it and the device is still a draw on resale sites like eBay and Craigslist.
Recently, we took an updated look at the iPhone 5s and so we felt inclined to take another look at Apple’s aging former flagship. I’ve been carrying around the iPhone 5 as my primary phone for 480 days now, I got it the day that it came out. And while I am still enjoying the device, I am looking forward to coming off contract.
After 480 days of near continual use, my iPhone 5 remains a solid performer. I was expected a bit of a downturn with the arrival of iOS 7 but thus far, besides the occasional hiccup, the device is still extremely fast and the user interface extremely fluid. Applications still launch relatively quickly, navigating from folder to folder is not sluggish and slow, and I don’t experience any of the lag that I’ve seen on my iPad 3 running iOS 7.
Speed is one of the biggest concerns of mine with any smartphone, particularly my daily driver and the iPhone 5 hasn’t let me down. I expect to see some sluggishness once iOS 8 arrives, my experience with my iPhone 3GS went downhill after I installed iOS 6, but for now things are smooth and fluid and should only improve once iOS 7.1 comes along.
I still love the iPhone 5′s design. Even after 480 days of using the iPhone 5 without a case, the device looks pretty darn good. There are some nicks and a few dings but those reside around the edges. The anodized aluminum on the back remains intact and beautiful as ever. It’s showing some wear, sure, but I think it adds character.
I’ve shunned cases for years because it allows me to not only enjoy the design of the phone but also to cut down on bulk, something that is important to me as I bring my iPhone with my everywhere I go.
My iPhone 5 runs on AT&T’s 4G LTE network and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed fantastic connectivity. I experienced some hiccups in the weeks after I bought the iPhone 5 but for a year now, the device has pulled down exceptional Wi-Fi speeds, held connections, and treated me very well when using 4G LTE.
AT&T has done a marvelous job of closing the gap on Verizon and at this point, I see no reason to switch. My next phone will more than likely be on AT&T’s expansive, and reliable, 4G LTE network.
I’m not going to lie. After experiencing the terrible battery life that the initial 4G LTE Android smartphones offered, I was skeptical about how 4G LTE would perform on the iPhone. Apple has always done a great job with battery life but this was its first stab and 4G LTE had wrecked havoc on just about every smartphone before it. I worried for nothing.
The iPhone 5′s battery life has been superb, better than most Android smartphones that I’ve used. (The Samsung Galaxy Note series provides some serious battery life though the size difference compared to the iPhone is incredible.) Even now, I find that the iPhone 5′s battery life is comparable to the best Android smartphones on the market.
I am active on my iPhone during the workday checking email, taking calls and occasionally browsing the web. Typically, my battery drops down to about 50-60% by 5PM. I usually eat up the remaining 50% between the end of work and the time I go to sleep. So, I generally leave the phone on the charger in the hour before I go to bed.
Point is, I am typically able to get a full days use out of the iPhone 5. By no means am I power user, I’m not playing games or streaming content on a regular basis, but I think I do represent the common man. The battery is still going strong, 68 weeks after I bought the thing. If that doesn’t instill confidence, I don’t know what will.
iPhone 5 Problems
I experienced a number of issues in iOS 6 prior to the release of iOS 6.1. I also ran into a couple of bugs in iOS 7, the iMessage bug being one of them, but after the release of iOS 7.0.4, my iPhone 5 hasn’t seen any major issues crop up. It’s going to be smooth sailing right into the iOS 7.1 update.
I have, however, run into some minor issues that don’t impact my daily usage. My mailbox occasionally checks itself, even though I have push turned off. I get too much email to have it turned on, plus, I like to conserve battery life. I’ve also started to see a weird UI glitch where one of my folders flashes in the top corner of the screen before vanishing. It’s so random that I haven’t even been able to get a screen shot.
The takeaway is this. The iPhone 5 experience remains a solid one. My hope is that the trend continues with iOS 8 though as I’ve said, I definitely have my doubts.
iPhone 5 Features I Love
I’ve used virtually all of the cameras that came out in 2013. From the iPhone 5s, to the Nexus 5, to the Galaxy S4 camera, to the cameras on the Lumia devices. While the iPhone 5 camera isn’t going to win any awards or match up with the iPhone 5s camera or the camera on the Lumia 1020, it’s still very very solid for a phone that is going on two years old.
The updated camera application that came with iOS 7 has only made the experience better and my hope is that Apple continues to improve on the application with iOS 8. The iPhone 5 camera sensor may be going on two years old but in my opinion, it’s aging slowly. It’s still going to make mobile photographers happy and produce solid results.
The iPhone 5′s design is one of the device’s biggest selling points, especially now that the device can be found for cheap. Those looking for a premium build aren’t going to find much better than the aluminum and glass that make up the iPhone 5′s form factor. In my opinion, it still feels like a $200 phone, even now, all these months later.
I’ve used devices like the HTC One and the Moto X and the Nexus 5 and I still think the iPhone 5′s design tops them all. It combines a premium feel with a thin, lightweight design. It’s still the design that other companies, Samsung included, should be chasing after.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I like iOS 7 a lot more than I like iOS 6. I’ve heard from the other side and there are points that I’ll agree on. iOS 7 is by no means perfect. But what it does do is put everything I care about a tap or two away. It’s extremely easy to navigate.
Multitasking still isn’t where I want it to be but it’s a whole lot better than it is in iOS 6 and Control Center remains one of my favorite overall additions to iOS. I use it every single day, many times a day in fact.
Remember, iOS 7 is only the foundation for what’s to come. Apple will continue to tweak and improve on iOS 7 just like Google has done with Android Jelly Bean.
iOS 7 is only the beginning and it’s an exciting first chapter.
iPhone 5 Features I Wish I Could Love
There are, however, some things that I am either starting to loathe or have loathed about the iPhone 5. Apple bumped the size of the iPhone 5 display to 4-inches. Coming from the iPhone 3GS, this was huge. And while I’ve enjoyed my time with the 4-inch Retina Display, after using Android phones with bigger and better displays, I want a little more from Apple.
When it comes to watching content on Netflix or watching a clip longer than five minutes, I find myself switching to my Nexus 5 or my iPad. The experience is a lot nicer.
I don’t need a monstrosity like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 but I would not complain if the iPhone 6 arrived with a 4.5-inch display. Watching content on a 4-inch display just feels cramped and I, and many others, would benefit with an increase in screen real estate. The exciting thing is that Apple can accomplish this without making the phone much bigger. Devices like the Moto X, which carries a 4.7-inch display, aren’t that much bigger than the iPhone.
Whether it’s listening to music or talking on the phone, the iPhone 5 speakers leave something to be desired. They’d decent but they aren’t as crisp as the speakers found on a device like the HTC One. I don’t consider myself an audiophile but I still find the quality of the iPhone 5′s speakers to be lacking. My hope is that the iPhone 6 offers a significant improvement.
Siri continues to exist on my iPhone 5 and I continue to ignore her. She’s inconsistent at best and continually disappoints me, even with the new additions in iOS 7. After using Google Now for some time now, I think it’s going to be impossible for me to jump on board unless Apple makes some startling changes in iOS 8.
Final Thoughts After 480 Days with the iPhone 5
The iPhone 5 remains a solid smartphone. The camera, software, and the quality of the Retina Display still offer me enough to keep it as my daily driver and in my opinion, they are enough warrant a look from consumers in search of a new device. The iPhone 5 should also get at least one more update, probably two, which means that the device still has a lot left in the tank.
My biggest complaint is one that I didn’t see coming. After using larger screens for years, I consider myself to be one of those who hope that Apple introduces a display in the realm of 4.5-inches. Nothing massive but just a little more real estate. It would make content consumption so much better.
The key thing here is that I still feel like the iPhone 5 belongs and I certainly recommend it to to those that don’t want to pay top dollar for an iPhone 5s and don’t like the plastic design of the iPhone 5c. It’s the best smartphone I’ve ever owned.