iPhone 5: a little bit taller, a little bit baller | Ars Technica

iPhone 5: The biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone,” says Apple, setting the bar high for its newest smartphone. Rumors and speculation about the sixth-generation phone began about 4.2 seconds after the introduction of the iPhone 4S last October, but the iPhone 5 has now landed in our grubby little hands. It’s thinner. It’s lighter. And it’s—taller.

Apple brought plenty of improvements to the iPhone this year: the company designed an entirely new processor, there’s a new camera, and the phone now supports 4G LTE data speeds. iOS 6 was just rolled out in conjunction with the iPhone 5 release and features its own significant upgrades (read our review of iOS 6 for more details on what’s new).

Are these and other changes enough? We hope to help you answer that question with this review. So strap on those fairy wings from your Halloween box in the back of the closet; we’re about to get “magical.”

Screen size doesn’t matter. Or does it?

iPhone 4S on the left, iPhone 5 on the right.

As rumored, the iPhone 5 has a larger screen than all of its predecessors from Apple. Since 2007, Apple has produced iPhones with a 3.5 inch (measured diagonally) screen. But in the sixth generation of the design, Apple has bumped the screen size up to 4 inches diagonally, giving it a 16:9 aspect ratio ideal for widescreen movies and many games.

The iPhone 5’s 1136×640 screen features the same “retina” class pixel density as the iPhone 4S—326 pixels per inch. Though images on the iPhone 5 should look just as sharp as those on the iPhone 4 and 4S, Apple claims that the iPhone 5 has 44 percent more color saturation, making photos, icons, videos, games, and other elements appear more vivid.

iPhone 5 on the left, iPhone 4S on the right. The visible difference in color saturation is very slight.

Colors did appear a bit more saturated on the iPhone 5 when directly compared against the iPhone 4S, but the difference was slight. When viewed independently, it’s hard to see a noticeable difference.

The slightly taller screen has other benefits, largely in the form of more screen real estate for your home screen and for apps. Apple pointed out at its September media event that the iPhone 5’s home screen now fits five rows of icons instead of just four—a minor point, but still much appreciated by those of us who experience icon claustrophobia.

iPhone 5 screenshot on the left, iPhone 4S screenshot on the right. When browsing the Web (or any content), you can now fit more on the screen.

The larger screen also means that you can see slightly more of the Web when using Safari and a bit more text when reading an e-book; you can also watch widescreen movies at full size (well, “full size” for a 4-inch screen) without black bars on the top or bottom. In my testing, this proved surprisingly useful. I hadn’t expected the ability to read a few more words or see just a bit more of a list (see above screenshots) to matter much, but I liked it quite a bit.

Developers are now updating their apps to take advantage of the larger screen—many apps already have updates in the App Store. If your favorite apps haven’t been updated yet, Apple centers them in the middle of the iPhone 5 screen with a basic black bar on the top and bottom. Instagram is one such app that has yet to be updated; here’s how it looks on the iPhone 5 screen right now:

Apps (such as Instagram) that aren’t yet updated for the iPhone 5’s larger screen get centered with black bars at the top and bottom.

Android fans who like even larger screens may be disappointed by the fact that the iPhone 5 isn’t bigger, but let’s be honest: Apple was never likely to wander down the path that leads to phone/tablet hybrids with the iPhone. Instead, a smaller version of the iPad may be in the works (an announcement is still expected for October 2012).

That hasn’t stopped the Internet from teasing Apple over its decision to release a taller iPhone. Tall phone is tall! But in practice, it works. Other iPhone buyers may like it as I do; at worst, they may feel neutral about it. But it’s hard to see many people actively disliking the screen.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s