Buying an iPhone 5 is a no brainer.  However, if you already own the iPhone 4s you’re probably gripped with the anticipation of buyers remorse since there is the ever looming question of “is it worth it?”  Although we haven’t had a chance to complete a thorough review of the iPhone 5, I did get some solid one on one, hands on time with the handset.  Notably, this was not at a store, but in an office by proxy of AT&T.

Needless to say, the iPhone 5 is not a vast departure from the iPhone 4s.  At a quick glance any commoner could mistake one for the other.  That said, the screen on the iPhone 5 measures .5-inches longer adding .37-inches to the handset’s over all length.  Sure, holding the two in one hand exemplifies the difference, but the iPhone 5 is lighter (3.95oz vs 4.9oz), and noticeably so, which largely negates any concerns one might have about being  over encumbered.  In fact, the iPhone 5 feels more balanced and thanks to the now metal back (as opposed to glass), I’d probably be comfortable with parting ways with a protective case.

As I already mentioned the iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 looks extremely similar.   However, the iPhone 5′s bevel, or edge feels much more refined.  The iPhone 4s’ back and metal wrapping now look as if they were hobbled together with glue, where as the iPhone 5 appears to be crafted from a single piece of aluminum cut from the laser beams of Superman’s eyes.  Don’t get me wrong it’s a nuance.  Nevertheless, the result is ultimately a thinner iPhone that doesn’t negatively impact the way it feels in your hand.

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Beyond aesthetics there are a variety of hardware improvements.  Probably most notably is the processor, which we’ll get to in a sec.  In the meanwhile let’s address the camera.  The iPhone 5′s camera remains to be of the 8-megapixel ilk, yet Apple says they’ve improved its low light performance.  A side by side photo comparison between the iPhone 4s and iPhone doesn’t speak volumes, but there are slight and noticeable improvements including a lens that captures more image.  That being said, the hardware is virtually the same on the two devices, as are the specs, which include an F-Stop of 2.4.   The speed at which the iPhone 5 captures photos, as in the shutter’s ability to close and open, has been improved, though another side by side test showed that it wasn’t more than a half of second difference.  Something that can be addressed by using an app such as Camera Plus.

Under the hood of the iPhone 5 is Apple’s all new A6 chip.  Benchmark Browser, as detailed by the below photo results, shows that the iPhone 5 produces a score of 182755, which is a fair bit faster than Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus.  But the proof in the pudding is how it stacks up against the Samsung S3, the often referred to iPhone killer.  Look above and you’ll see that the iPhone 5 beats the S3 by a mark of over 20,000, though keep in mind the S3 is now a few months old.  Benchmarks aside, there is a notable speed improvement from menu to menu, app to app on the iPhone 5 compared to the 4s. With the iPhone 5 you’ll no longer you have to wait – it just happens.

While it won’t matter to most consumers, it’s important to note that the iPhone 5 uses a Nano SIM card, as opposed to a micro SIM.  The implications of this are few and very far between, unless of course you have a tendency to occasionally use a Android or a normal sized SIM phone.  I’d expect adapters to emerge, if they haven’t already.    In the same stroke, Apple has also removed the 30-pin connector and replaced it with their Lightning Port.  The update, or better yet, change, is rather moot, though the headphone jack, much like the iPod Touch, is now positioned at the bottom of the device.  Again, both of these are rather moot changes that will hopefully result in some unforeseen advancement in a future iPhone.  That said, by the graces of the God, Apple has updated the packaged headphones.  I didn’t get a chance to use them, but their look is much more in line with the device, and are analogous to higher end headphones that do more to block out ambient noise.

In speaking to people about my impressions of the iPhone 5 I have continuously made one statement: it’s not a vast departure from the iPhone 4s.  Yes, the processor is vastly faster than the previous iteration, as well as the S3.   However, benchmarks don’t paint a complete picture, and to the every day man the iPhone 5 is not a leap in technology.  While I’m not a big fan of NFC – simply because it seems to be more about a buzz word than usability – it didn’t make it into the iPhone.  But what did make the cut, and rightfully so, is LTE connectivity, which has far more use cases than any short range connectivity standard.  Perhaps the best way to think about the iPhone 5 is not within the context of the iPhone 4s, but the Android platform.  As a result the question then changes, and becomes “do I go Android, or hang on to my iPhone 4s and wait for the iPhone 6″.

Checkout our iPhone 5 vs iPhone 4s comparison.

Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."