The iPhone 5: Smaller, Lighter, Thinner, Bigger Screen, More Powerful

Senior Contributor

Behold! The least surprising Apple event in a long, long time!

Mostly today’s Apple extravaganza was Apple playing catch-up. The screen is bigger, brighter, and prettier, the antenna is better, and it finally does 4G. But is it worth ditching the now old and busted iPhone 4S? The short answer is yes. Apple has once again totally overhauled its flagship product to be better. This really is a great phone. But is it a phone worth, say, eating an early termination fee for? Here’s what we know about it: You can decide for yourself.

The Hardware

The big news, really, is 4G. The iPhone 5 is built to get a 4G connection pretty much anywhere a 4G connection is available.

The A6 chip is twice as fast in both computing and graphics power, which goes nicely with the screen, which is a half-inch bigger and now in a 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s also brighter, more colorful and has far less glare. The camera is also better, with stronger color matching and a 40% faster capture. It also has a Panorama mode, which everybody will use precisely once. Video can now go up to 1080p: YouTube thanks you, Apple.

In terms of it actually working like a phone, which the iPhone has always been terrible at, it now has three microphones (one at the bottom and two up top both front and back) and a smaller, supposedly more efficient speaker. The connector has gotten the expected overhaul to a nineteen-pin version and is now called Lightning. Apple is including an adapter for its new 8-pin hotness, which is freaking hideous and really brings home my point about using micro USB like every other phone manufacturer on Earth.

The big problem is and always has been the battery. Apple is claiming eight hours of talk on 3G, eight hours of browsing on 4G, 10 hours of video, 40 hours of music, and 225 hours of stand-by. Hahahaha…yeah, right.

Oh, and of course, it comes in black or white with that two-tone back.

The Software

Apple has their mapping software, of course, which will likely become the Internet Explorer of mapping apps. Notifications have gotten an overhaul that allows you to respond to contact of various sorts via the Notification Center.

Meanwhile, iCloud Tabs will pull any pages you have open from any device up on your phone. The Mail app has a new VIP feature that sorts your mail by people who you actually care about (yes, it’s a highly developed spam filter.) Passbook puts your boarding passes and membership cards on the lock screen, which is useful for travelers.

Apple also has its version of Instagram called Photo Streams: Take a picture and your phone will annoy your friends about it. Siri is smarter, of course, although now she can post to Facebook, so you’ve been warned. iTunes, meanwhile, is prettier and has more social media integration, so now it’s not just Spotify that you can annoy your friends with your taste in music with.

So How Much Will I Pay For This?

$200 for 16GB, $300 for 32GB, $400 for 64GB. Or if you want an iPhone 4, they’re now free with a contract. It’s available for pre-order on the 14th and in stores the 21st.

Should I Buy It?

If your contract is coming up, or you want to ditch your phone? Absolutely.

There’s nothing truly earthshaking or game-changing here, but there’s no denying that this is an amazing device. There are a few things about it that chap my nerdly ass, like that freaking proprietary connector. But those are nitpicks.

That said, I wouldn’t eat a huge early termination fee to get this. We all know the iPhone 5S will come next year. If you’re happy with your phone, for now, wait until you’re off contract. And if you don’t want it for a phone, why not buy the iPod Touch? It’s a millimeter thinner than the iPhone 5, although it has an A5 chip and no 4G. But it does have Siri, and it’s $250 for 32GB.

In short, it’s a great phone, but nothing to get wastefully spendy about. Yet.

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