Svelte design, new processor and software put iPhone 5 on top
Lighter, faster and packed with fresh features, the latest smartphone easily outsmarts its rivals
Nearly a year since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died, the iPhone has retained its lofty perch as the finest smartphone in the market.
The latest iteration of Apple's flagship product, the iPhone 5, now holds that distinction steadfastly. It will be initially released in nine markets tomorrow and become available in 100 markets worldwide by the end of this year.
The iPhone 5 the South China Morning Post recently used for testing was connected to the high-speed network of SmarTone Telecommunications, which Apple named as its official 4G mobile partner in Hong Kong.
Advanced 4G networks based on a technology called long-term evolution (LTE) provide theoretical online download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. The fastest existing 3G networks run up to 42Mbps.
Speed, however, received the least attention from Post journalists who held the iPhone 5 for the first time. It was so light and thin, notwithstanding a bigger display than previous models, that it could slip easily inside the pockets of a pair of jeans or polo shirt.
With a thickness of 7.6mm, it is 18 per cent thinner than the iPhone 4S. Apple says the aluminium and glass-encased iPhone 5 is the thinnest smartphone in the market. Weighing 112 grams, it is also 20 per cent lighter than the previous model.
Rival smartphones that run Google's Android operating system were ahead in offering big screens, but the iPhone 5 was designed with a high-definition four-inch display that retains the same 58.66mm width of the iPhone 4S. That means one-handed use is still optimal, including typing with one hand, which is difficult with certain jumbo-sized Android phones.
Still, some see the iPhone 5's design as boring. But look under its proverbial hood and it is far from boring. The new, Apple-designed A6 processor makes just about everything a user does up to twice as fast compared to the previous model's A5 chip.
Webpages load faster and e-mail attachments appear almost instantly. On SmarTone's 4G LTE network, the device opens websites up to five seconds faster than the iPhone 4S on a 3G connection.
The A6 chip has also made it more power efficient. Apple claims up to eight hours of browsing on a cellular connection and up to eight hours of talk time. In a test, the Post found the power bar of the iPhone 5 turned red after 10 hours of texting, making a few voice calls and one video call via Apple's FaceTime program, tweeting, checking e-mails, taking several pictures and browsing a dozen websites.
But what sets the iPhone 5 apart from its competition is iOS6, the latest update of Apple's mobile operating system that has more than 200 new features. These include shared photo streams with other iOS6 devices, Baidu.com search as an option in the Safari browser, improved Siri voice command and Apple Maps, which replaced Google Maps. Apart from the online Apple Store, the flagship Apple shop at the IFC Mall and authorised premium resellers, mobile network operators CSL and 3 Hong Kong will also offer the device. Prices start from HK$5,588.