Digital Life

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Should you buy an iPhone 5?

Apple's new iPhone is improved in some key performance areas.

QUEUES of iPhone fans will form at Apple Stores and telco shops across the country, for tomorrow the iPhone 5 bursts upon the Australian scene.

I have owned every model of iPhone and stand accused of bias, but my journey with them has been one of discovery, satisfaction and connection. I expect that to continue with iPhone 5.

Apple's achievement, beyond the innovation, beauty and quality of its hardware, has been to create a digital ecosystem, safely and easily integrating hardware, software and, via iCloud, the internet - the whole box and dice of connection, community, work and play in this evolving digital world.

It differentiates Apple from its rivals, and the iPhone 5 is different, too. So, should you invest $799 or more in an iPhone 5? Let's look at some of its features and differences.

Is the screen better?

Yes, much. It's four-inch diagonal is half an inch bigger than the screens of all previous iPhones, but no wider, retaining its comfort in even small hands. Thus, it has significantly more screen acreage, valuable given that smartphones are now more often used for data than voice calls. So, more room for gamers and easier pecking with fingers on app pages.


The resolution is 1136 pixels by 640 pixels on an aspect ratio of 16:9, just like the latest high-definition television screens.

Does bigger mean lumpier?

Quite the reverse. At 112 grams, iPhone 5 is 20 per cent lighter than the 4S and, at 7.6 millimetres, 18 per cent thinner, partly because the multi-touch layer has been integrated with the actual screen film. Other smartphones apply the touch layer above the screen film, adding bulk. Colours are brilliant, with 44 per cent more colour saturation than the 4S.

The aluminium body is finished by high-speed diamond burnishers and anodised to match the handset's main colour: black or white. Corning's tough Gorilla Glass protects the screen.

Will your current library of apps run on iPhone 5?

Yes. Some have been modified but those still in 3.5-inch mode will work on the new iOS 6 operating system in ''letterbox mode'', that is, with black bars filling in the space the app does not fill.

Is it compatible with Australian 4G?

Yes. iPhone 5's radio handles more frequencies, including the 1800-megahertz band used by Telstra, Optus and Virgin Mobile for 4G LTE. The 4S's 4G ran on the 700MHz band, used in the US. Next year, apparently, these lower frequencies, used at present by television news units, will be offered to telcos for network expansion.

LTE can shift data at 100 megabits a second but in practice gives about 40Mbps - faster than many current desktop ADSL connections. The single radio chip in the iPhone 5 now handles seven technologies, with HSDPA+, DC-HSDPA and LTE now added to the GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO and HSPA run by iPhone 4S.

Better cameras?

Yes. The main camera has an eight-megapixel sensor with 3264-pixel by 2448-pixel resolution and a five-element f2.4 lens. Low-light performance is improved, as is colour rendition. The system produces full 1080p high-definition video. The five-megapixel front camera used for FaceTime video chat has 720p support. Sapphire crystal screens protect both lenses. With the new iOS 6 operating system, FaceTime now works over 3G cellular networks.

There's a new connector?

Apple has gone digital. The new connector, dubbed Lightning, is tiny and looks a bit like the high-speed Thunderbolt connector that has replaced FireWire in the latest MacBooks. The Lightning has eight pins either side and does not care which way up you insert it. But Apple will sell you an adapter so you may still use all those 30-pin-plug cables you acquired for your old iPhones, iPods and iPads. The USB input to the power brick is unchanged, as is the brick itself.

Is the iPhone 5 faster?

Yes. Though it is 22 per cent smaller than the A5 processor in the iPhone 4S, the A6 chip designed by Apple for iPhone 5 is twice as fast.

And battery life?

Much better. Apple claims eight hours for talking or browsing on 3G and 4G, 10 hours for wi-fi browsing or video viewing, 40 hours for music and 225 hours on standby.

But not yet for NFC: Judicious leaks from the Apple mothership, maybe, or careless talk by Asian suppliers sharpened speculation in the lead-up to the launch. But the rumour-mongers missed on NFC (near-field communication) giving tap-and-go payments capability. It is not in iPhone 5 - yet . NFC is still developing and Apple is known to care more about getting stuff nailed down and right than about being first.

Both iPhone 4 and 4S will still be sold, at reduced prices.