My average Joe iPhone 5 review

Now after a month of usage I decided to sum up my impressions of the iPhone 5. But first I’ll answer the one burning question

“Why another review of the iPhone 5, there are tons of reviews out there on various tech sites?”

Well, the answer is simple. I am your average smartphone user, not a tech journalist spoiled by a constant influx of the latest and greatest. This way I hope that my views will reflect a normal user’s opinion in a better way.

Why an iPhone?

There are many really good other smartphones out there running Android or Windows. In general they are cheaper and offer functionality that is more than adequate for daily use. Most people use their smartphone for browsing, facebook/twitter, taking snapshots, navigation and the odd gaming while waiting for a bus.

iPhones are expensive. I know people keep insisting that they cost “only” $199, but that’s simply not true. Here in Austria, taking mobile contract costs into account, the cheapest option is still to get an unlocked device which costs *gasp* €679 which at the current exchange rate converts to $865. For comparison: an unlocked Galaxy S3 is about €200 cheaper. So I thought not twice but ten times before I decided to upgrade my phone.

The reason I got an iPhone was simple: I upgraded from a 3GS to the iPhone 5. Since I was already invested in the Apple infrastructure I didn’t want to switch to Google or MS. I just wanted to keep all my purchased apps.

Why upgrade?

First of all, the 3GS became really slow. I blame it on all the new iOS features, because the phone was fast and snappy under iOS3, now with iOS6 sometimes I couldn’t even answer a phone call in time, because the slider didn’t react. So while Apple is doing a good job updating 3 year old devices (Android, I am looking at you!), they are also forcing you to upgrade your hardware (Apple, I am looking at you!). It would be nice, if they let you downgrade your iOS which unfortunately they don’t.

Second, since I develop for iOS I needed a 16:9 screen for testing the new aspect ratio. It was either an iPod touch or the phone. Since I have no use for the iPod, other than testing, I went with the phone.

Third, after upgrading to iOS 5 my 3G connection didn’t work anymore. Since the 3GS was out of warranty I was stuck with Edge as the repair would’ve cost me €180. (Here Apple’s customer support should be improved since as a side note: I wasn’t the only one with this issue While Edge is ok, sometimes its slowness was driving me insane.

Build quality

No iPhone 5 review without mentioning build quality. This thing is BEAUTIFUL (I got the black one). Scuff gate might be true, but I put my phone in a case anyway. And if it gets scratched over time, so be it. This is still the nicest gadget I’ve ever owned. Comparable to my good ol’ trusty swiss army knife. That might actually be the main reason to get an iPhone. No other phone can compare.


It’s fast. Everything feels fluid, apps open quickly. No complaints here, so lets hope future iOS updates won’t change that. I didn’t run any geeky benchmarks, simply because I don’t care about the results. The phone is snappy, that’s fine with me.


Brilliant. But then I went from shitty 3GS low res to newest retina. So that was to be expected. It’s also much brighter. The 5 on 20% brightness is about the same as the 3GS on 50%. More than the resolution I actually appreciate the high contrast ratio (Once you are over 40, you don’t need 320dpi anymore :)) One thing is strange though, the screen when held side by side to the 3GS has a lower color temperature. In non tech speek: The picture is more yellow, 3GS is more blue.

New form factor

Now quality aside, what about the new size? It’s a mixed bag. For usage I hate it, for viewing I love it. Look at your thumb, rotate it up and down. Does it describe a 16:9 arc? No, right, mine doesn’t either. So one handed navigation doesn’t work anymore, except if you have really looong thumbs.

But playing games and watching videos is definitely nicer now. And with AirPlay support games that run on the iPhone would now display fullscreen on a TV. So this could be Apple’s strategy to conquer the living room.

New connector

iPhone 5 comes with the new smaller dock connector. Pro: It’s small, it’s reversible. Contra: It’s bad for the environment (which I hate), because millions of consumers around the world will start throwing away their iPhone accesories.

Which color?

Black, easy decision for me, because you won’t get black bars with apps that haven’t been iPhone 5 optimized yet. The monolith from 2001, that’s what it looks like.


Yes they are bad. In my area (Baden, near Vienna) nearly all points of interest have vanished. No more swimming pools, doctors, etc. all gone. Also search is odd: I looked for the road where our dentist is located, maps wanted me to drive to a same named road in Germany. If maps are important for you, then for now: get an Android phone or wait for google to release their maps as an iOS app.

Purple flare in photos

Yes they are there. But it is a non issue, same as I have light flares on my DSLR. Just reframe the picture or cover the light from the lens. Hey, even DSLRs do that


Other than that the camera is a huge step up from the 3GS. I am quite puzzled that the format of still shots is 4:3 though. Doesn’t seem like a good fit. I would’ve gone with 3:2 which is the classic film/DSLR format.

Best feature: panorama shooting. Yes you could use Microsoft’s photo synth before, but this is way more convenient. By the way photo synth is exactly the same what google is boasting about now with their photo sphere mode in Android 4.2. (Shame on you google, for copying Microsoft’s technology so blatantly without giving credit!)


Yay, now I also have a phone with Siri!! And … it doesn’t work AT ALL! Maybe it’s a decent feature in English, but German Siri is pathetic. She can’t understand anything, so I only use her to set the timer when I’ve got a Pizza in the oven.


The iPhone 5 is a very good smartphone and to quote McDonalds “I am loving it”. Is it better and more importantly is it worth the premium over a high end Android like the S3? You have to decide for yourself. For me it is, mainly because of its build quality, I just like stuff with nice haptics. It does everything I could possibly wish from a smartphone and feels like a piece of art.

And that is also the problem I see for Apple in the future. If they don’t cripple its performance in future OS updates, I can’t imagine myself upgrading anytime soon. I guess this might be also a lot of other consumers’ opinion. Smartphones are not a novelty anymore, they can do everything you hoped they’d to and even more.

No NFC? Who cares? No LTE in Austria? 3G is fast enough for me. What else? I literally can’t think of anything else I’d want from a phone. So unless Apple or someone else thinks of some new revolutionary feature (one month of battery life, DSLR photo quality or Siri that actually works) smartphones will enter longer update cycles like PCs did a few years ago.

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