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Hands on: iPhone 5

BEN GRUBB
Last updated 16:22 13/09/2012
Fairfax Australia

Ben Grubb takes a first look at some of the new features on Apple's iPhone 5.

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OPINION: The iPhone 5 is lighter, thinner, faster and taller than its predecessor.

Made using glass and aluminium, it feels great in the hand and as solid as Motorola's new smartphones unveiled last week in New York, which have a Kevlar back.

The new iPhone also feels much sturdier than Samsung's Galaxy S III, which I've always thought should have been made using a tougher material than the current plastic.

The new iPhone sports a larger 4-inch display - a shift away from the 3.5-inch screen iPhone users have got used to as other handset makers have moved to larger screens. Now, finally, Apple users too can make use of a larger screen, which is great for watching widescreen movies on the go.

Surprisingly, though, the screen is not wider than its predecessor; it is only taller. The decision to keep the screen width the same as that of the iPhone 4S was so that users could operate the new phone more easily with one hand, Apple said.

Weighing in at 112 grams, the iPhone 5 is noticeably lighter (by 28 grams) and faster than the iPhone 4S. I was surprised Apple was able to make it so light - maybe Apple took in criticism from the iPhone 4S launch about the 4S being three grams heavier than the iPhone 4 too seriously?

Besides being 8.6 millimetres taller than the 4S, which allows for a 1136 x 640 resolution display, it's also 18 per cent thinner, with a thickness of just 7.6 millimetres.

It also features a smaller connector for use when syncing it with a computer, docking it or charging it. Named the "Lightning" port, the connector is 80 per cent smaller than the 30-pin connector now used in iPads, iPhones and the iPod Touch.

To ease the transition to the new Lightning port, Apple is selling a $49 adaptor which iPhone 5 users can make use of when in a car, for example, that only supports the 30-pin connector.

The move to the smaller connector is likely to anger users who use iPhone alarm clock docks that have the 30-pin connector. They will most likely need to upgrade their docks unless they want an adaptor holding up their iPhone (which might not work well).

The iPhone 5 also features a smaller nano-SIM card slot, which will require a new SIM card to be issued by a user's telco if they already have an iPhone with a standard or micro SIM. Using the smaller SIM meant engineers could save valuable space in the phone.

In the 30 minutes of hands-on time I had with the new smartphone this morning, the two apps built for its iOS 6 operating system that stood out for me (which other Apple devices will get too, next Wednesday) were its Maps and Passbook apps.

The Maps app replaces the Google Maps app on the iPhone and it appears Apple has put in a lot of effort to make it work seamlessly. Besides offering spoken turn-by-turn directions for when driving and telling you about traffic congestion, it also offers a neat "Flyover" feature, which lets you "fly over" a city as if you were in a plane above it. My favourite feature of Flyover is the 3D mode.

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Flyover mode with 3D turned on is simply amazing. You can visit sights such as Big Ben in London and the Opera House in Sydney and see them in 3D and use finger gestures to move around major city landmarks. It's as if you were there but even better.

Passbook is also nifty. It's essentially a coupon book and even acts like one, allowing you to "shred" coupons that have been used. It can also be used for things such as flight boarding passes.

The deep Facebook and Twitter integration in iOS 6 is also great. When you take a photo, for example, you can instantly and easily share it on these social networks. The voice assistant Siri will now also be more useful in Australia on the new iPhone, with it being able to find nearby points of interest like restaurants.

Overall, the new iPhone has some great new features that will appeal to the masses. Existing Android users will probably prefer the Samsung Galaxy S III but the iPhone is the smartphone I would continue to recommend to friends and family simply for its ease of use.

TheAge.com.au

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