Apple iPhone 5 first impressions: Beauty is in the hand of the beholder

Apple iPhone 5 first impressions: Beauty is in the hand of the beholder

Summary: My Verizon LTE iPhone 5 arrived yesterday and the design and performance impressed me beyond what I saw after reading reviews -- and the $820 I spent was well worth it.

Apple iPhone 5 first impressions: Beauty is in the hand of the beholder

As I wrote last week, I preordered my Apple iPhone 5 for $820 (full price to keep my Verizon unlimited LTE data) and after spending all day with it I have to say that it was completely worth it. Like all of you, I have seen photos of the iPhone 5, but you really have to hold it in your hand to appreciate the fantastic design. When I hold it next to my Galaxy S III or Nokia Lumia 900 it appears to be more of an iPhone nano rather than the latest generation of iPhone and makes these devices look HUGE. The Apple iPhone 5 truly is a product of beauty and a great improvement over the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Check out my image gallery to see the new iPhone 5, a couple photos from the iPhone 5, and a couple of screenshots.

Hardware and design

I owned an iPhone 4S for several months, but wasn't personally thrilled with the glass front and back and the design. I was very pleased to see Apple move to using a mostly metal back with just two small glass areas. I also am pleased with the thinner form factor and find it amazing how much technology Apple was able to squeeze into such a small form factor. The metal sides and beveled edges, along with the cool new color schemes add to the element of high quality design.

The display is longer and does add to the usefulness of the browser and some apps. I am able to reach the entire display with the thumb on one hand and am already finding it convenient to use the iPhone 5 with one hand. It is something I did not think too much about before using the iPhone 5, but now I really notice that two hands are required to use my other smartphones.

I know there has been lots of controversy of the new iPhone connector, but I have to chime in and say I am already a big fan of it. I don't have lots of money tied into iPhone docks or anything so the impact of changing connectors does not affect me from a monetary standpoint. With so many smartphones implementing microUSB ports, I regularly try to connect charging cables upside down and am flipping them to fit. The convenience of being able to put the new connector into the iPhone 5 in either orientation is fantastic.

I took several photos and a couple videos and the camera did very well. My daughters use the front facing camera quite a bit for buddy photos and as you can see in my image gallery the photos from this 1.2 megapixel camera look good. Panorama seemed to work well too, but I did find it odd that you hold the phone in portrait orientation to pan it around and capture the image. It works much like other camera phones with arrows and directions on the display helping you capture a continuous image.

iOS 6

I haven't yet had the chance to extensively test out the new iOS 6 Maps that tech enthusiasts and the media seem to be slamming quite a bit. My sister-in-law updated her iPhone 4S and texted me that she loves the new Maps feature, especially the integrated voice navigation. It looks good and is quite fast, but I need to put it through much more testing.

I found Siri quite useful for creating reminders, but am already finding it much more useful for sports scores, launching apps, and checking out movie times. I haven't yet gotten Passbook to work at all and at this time it looks to be going the way of Newstand where it could get moved to the last page of my iPhone home screens.

Performance and experiences

I made a few phone calls and they sounded great, even at the Puyallup Fair. I also sent and received text messages and iMessages, along with sending and receiving several email messages. Communications is a strong element of iOS and the experience is excellent. Other phones have had the ability to quickly send a text when a call comes in so it was nice to see this function added to iOS 6.

The iPhone 5 is FAST! It is also a gorgeous work of art and if you have an iPhone 4 or earlier model with eligibility to upgrade then it really is a no brainer to upgrade to the iPhone 5. It's a bit tougher decision if you have to pay full price and my main focus over the next week will be to see if I can live with a much smaller display than what I have been using on the Samsung Galaxy S III. iOS apps are the best of all platforms and I understand there are a lot of developers working to enhance apps to support the longer display with many apps already submitted and waiting in the approval queue.

Related ZDNet articles

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPhone, Reviews, Verizon

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Not impressed

    Outdated OS, uninspiring hardware, weired elongated design.
    • Indeed

      And a review written by an iPhone fanboy that conveniently hadn't got around to checking out the maps app before submitting his review.


      Still morons will always be morons.
      Mark Str
      • Not fair at all; first of all, Matthew is no moron, and he is more like WP

        ... fanboy rather than iPhone fanboy.

        The fact that he is not religious about either Apple's or Google's approaches, despite preferring Microsoft's one, just proves that he is open minded.

        And he mentioned issues with the maps both in this review and photo gallery.

        So what we have here is two religious fanatics Paulm187 and Mark Str slamming author for not being religious fanatic -- which is ironic.
        • +1.

          Matt is Symbian to WP fanboy. He prefers Windows Phone anytime, but he is openminded like you said. I bought my iPhone 5 yesterday from AT&T store and I totally agree with Matt. I use HTC Titan II, Nokia Lumia 900 and Galaxy Note. I see iPhone 5 has tremendous features except for missing maps where Lumia as edge. I see a good room for Apple to improve on that, or probably borrow from Nokia to integrate those features into its mapping solution.
          Ram U
      • If iPhone didn't have it, it never existed -- right?

        "My sister-in-law updated her iPhone 4S and texted me that she loves the new Maps feature, especially the integrated voice navigation."

        I love how the Apple fanbois are gushing over "new" features Androids have had for YEARS. Oh, but if the iPhone didn't have it, then it didn't exist before now. It's funny and sad at the same time.

        Same with the "larger" display wonder.
        • who said that?

          for starters... being first to do something doesn't mean better. I always go with the better solution, not hold to some certain company because they did something first.

          second, that built in and coming with the system might be new, but being able to do it isn't new on the iPhone.

          the display is larger... you have a problem with that somehow? its larger without being too big... like the SIII which is so huge I cannot stand it. I got very close to buying one, but I just couldn't because its just way too big. The iPhone 5 is a much better size.
          • display is larger???

            Are you kidding? It has the same width (640pixels), only Apple elongs it to 1136 so it has aspect of 16x9 wide screen instead of 4x3 as its predecessors
          • Widescreen is boss!

            Thank GOD that Apple choose the 16x9 screen! Drool Droidsheep!
          • iFans said the same thing...

            About the 3.5" screen when the iPhone 4 stayed with the same 3.5" screen when other phones were coming out with 4" phones. But now 4" is perfect and anything bigger is no good.

            That's BS and the iPhone 5's screen is still too small. One hand use is passe. People don't use their phones with one hand anymore because smartphones do so much more. Well, at least on non Apple phones. It's not 2007 anymore!
          • I use it with 1 hand.

            I use the other hand to flip you FanDroids/DroidSheep! HAHA
          • Seriously SAD

            So you can use your other hand to wack off to your overpriced koolaid dispenser. Do you realize how nerdy and lame you sound with the whole "Droidsheep" label? As you're over-acting and laughing like an evil lunatic over a stupid phone, that you didn't build yourself, and simply shelled out money for? Taking credit for someone else' invention like you work for the company. That's Apple marketing at it's finest. Making you feel like you're part of the "club" for blowing your money on a useless gadget that's supposed to just be for making phone calls. But all of your mindless zombies now gaze into this stupid rectangle doing everything BUT being social. Not to mention the pathetic mental issues you should look into when you're acting like you're a better person because you made a certain choice when buying gadgets.

            Keep filling that deep dank hole in your soul with consumerism like it's an extension of your dull personality, you weird anti-social freak. Keep dreaming that holding that brick shaped uninspired device is going to make your life seem eventful.

            That's why 90% of people buy these stupid phones. They want to implement it into their empty, boring, mundane life to make it seem more exciting and be able to participate in smartphones arguments. Meanwhile almost every Apple user is a wannabe geek who has no computer skills and an iPhone lets them pretend to be gadget saavy and "hip" with it's gay design. Apple iOS holds your hand because you're a retard who doesn't know how to use a computer.

            It's like jewelry or an accessory to morons like you who think form trumps function. iPhone lacks way too many features, is way too restrictive, and it's overpriced garbage that they make for $165 and charge $920 for. Also we're at iOS 6 and it still lacks native controller support and USB plug n play support. What a JOKE!
            Christopher Columbus
        • Eye Roll vs. Partisan Sneer

          Early iPhone 5 users and reviewers are not cheering these features as new to the world, but new and welcome for the Apple lineup.

          You are free to construct mythical people who say exactly what you wish to ridicule, but no one will take you seriously. Besides, were these people real - and it is a big world and all groups have adherents who, ahem, say stupid things in service of their ideology - it would not make Android phones better or iPhones worse.
        • This video says it all

      • Bash just to bash I guess

        This place does seem the refuge of many who seem to look for iPhone articles to bash it with obviously no knowledge or experience. I've even ran into many here who still think Macs have limited software choices, when you can actually run Windows and Linux on the side of an OS that is superior to begin with, in my opinion at least. My opinion of OSX doesn't change the fact you can run it fine along with any Windows or Linux program with ease using Parallels.
        Onto the iPhone. I bet half the people "complaining" about maps never actually used it and are just parroting an article. Over half the people bashing the new connector never tried it and never will, just people looking for an opportunity to bash anyone who uses Apple I guess. I can see why some would use Android. I think google are creepers, handing over your information left and right and would never trust it with more than I had to.
    • Repeated from your wife

      She posted the same thing about you last week, except instead on elongated she said "short and stubby"
  • Excellent review

    I love mine, and Paulm187, don't buy one then, outdated os? I don't think so, I have a android device less than a year old, no ICS, even though it was promised, 10 months ago
    • Hmm

      Which device would that be?
    • Old Android still has all apps like ICS or JB

      An "outdated" Gingerbread still has up-to-date Google maps app as well as most of the apps Android has right now since the beginning! How about "Siri" in Iphone 4? Is it working?
      • Siri

        Works almost as well a vLingo. You know, the company Apple approached first when it was looking for voice command on the phone. vLingo told Apple no, so Apple went with the next-best thing.
  • Objectivity?

    I cannot believe that there is not more outcry about changing the dock connector. Apple have just rewarded their loyal customers by allowing them the shell out more hard earned cash to make their current accessories work with their new phones. Why are journalists not making more of a fuss about it? This article says it is alright because the author hasn't invested a lot in accessories himself. I read websites like this because I expect a more objective view that takes other people into account. I own an ipod touch and an ipad, I have two stereos with ipod docks and love being able to drop the ipod in quickly and easily, or to let others use theirs. I like the fact that I can use the same cable for both devices. If they had to change anything, why couldn't they go to microUSB so that you can use your current cables (other than to make more money and screw their customers obviously)?

    The only comparison with other devices is that the small size makes other devices feel enormous, the mapping system is not compared with anything else, and the camera is not compared with anything the reviewer has previously used. It almost feels like a press release following some bad publicity, glossing over the problems mentioned by other reviewers. I appreciate that this is only first impressions, but to dismiss the concerns others have raised almost out of hand seems very one-sided and apple fan-boyish.