Tech Talk: iPhone 5 Hands on

Posted on September 28, 2012

Murray Hill Tech TalkI just got my iPhone 5 a few days ago and I’m already hooked. It makes my iPhone 4S look like a piker, and that’s no small feat.

iPhone 5 in black with earpods

Photo Apple – iPhone 5 in black with earpods

The iPhone 5 is 7.6 mm thin, 123 mm high, 58.6 mm wide and weighs just 112 grams. According to Apple, that’s 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than iPhone 4S. The display is 9mm taller than the iPhone 4S, and the retina display has been ramped up to 1136 x 640 resolution – 18% more pixels than the retina display on the iPhone 4S. Apple has boosted the colour saturation by 44%, which really makes the graphics and photos pop. The overall effect is a thinner, taller, lighter phone with a drop dead gorgeous display. Gizmodo did a comparison of the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S III that illustrates this.

iPhone 5 showing precision cut bevels on sides

Photo Apple – iPhone 5 showing precision cut bevels on sides

That doesn’t talk about the fit and finish of the iPhone 5.  The back is made of the same anodized aluminum used in Apple’s notebooks, with inlays along the top and bottom. There’s ceramic glass inlays on the white iPhone 5 and pigmented glass on the black and slate version. It has a diamond-cut beveled edge, which really adds to the quality construction. Even the lens on the iSight camera has changed – now it’s made of sapphire crystal. Hardness and scratch resistance is the name of the game here – sapphire crystal is second only to diamonds in terms of hardness – it’ll be tough to scratch. One thing to note here – Aluminum scratches (most metals scratch), so if you fire your iPhone 5 into your pocket with keys and a bunch of change, you can expect some scratching. I’d sooner have a few scratches on a tough Aluminum case than have a phone with a plastic case any day.

Under the hood, the new A6 processor screams. GeekBench tests show it to be twice as fast as iPhone 4S, and graphics render twice as fast as the A5 chip in the iPhone 4S. The A6 chip also uses significantly less power then previous chips – the iPhone 5 offers 8 hours of browsing on cell, up to 8 hours of talk time and 10 hours of video playback. I can attest to that, I have the same apps loaded on my iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 and whenever I do something on one phone, I do the same thing on the other – the iPhone 5 is faster and there’s a lot more battery life.

The iPhone 5 uses dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 802.11/n Wi-Fi – currently the fastest technology in general use, so with a good connection you can expect to see download speeds of up to 150 Mbps. It’s also compatible with just about every version of wireless network you can think of – including advanced networks such as HSPA, HSPA+, and DC-HSDPA. They’ve changed to a new Nano SIM to save space – its 44% smaller than a standard micro SIM in an iPhone 4S.

Sapphire crystal iSight camera on white iPhone 5

Photo Apple – Sapphire crystal iSight camera on white iPhone 5

They’ve added features galore to this new iPhone. The new 12-megapixel cameras, along with recording 1080p video, has a new panorama feature to let you take a panoramic still shot. It’s outstanding and a lot of fun to use – I’ve been fooling around taking panoramic shots of my house, cabin, and the lake – everything I can. It makes for some really interesting photos. The combination of software, the gyroscope, and the A6 chip allow for 240 degrees of image. You can take a still photo in the middle of recording video, which is a really nice addition. The 720p face-time camera is a giant step up from previous iPhones as well.

The screen itself is 30% thinner than before. Apple engineers created a new Retina display using “integrated touch” technology. According to Apple, basically “it’s one less layer between you and what you see on iPhone 5”. The technology offers better clarity than ever before.

There are so many new features and improved specs that set the new iPhone 5 at the top of the class that it’s worth looking them up.

New Apple digital Lightening plug

Photo Apple – New Apple digital Lightening plug

Apple has replaced the venerable 30-pin adapter with the new reversible, all-digital, eight-signal Lightening connector. I like the 30-pin adapter, mainly because I have a ton of Apple gear that uses it so I have plenty of them to use anywhere I go. I didn’t like the magsafe power plug when it first came in either, so I don’t have a very good track record when it comes to Apple connectivity. The Lightening connector is better than the 30-pin, so it’ll become the new standard.

Apple's new earpods

Photo Apple – Apple’s new earpods


Apple designed new earbuds to go with the iPhone 5 that fit better than ever before and sound better than ever before. They’re quite a large step up from previous earbuds, which, as far as I was concerned, were to be left in a drawer in case of an emergency.

The software, iOS6, offers a myriad of improvements designed to get the most out of the processor onboard the iPhone 5. Over 200 changes and improvements were made over iOS5, with too many great changes to talk about here. Several are worth commenting on though, with Maps and Siri being foremost.

Maps is being widely panned by the media, however I think that Apple really needed to get away from their nearest competitor in Google, and develop their own maps software. I think it’s a work in progress, and a good start for Apple – they have eight years to make up on Google don’t forget. Still, turn-by-turn navigation and 3D maps are absolutely great. I think this is a feature that will see constant upgrading over the next months.

Siri is much improved with a LOT more functionality for Canadians. You can now ask for a restaurant or directions or a ton of other things that our American friends were able to access via Siri – and she’s a lot smarter now and can understand a lot more.

iPhone 5 in white

Photo Apple – iPhone 5 in white

Widely available in Canada, the main carriers have new plans and pricing in place for those looking to upgrade. You can buy an unlocked iPhone 5 in Canada from Apple online, but that’s it – all retail locations will sell carrier-locked phones and, of course, they’ll be available through Rogers, Bell, SaskTel, Koodo, Telus, Virgin and Fido – although not through SaskTel until September 28. Check your carrier’s website for pricing and plans.

PROS: Larger, incredible retina display; thinner; lighter; great fit and trim, blazing fast processor, faster Wi-Fi, Lightning adapter is reversible iOS 6 is terrific.

CONS: Lightening adapter means all your 30-pin cords won’t work without buying a 30-pin to Lightening adapter; Maps needs some work; Siri still doesn’t have the same comprehensive ability in Canada as it does in the US.

TO SUM IT UP: Apple iPhone users will love this new phone. It’s got a bigger, brighter, clearer screen, great cameras, screaming fast processor, a great feel, faster Wi-Fi and a fantastic new OS. I’m a long time iPhone user and I already love this version and I’ve only had it a few days.

Murray Hill is lead tech writer at You can reach Murray by email at or on Twitter at @MurrayDHill

About Murray Hill

Murray Hill has been a freelance columnist appearing regularly in some of the most prominent Canadian newspapers since 1974. He began writing about technology over twenty-four years ago and he still maintains the belief that there's a gadget or gizmo for every situation and application. His fascination with technology and gadgets has endured for over fifty years, and has led to many familial discussions about the the difference between the words "need" and "want" when referring to tech. Based in Saskatoon, connect with Murray at: Author's Note: I write a column on a single product, rather than comparing products. I do this because what I write is my personal opinion on a particular product. Sometimes I get something sent to me automatically, but mostly I ask manufacturers for a particular product to review. I usually have these products for a period of a few weeks to a few months, then they are returned. I get to keep some products - usually the ones that would cost more to ship back than they are worth - and most of those items get given away. I do get an honorarium from Communicatto for writing, but get no compensation from manufacturers or the firms representing them - so nobody buys my opinion! I also try to use photos and graphics provided, mostly because I'm a terrible photographer!

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