iPhone 5 key features explained

What is the iPhone 5?

It’s the latest version of Apple’s smartphone range. It goes on sale on 21 September and is the first iPhone to feature free built-in turn-by-turn navigation thanks to a new, Apple-designed, maps app. That’s just one of the new features, what else do you need to know?

Got a question about the new iPhone? We’ll be streaming live video as we open the box and see how the iPhone 5 performs and also answering your questions about the phone live on Friday, September 21 at 4pm.  See our iPhone 5 live video Q&A for more details.

1. It’s got a larger, 4-inch screen

Previous iPhones have steadfastly stuck to a original’s 3.5-inch screen, but it’s begun to look puny compared to the massive screens on some of the best iPhone 5 alternatives – Samsung’s Galaxy S3, for example, has a huge 4.8-inch screen. Not anymore. The iPhone 5 has a 4-inch screen, 0.5 inches larger than before, but it’s still small enough so you can use the phone in one hand comfortably.


What does this mean for me?
It means you’ll see more information on screen at any one time. All of Apple’s apps have been redesigned to work on the larger screen, while there’s now space for five rows of icons on the home screen instead of four – handy if you find yourself running out of space. Apps that haven’t updated for the new screen will have black bars above and below until they’re updated.

2. It supports faster, 4G mobile internet

Widely tipped prior to launch, the iPhone 5 supports a new standard of faster mobile internet, known as 4G. But in the UK it’ll only work on the newly launch EE network, the only network to support 4G in the UK at present. Other providers will support 4G next year, but EE has a serious head start on its competition.

What does this mean for me?
4G mobile internet is touted as being up to five times faster than 3G. In practice this means speeds of up to around 20Mbps in strong signal areas, which is fast enough to stream HD video and is as fast (if not faster) than many home broadband connections. The caveat is that 4G availability will be limited at first – only 16 cities will have it by Christmas, and there’s no guarantee the service will perfect where it’s available. Read our what is 4G LTE guide for more information.

3. It’s got a new, smaller dock connector

Another poorly kept secret was a new, smaller dock connector. Apple’s redesigned the connector so it’s 80% smaller than the old 30-pin plug, and it’s reversible so it doesn’t matter which way up you put it in.

What does this mean for me?
The main impact here is to any accessories you own, such as speaker docks or battery packs, that connect to the dock connection. Obviously the iPhone 5 won’t work with them out of the box, but Apple has developed an adapter to solve this problem. It works as you might expect – old connector at one end, new at the other – but depending on the design of your accessory, using it might be tricky. Unfortunately, however, this doesn’t come cheap as Apple is asking a hefty £25 for the adaptor.

4. The headphones are super comfortable…

…or, at least, so says Apple. Apple headphones have never had a good reputation, but that could be about to change. Every iPhone 5 comes with a newly designed set of headphones, called EarPods, that Apple says have been in development for three years. They’re designed to fit more comfortably and, hopefully, sound better too.

What does this mean for me?
We’ll reserve judgement until we give them a go, but if they live up to Apple’s claims then it might put an end the annoying noise pollution created by Apple headphones and mean you don’t automatically throw the supplied headphones in the bin.

5. It’s the thinnest smartphone in the world, again

Okay, so this one isn’t about to reshape your life, but the iPhone 5 is the thinnest and lightest to date. It’s 18% thinner, now just 7.6mm down from 9.3mm, and it’s 20% lighter,  or 112g down from 140g. While the basic design and shape appears the same, the back now has an aluminium panel instead of being made totally of glass.

What does this mean for me?
This rather depends on how much value you put on a phone being thin and light. No doubt it’ll feel great in the hand – especially if Apple has smoothed the slightly sharp feeling edges of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. But prevailing opinion among the Which? team is that we’d sooner have a phone that was the same weight as before but with better battery life.

6. New processor and graphics are twice as fast

No new phone is complete if it’s not faster and better than before, and the iPhone 5 is no exception. It gets an upgrade to the same Apple A6 processor as the iPad 3, which Apple claims is twice as fast as the processor in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2.

What does this mean for me?
Depending how you use your phone this could be a big thing or you might not even notice the difference. If you like running a lot of complicated apps and want the latest 3D games on your smartphone, the new processor could really speed things up. But, if you don’t demand much of your phone and the extent of your gaming is a bit of Angry Birds now and then, the new processor is unlikely to get out of first gear and prove its worth.

7. New camera with sapphire crystal lens

After slimming down the phone Apple needed to make some changes to the camera to get it to fit in the new case. But instead of just moving some parts around, Apple reckons it has improved the quality with a new dynamic low-light mode,  precision lens alignment and a move to sapphire crystal lenses. There’s also improved image processing and it can apparently capture photos 40% faster.

What does this mean for me?
Without giving the camera the full lab testing we can’t give a definitive verdict on picture quality, but some of the test shots Apple has provided do look impressive. The camera on the last iPhone was one of the best we have seen on a smartphone so if the improvements live up to Apple’s claims it will be a tough one to beat. Check out the samples Apple has provided in the gallery below.

More on this…


Categories: Smartphones

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19 replies

  1. Please get your facts right. Nokia has been offering free navigation with ovi maps for more than 2 years now. No need to lie just so u can hype the phone

    1. No, you will need Model A1429 which is sold in Germany, Australia, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore – although there is also a CDMA version to be sold in Japan which won’t work on the networks.

  2. Can you give us a rundown on which versions of the iPhone (i.e. bought in which country) work on the 4G networks in which regions… for the travelers amongst us?

  3. I decided 2 years ago to stick with Apple to sync all my devices. I now have the iPhone, iPad and iMac…..just for personal use. I no longer work. I am not a computer wizard…but by God do I have fun with all my gadgets. I have my iphone5 on order now. I do wish it was the same size as the Galaxy note…..I don’t like the small keypad on the iPhone….and apparently that’s not changed. I prefer my writing larger….but never mind. I will look around more to see what’s been written…..but I am excited.

  4. Only a cursory mention of the fact that the iPhone has its own maps program after dropping Google maps. Would be good to understand how comprehensive and accurate this new version is, and if it includes traffic delays, for example.

    In fact, some further detail on actually how good this handset is would be key before blindly pre-ordering.

  5. I like to use SatNav apps on my motorbike in Landscape Mode. The iPhone4 can only lock in Portrait. Does the new version allow the phone to lock in Landscape?

  6. The hardware looks good but the OS is playing catchup. Panoramic pictures, dismiss a call with a text and 5 rows of icons has already been used by others. Sadly I won’t be getting the new phone as Apple don’t have that edge at the moment so I’ve jumped to Android, widgets and expending memory and the features such as drag and drop with no need for itunes have proved very useful. Which and all the other media outlets will hype it up but I’ve learnt that Apple sell a product for lots of money that can be had cheaper and very often done better elsewhere.

  7. I can’t understand why iPhone 5 should have a new connection lead !
    And the fact that you have to pay an extra £25 pound to get a connector to be able to fit onto the original lead is just money grabbing.. iPhone should have included this with the phone on my opinion if they where going to change it, as the price of the phone is high enough without having to pay extra for an additional connector to be able to use it with other devices.. Granted phone cases and extra stuff you should pay for but not that,as I’ve had to have three leads so far with my old iPhone as they keep breaking but as my son has an iPad I can just borrow his lead, but now not only will I have to fork out for an extra lead as its always handy to have two, incase you can’t find/ break the existing one. But also you have to go to the added expense of buying this new connector. Apple should have defiantly included one in the box, I truly think that there being a tad mean as why did it have to be changed in the first place.. Plus why do they advertise all this new cool stuff to be included on the phone, as when now reading about it it seems most of the stuff is mostly supported in the USA … I love iPhones and won’t be changing, but I do think apple should perhaps in future concentrate more on including stuff that perhaps supports the uk more then USA in future..

    1. The connector is for Apples benefit. The old one needed too much space inside the phone so they could not make the phone small enough and accomodate more function/battery etc. There was talk of making the adaptor free but Apple clearly must be in need of cash

    2. im in favour of new tec , but everything in my house and office will be out dated with the new connection , all my docking stations will now have to be renewed with all new adapters just so i can carry on using them, i would not mind if there was one in the box, and then have to buy the others . ! but to make it separate and a whopping £25.00 is a rip-off (ripoff Briton)it is a con.apple are one of the richest companies in the world. i have always had apple goods ,BUT i will never buy another iphone. they have no respect for customers. i will have no affect on there business.( just old me ),! but i do wonder if there are more unhappy customers , i will have new samsung ,my wife things its great . so by iphone! apple! one lost customer

    3. Apple always charge plenty for extras that should be given free as they know they can get away with doing so. This is down to so many people having such loyalty to apple that apple can do no wrong in their eyes.
      looking on the bright side, it will create plenty of opportunity for Chinese manufacturers to make adapters to enable you to use the iphone 5 on your existing docking stations.

    4. I agree. I love Apple products and the slick interface between products. But why charge £25 for an adapter which can only cost Apple £5? I’m happy to pay a premium for Macs, iPads, iPhones as they offer a premium experience. But give me an adapter at cost so that I am not alienated but a piece of kit which is just a necessity for a loyal customer. Maybe they cost £25 and I’ve missed the point?

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