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

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.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
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

Editorial standards