It is here, and I happen to have one in my hands. Apple freaks the world over have been “stuck” with the same basic phone since the iPhone 4 was released in June of 2010. There was the iPhone 4S released last year, but it was more of a minor revision than anything else.

Getting One

If you weren’t up at 3am EST on September 14th, which would have resulted in you getting one shipped to you today, you would be in one of a few camps:

  1. You preordered later and have a 1-2 week wait to get yours still.
  2. You showed up at a store today and got one.
  3. You could care less about the iPhone 5 (why are you still reading?)
Reservation Ticket

I was in Camp #1 as of this morning, but chose to try my hand at getting one in-store. Not one to sleep outside a store, I casually showed up at 9am, got a ticket which reserved my phone, went to work, did some work, went back to the store at 11am, waited in line for 30 minutes, and was done. There was a snag in that because I cancelled my preorder this morning, my upgrade “credit” hadn’t made it back to my account so I had to pay full price. The credit should hit in a day or two, at which point I go back to the store and they refund me $450. Just details… Sucks, sure, but I’ll live. I have a phone now as opposed to in two weeks.

As of around noon, the Clarendon store still had a fair selection of phones. As I recall, they had 16GB in both colors for AT&T, 32GB in white for AT&T, and everything available for Verizon. As far as other carriers go, I don’t know, but I do know unlocks are now handled directly by the carrier (you just pay them the fee after buying from them) rather than a special phone that you’d otherwise need to wait for.

As always, the store had free coffee and hot chocolate this morning. Around noon, however, Java Shack was out swapping the hot chocolate for lemonade, which was tasty and fresh, but reminded me far too much of Fruit Loops.

The Phone

Ok, ok, we’re there. The phone is… nice. A lot of the changes you’d notice if you hadn’t already upgraded to iOS 6 on a previous device are actually just functions of iOS 6, which I outlined yesterday. I’ll therefore be skipping the software and focusing entirely on the hardware. Bullets… in the order that I notice them while looking at this thing sit on my desk… Ready? Go:

  • It’s longer. As a lot of this review will easily make fodder for TWSS, let’s just go ahead get it out of our system now… THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID. They’ve gone from a 3.5″ screen to a 4″ screen. In doing so, the phone’s length had to increase a bit, from 4.5″ to 4.87″. As I’ve got NBA-sized hands, it fills them much better than the previous model did, but it’ll likely prove a little more unwieldy for most users. One of the highlights of the screen other than simply being bigger is that it’s much closer to a 16:9 resolution, which is pretty much the standard for HD content. Without going into details, just know that this is better for both content producers and consumers. Be happy about it.
  • It’s lighter. The older phones had a nice weight. It felt high quality, and significant. The new phone, despite being a bit bigger is ~18% lighter. If I were to describe a piece of tech as a featherweight, I’d point at the iPhone 5. Is that a good thing? I don’t know. I can say that it seems to disappear in your pocket and actually feels a bit cheap. Now, I know it’s not shoddy construction or materials that are to thank for this weight (it’s technology) so I know it’s not “cheap,” but it feels that way.
  • It’s thinner. Did I mention it seems to disappear in your pocket?
  • LTE Speed Test

    It’s fast. Coming from an iPhone 4, Apple marketing claims this to be 4x faster. I wouldn’t argue with them. In addition to processor speed, the phone now sports LTE communications, which by my testing is well more than 3x the speed of my cabled (Comcast) connection at home.

  • The camera is improved. I was tired of having to apologize for the photos from my iPhone 4. I no longer think I’ll have to. I made this pretty terrible before/after (4 on left, 5 on right) comparison. Note the colors (my background is actually of a yellow object), the clarity of the logo on my speaker, and the reduced noise where the shadow begins on my wall. They said low-light is where they have significantly improved things so I’ll be sure to perform a full battery of tests next time I’m in the club.
  • New headphone design. The old design was terrible both ergonomically and aurally. The new design, called EarPods fits better, sounds better, but are ultimately still throwaway. They would be abysmal for any physical activity and they still don’t come near audiophile quality. After fifteen minutes of listening, I’m getting a slight headache from the tinniness. For the unknowing masses or those special folk who want to be seen sporting white headphones, though, I’m sure they have their place. With any luck, I’ll be able to sell them for a few bucks to such a soul.
  • There is a new connector. I hate this. A lot. Apple’s 30-pin connector has become a standard. I’d wager you’d have trouble finding at least one 30-pin cable or device in every house in more affluent areas. Myself, I have two on each desk, home and work, have an alarm clock that uses it, my car interfaces with it, and my wife has her own set of cables on her desk and in her car. If I were to throw out a number, I’d say we easily have a dozen 30-pin connections between the two of us. Well, Apple, for no very good reason that I’ve come across other than they stand to make $100m from the switch and  that it’s now two-sided (I could care less), has changed the connector. Not only that, but they’re weeks off from actually selling any adapters or extra cables, which conveniently, only they are licensed to sell. In addition to likely shelling out ~$100 for new cables and adapters, I’m faced with having to tote my single new cable between home and work for at least a few weeks. If there’s one thing wrong with the iPhone 5, this is it, and I can only hope it’s not indicative of the future of Apple under new leadership.

So… It’s a really nice phone. I’m very happy. I can’t compare it against the Samsung Galaxy S3, which so many folks tend to do (including Samsung in this joke of an advertisement that even Samsung fans call an embarrassment), because I don’t have one and have never used one. However, unlike with the tablet market, when it comes to phones I think the difference between Apple and the other guys is much slimmer. While this is surely a great phone, I’m sure I could be nearly as pleased with something from someone else, but I’m fully invested in their ecosystem so the choice is easy for me.

Now, about those maps… Here’s to hoping that extra $100m will allow them to spring for more mapping companies.