Apple iPhone 5 Review

By on December 13, 2012
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Finally available in the UAE.

Good: Beautiful design, great camera and incredibly fast.
Bad: iOS looking dated and screen size could be bigger.
Price: AED 2749 onwards
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

Like it or not, you cannot argue that the iPhone is the device that proved to be the catalyst for the mass adoption of a full slate design phone. Apple continues to update the iPhone every year to bring it on par or exceed with the specs of the industry and every other year with a new design that pretty much sets the industry standard for other phones. This year’s model, the iPhone 5, continues in that path with a new design that, while being instantly recognizable as an iPhone, continues to astonish. But is design and specs the area that the iPhone really needs more work on? We find that out in our iPhone 5 review.


Packaged in the very familiar box, the iPhone 5 comes with the usual USB cable, charging plug and a pair of earphones. Apple has replaced the earphones with their new earpods that supposedly fit better in most ears and up the quality from the previous generation. Also included in the sim tray removal pin for the nano SIM- more on that later. In short, the packaging on the iPhone 5 is pretty similar to previous models with everything laid out neatly and easy to access.

Build Quality and Design

Although many people might not necessarily like Apple’s fenced ecosystem, few can argue the quality and design of their products. With the latest revision, the iPhone 5 manages to get thinner and lighter and yet provide you with a bigger screen size. Measuring 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm and weighing just 112g, the iPhone 5 is unmistakably similar to older iPhones and yet very new and extremely light in your hands. You might think it looks a bit too narrow for a phone with a 4.0” screen, especially if you’ve used some of the larger sized Android phones, but Apple has stuck to the same width to make sure that the iPhone continues to be very usable with a single hand- something you just can’t do with wider screens and second and more important.

The back of the iPhone 5 has been changed from a full glass back from the previous generation to a two tone design with small pieces of glass on top and bottom but an aluminium finish in the middle which is also used around the device. I received the black version of the phone which is not exactly black but has a slight shade of blue that looks incredibly slick and sexy. Hands down, it’s the most gorgeous phone that I’ve held to date.

On the left you have volume keys as well as the mute switch while the top continues to hold the lock button. The speakers are still positioned at the bottom which isn’t necessarily the best place for them as you can easily cover them with your hands when holding the unit sideways. Also found at the bottom is the 3.5mm audio jack and the new Lightning connector that has replaced the aging 30-pin iPod connector we’ve had for many many years.

Specs and Performance

The iPhone 5 continues to use a dual core processor although the Apple A6 that powers it seems to offer a significant performance boost over the older iPhone 4S and many Android devices. The triple core PowerVR SGX 543MP3 certainly helps push the graphics capabilities of the iPhone 5 and it is believed than Apple has doubled the RAM from 512MB to 1GB to make the device feel more snappy. the following table compares the iPhone 5 to the Nokia Lumia 920 as well as the Samsung Galaxy S III-  probably the two closest competitors for the iPhone 5.

Apple iPhone 5 Nokia Lumia 920 Samsung Galaxy S III
Dimensions 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm 130.3 x 70.8 x 10.7 mm 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm
Weight 112g 185g 133g
Screen Size 4.0 inches LED-backlit IPS TFT
640×1136 res, 326ppi
4.5″ IPS TFT ClearBlack
768 x 1280 res, 332ppi
Super AMOLED 4.8″
720 x 1280 res, 306ppi
Processors Apple A6
PowerVR SGX 543MP3
Qualcomm MSM8960 SnapDragon
Adreno 225
Exynos 4412
Max Speed 1.2 GHz Dual Core 1.5GHz Dual Core 1.4GHz Quad Core
Storage 16/32/64GB 32GB 16/32/64GB + MicroSD
OS at launch Apple iOS 6.0 Windows Phone 8 Android 4.0
Connectivity HSDPA 42.2 Mbps
HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
LTE Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
802.11a/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.0
HSDPA 42.2 Mbps
HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
LTE Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
802.11a/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 3.1
HSDPA 21 Mbps
HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
LTE Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
802.11a/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.0
Camera 8 MP
1.2 MP
1080p @ 30fps
8 MP Carl Zeiss with OIS
1080p @ 30fps
8 MP
1080p @ 30fps
Battery 1440 mAh Li-Ion 2000 mAh Li-Ion 2100 mAh
Price AED 2749 AED 2449 AED 2499
SunSpider 906ms 923ms 1505ms

The iPhone 5 beats the Nokia Lumia 920 in time to complete the Sun Spider benchmark in just 906ms making it the fastest phone we have tested to date.

Screen UI and Apps

Since the launch of iPhone, Apple has continued to use a 3.5” screen size. This was ok four years back but with other phones pushing the boundaries of portability, the iPhone’s screen started looking quite a bit on the smaller with. With the iPhone 5, Apple tries their best to give you a larger screen without increasing the size of the device by much and thus you now have a 4.0” screen that doesn’t necessarily look much bigger than the 3.5” screen on the previous iPhones. Touch technology is now integrated in the iPhone 5′s screen as opposed to a separate layer below the screen which makes the screen thinner and icons appear as though they are almost floating on the screen.

What Apple has done is simply make the screen taller and not wider. Thus the horizontal resolution remains the same at 640 pixels while the vertical resolution has increased from 960 to 1136 pixels. Where this helps with is that none of the developers need to recompile their apps to work on the iPhone 5. If your app is not optimized for iPhone 5, you will simply see black bars above and below the screen- very much like what you see when watching a widescreen movie at home. If you do update your app, you can utilize the full screen.

The User Interface on the iPhone is starting to show it’s age and an extra row of icons really doesn’t help much. While iOS 6 brings some interesting updates such as Facebook and Twitter integration as well as tap to tweet and post on Facebook, it looks pretty much like it did at launch. Looking at aon OS like Windows Phone or even Android with all it’s widgets certainly makes you want more out of your iPhone.

While the interface looks the same, the performance of moving between screens and apps is phenomenal- you will barely notice a lag or stutter on the iPhone 5 with everything moving in and out smoothly. Android has certainly imporved over the last year but the immediate responsiveness you get from an iPhone continues to but it ahead of Google’s OS as far as responsiveness is concerned.

The iPhone 5 doesn’t come with any exclusive app that you cannot get on older iOS devices. Apple’s updated iOS 6 does bring new apps like Maps and Passbook but they’re also available on iPhone 4S. Touching real quick on the two apps, Passbook doesn’t have any apps that are supported in the region and, although we know the disaster associated with Apple Maps, what makes it worse is that there are no turn-by-turn directions for this part of the world yet. Luckily Google Maps got released today and I’m sure Apple will get their mapping app sooner than later. Siri has also been updated providing more info on movies and sports as well as allowing you to tweet or post on Facebook but again, nothing ground-breaking as far as Apple apps are concerned is exclusive to iPhone 5.


Apple continues to improve the camera on the iPhone and although the number of pixels that the iPhone 5’s camera takes continues to stay at 8MP, you can see the difference in the speed and quality of shots. Low-light photos have certainly improved however, the Nokia Lumia 920 remains the king of phone cameras. Same thing with videos which are recorded in 1080p and are of pretty good quality but the Lumia bests it. You do have an option of taking a picture while shooting a video now as well as take Panoramic shots that stitches pictures together but again, these are new iOS features that are available on the older 4S. Where the iPhone helps significantly is the speed at which you can take pictures- it’s almost instant. However, there were time when I had to wait for the camera app to load.

The front camera also receives an update and now takes videos at 720p helping with Facetime videos which is sadly blocked in the UAE.

Battery Life

With a larger screen and faster processors, I wasn’t expecting the iPhone to not fare too well as far as battery life is concerned. After all, the iPhone has never been a contender for best battery life and the battery equipped on the iPhone 5 is marginally better on the new iPhone- 1440mAh vs 1432mAh on the iPhone 4S.

The result? You’ll get about the same time of usage on an iPhone 5 that you did on an iPhone 4S. For casual users that don’t have push mail, that means almost two days while moderate users should easily make it through a way. For heavy duty users, I’d expect a 12-14 hour day before needing to recharge and by heavy usage I mean push mail, a good hour or so of iPod usage, around the same for web browsing and some navigation.


The iPhone 5 is the best iPhone to date. That was a given. The question is that does it still have what it takes to compete with the latest generation of Android handsets as well as Windows Phone 8 handsets. In short, yes. The construction quality of the iPhone 5 is superior to any other phone I’ve reviewed and the interface is fast and butter smooth. Many apps still debut on the iPhone before making their way to other platforms- a testament to the eco-system that Apple has built.

What works against the iPhone 5 is iOS6 which is now showing it’s age. There is no denying that Android offers a lot more flexibility while Windows Phone 8 brings a slick new UI and Apple really needs to update the core OS. However that hasn’t stopped the iPhone 5 from selling out and I would suggest you get yours from Etisalat or du before that happens here in the UAE as it did with the iPhone 4S.

Prices for the iPhone starts at AED 2749 for 16GB which is slightly more than what you would pay for the Nokia Lumia 920 or the Samsung Galaxy S III LTE at the telcos. It’s not cheap but with most of these handsets, you are getting a quality product that should serve you well for a couple of years. Check out our iPhone 5 buyer’s guide to decide which plan works better for you between Etisalat and du.


Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

  • Antonio

    it’s a phone for sheeps…for sheeple

  • neu

    I’m not sure how could you tell that the iphone 5 construction quality is superior to any other handsets you have reviewed. You have compared it with the Lumia 920 for the camera right? Then you have reviewed the 920. So for you the built quality of 920 is inferior to iphone 5? Maybe the design yes but not the quality. Get your facts straight.

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