First among equals

Ashish Bhatia | Print Edition: January 2013

iPhone 5
Price: Rs 45,500 (16 GB)
Specs: iOS 6; 4-inches LED-backlit IPS TFT; Dual-core 1.2 GHz Apple A6; 1 GB RAM; 4G LTE; 8MP camera; H 123.8 x W 58.6 mm x D 7.6 mm; 112 gm; Li-Po 1440 mAh.

For some, the best just got better. The sixth avatar of the iPhone looks slimmer, slicker, slighter and more svelte and elegant than ever before. Tipping the scales at just 112 gm and a mere 0.3 inches thick, the latest iPhone with its largely aluminium rear panel feels incredibly light but positively solid. And it is anything but plasticky.

The stretched 4-inch design of this tall boy-which allows an extra row of icons on the screen-makes it easier to grip and more usable with one hand. In the horizontal mode, the new screen has a 16:9 asthus Oh yes, the iPhone 5 runs discernably faster. At its heart is a new A6 dual-core processor from Apple , ticking at 1.2GHz, which is nearly double the speed of what lies embedded in iPhone 4S. The larger 4-inch means that 18 per cent more pixels have been crammed in to give a 1136x640p resolution to the eye-popping Retina display with 326 pixels per inch density.

The good thing is that battery life remains unaffected (8 hours of talk time; 8 hours of 3G browsing) and easily lasts you through the day-pretty much outlasting most Android phones out there. There is an audible improvement in the voice and audio quality - in calls made and received as well on the speaker-both in terms of clarity and loudness. The new EarPod headphones - though far from the ultimate - are way better than their previous avatars. Apart from a far more comfortable fit in the ear, they offer more thump on the bass front. While the camera on the iPhone 5 remains 8 megapixel-and a delight to shoot with during the day-it now offers excellent low-light imaging abilities for a smartphone cam. And the Panorama shooting functionality stitches up the fields seamless and beautifully, even in dim lighting conditions. The new and improved iOS 6 software update ensures that it has the same DNA as the previous iPhones. While Android has grown by leaps and bounds and in several instances now surpasses the more sedate iOS, the coders at Cupertino have packed and polished enough to keep the operating system at the leading edge.

New call response options, a Do Not Disturb feature, FaceTime calling over cellular, FaceBook integration, individual signatures for different mail accounts, and a VIP inbox for email are the primary improvements. By far the biggest downer for all and sundry are the iOS 6 Maps. By now the stuff of many spoofs and less than objective autopsies, this is an area where Apple has undeniably blundered and bungled. And there seems no immediate succor in sight for now, other than turning to Google Maps or Nokia Here.

In terms of interface, naysayers find the still very mute icons-as compared to Android's info-at-a-glance widgets and Windows live tiles - static and boring. While it retains its perch as the benchmark for smartphone design and the durability of the aluminum rear (combined with the Gorilla Glass front) gives it the ability to absorb shocks and knocks better, complaints of scratches and scruffs to the body paint coating have been heard.

Yet, all-in-all, the iPhone cult endures… For the Apple aficionado and iPhone idolater there is enough and more than enough innovation and improvement in here to draw applause, even instant grins and wows. Even hardcore Android fans grudgingly grunt their approval at this one. It resets the bar in terms of hardware design. The iPhone 5 comes in either white and silver or black and slate. And just as it doesn't feel cheap, it doesn't come cheap. The Rs 45,500 (16GB), Rs 52,500 (32GB), and Rs 59,500 (64GB) price tags make you gasp and gulp. That's a lot of bucks for this bang.

But if you want the most evolved and refined phone out there right now-and one that offers unarguably the best cache of fine spun apps - you've got to shell out the shillings. If you have extra moolah stashed in your bank, it may be well worth the monetary setback to pick this first among equals.

BAG IT OR JUNK IT? Still a benchmark for smartphone design.

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