Each new year brings out a new edition of Apple’s immensely popular iPhone, but with last year’s iPhone 4S still selling plenty of units, many people want to know just what sets the new iPhone 5 apart. The answer is simultaneously a lot and a little, depending on just what iPhone 5 features you think are important
The differences aren’t nearly as pronounced as they were in some older versions of the device. Of course, the iPhone 5 doesn’t exist in a bubble, and far more companies have similar smartphones available that match the device both in style and function, so it’s important to consider the device within the entire mobile ecosystem as well.
The overall design of the new iPhone 5 is pretty much exactly the same as the earlier versions of the device, as Apple saw no need to mess with a winning formula. Still, there are some not-so-subtle differences. The new device is 0.37 inches taller and 0.07 inches thinner than the iPhone 4S, while being almost a full ounce less heavy.
The new iPhone uses a Lightning connector instead of the standard 30-pin one, so yes, you will need to either buy a converter, which Apple will be happy to sell you, or purchase completely new accessories. Finally, the new phone uses a new type of SIM card, and your old cards will not be compatible.
Display and Cameras
The iPhone 5’s display may look considerably better than that on the iPhone 4S, but in reality, it is just a larger version of the same retina display. Both phones have a display that renders 326 ppi to present one of the clearest pictures on the market, but the extra space provided by the iPhone 5 just makes the screen look so much more impressive.
The rear camera is the same 8-megapixel model available on the iPhone 4S, complete with features like an LED flash, five-element lens and face detection.
The front camera, however, is completely new. Instead of the low-quality VGA camera provided on earlier models, the iPhone 5 has a 1.2-megapixel model that can record HD video and includes an illumination sensor to better capture your face.
Processing Power and Memory
Apple never seems to put much stock in advertising their processor and memory upgrades, probably because their customers don’t care about incremental tech advances, but the new iPhone has some serious upgrades over the older models. The new A6 processor runs on a 1GHz dual-core processor, compared to the 800 MHz dual-core processor of the 4S. The new device also includes 1GB of RAM — double that of its predecessor.
As far as storage capacity goes, many were hoping for a new upper limit, but the new iPhone is available in the same 16, 32 and 64 GB capacities, just like the earlier models.
This was one of the most anticipated new iPhone 5 features, and perhaps the largest difference between this model and the earlier versions. LTE technology is the fastest form of 4G connectivity available today, and for people living in markets where this technology is accessible, the difference in connectivity speeds between the iPhone 5 and the 4S is like night and day.
With people consuming more and more streaming content on these devices, this is the one difference that’s likely to stand out in the mind of consumers, and the biggest reason to upgrade to the latest iPhone.
Apple Maps vs. Google Maps
To be fair, the new Maps application is a part of iOS 6, so iPhone 4S owners who have upgraded to the latest software will have the new app as well. But with iOS 6 being released just before the launch of the latest smartphone, this can really be considered a part of the iPhone 5 experience.
Earlier this year, Apple decided to no longer use Google to power its native Maps application, in part because of limitations that Google put on the product and because of ongoing tension between the firms over the Android OS. Finally, Apple chose to build its own app. Normally, a company with the cash and talent that Apple has would have no problem putting out an astounding app even in a short amount of time, but maps are a completely different beast.
The Apple Maps application is far from a complete product, and it is so bad that the Apple CEO recently issued a letter apologizing for the state of the app. The application will certainly get better in the future, but for now, many people who use smartphones for navigation either have to download a third-party app or use Google Maps through their Web browser.
The iPhone 5 Features vs. The Field
Comparing the new iPhone to its predecessors is one thing, but how does the new iPhone stand up against the real competition? Well, the answer isn’t nearly as cut-and-dry as it used to be.
The original iPhone contained a collection of polished features that no one had really seen in a single device before, making it far and away the best smartphone choice. Now, that gap has closed considerably.
Devices running Google’s Android OS, like the new Samsung Galaxy 3, can do much of what the iPhone can, and in some cases can do it better. Still, the display on the iPhone is second-to-none, and Apple’s App Store has the largest variety of well-polished apps available for download.
Many reviewers give Apple’s camera the edge too, although some debate that subject. Apple does offer Siri, its voice-based assistant, that stands far above the voice-assist features on other devices.
Really, comparing the iPhone to top-tier Android devices comes down to personal choice, and while the iPhone remains firmly on the short list of best devices available, customers choosing to go in another direction don’t lose too much in the way of features, if at all.