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printed July 23, 2014
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Review: Apple iPhone 5 for AT&T

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Music

The iOS music application is about the same as it was when it first launched. It received a minor visual refresh this year, but nothing about it is all that spectacular or noteworthy.

Music sounds excellent when channeled through my favorite pair of headphones. Speaking of which, the new earpods from Apple, which are included with the iPhone 5, are a major step up from the crummy earbuds that Apple used to offer. They fit better in the ear, and sound leagues better. They're not good enough to make me give up my Shures, though.

 

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Video

The iPhone 5 can play back anything downloaded from the iTunes Music Store, as well as movies that you choose to sideload via iTunes (as long as there's no DRM involved). I watched Prometheus on the iPhone 5 and it looked fantastic. The 16:9 aspect ratio provides just a teensie bit more room for movies to stretch across the screen.

The YouTube app is no longer included with the iPhone. Thankfully, Google has made it available separately from the App Store. It's actually pretty good, but a bummer that you have to search it out yourself. The one sort point that might upset some people is that the YouTube app no longer supports AirPlay.

It's also worth downloading the Apple-developed Trailers and iMovie apps from the App Store. Trailers is free, but iMovie costs $4.99. The Trailers app does pretty much what the name says, and offers both SD and HD trailers for all the current and upcoming movies. iMovie can be used in conjunction with the iPhone 5's video camera to edit together little video creations.

 

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Camera

The camera app adds one excellent feature, but otherwise works the same as it did in iOS 5, iOS 4, etc.

The one new feature is the panorama mode. It works differently from what you might have seen on Android devices. Once you select panorama mode, you hold the iPhone 5 vertically. The software puts a box in the middle of the screen with an arrow pointing to the right. You can switch the arrow to face the other direction if you wish. You have to shoot the panorama by sweeping the iPhone from the left to the right or right to left. The app guides you through the process. You can take panoramas up to 270 degrees wide. That's three-quarters of the way around a full circle. It's a neat tool, and offers up to 28-megapixel full-size images. The panoramas I shot looked great, and were far more detailed than those I've taken with Android devices. The tool works better with static scenes. If you have people moving around, you'll notice they might be missing limbs in the final image. It worked equally well for close-up scenes and far-away scenes. Also, it stitches images together better than any other panorama tool I've seen.

The camera can be opened from the lock screen, and the Up volume button doubles as a shutter button. It's dead simple to use.

Oh, and it is the fastest camera phone ever. It blows every other camera phone away in terms of speed. It focuses instantly, captures the photos in a blink, and gets you back to the camera and in shooting mode in well under a second. It's insanely fast.

 

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Photos

The iPhone 5 has a 8-megapixel camera. It has been improved with better low-light capabilities, a lens that lets in more light, and other nerdy engineering tweaks. I thought colors were accurate and exposure was dead-on. Focus was a bit soft here and there, though. I shot some images on a cloudy day, which means there was pretty even lighting. The photos that I shot on a bright and sunny day were more consistent at getting white balance, exposure, and focus all correct. The iPhone 5 even did well with some indoor shots. More detail was visible in dark regions that other phones might have missed. By all accounts, it is an excellent camera.

 

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Video

The iPhone 5 shoots video at 1080p HD resolution. It looks great. I thought exposure was perfect, white balance accurate, and focus good. Moving objects were smooth and appeared natural with no stuttering or jerky movements. Sound captured while recording video sounded bright and clear.



Gallery

The iOS gallery app gets a little bit better every year, and this iOS 6 is no exception. The big change this year is more control over the Photo Stream function, which we detailed in our full review of iOS 6. The app offers minimal editing control (crop, rotate), and includes the full array of sharing options available in other parts of the operating system. That means you can send photos to Twitter or Facebook, email or MMS, or a printer.

If you're serious about editing photos on your device, spend $4.99 and download Apple's iPhoto for the iPhone. It has a multitude of features for manipulating photos after the fact, and includes a wide array of brushes, effects, and other tools. It's probably the best mobile photo editing app available.

 

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Apps

The iPhone App Store now has more than 700,000 apps. Do we really need to say anything else here? Apple's app ecosystem for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is unequalled. Go dive in and have fun.

Bluetooth

The iPhone 5 supports Bluetooth 4.0 with low energy (LE), which means it’s compatible with an array of Bluetooth-based sensors such as heart rate monitors, blood sugar monitors, and other health-related doodads that might want to talk to your phone. Of course, you can also pair the iPhone 5 with mono and stereo bluetooth headsets. I found audio quality of both to be excellent. Oh, and you can pair with some accessories, such as Bluetooth keyboards.

Browser

Apple really sped up Safari's performance. It absolutely flies on the iPhone 5. You can talk about Sunspider benchmarks and other obscure tests all day long if you want to. I'm telling you it's gotta be the fastest browser available. It loads pages in a blink, and they look really, really good on the iPhone 5's display. It's noticeably quicker than the iPhone 4S, and also bested Chrome running on an HTC One X. Safari also has new syncing capabilities that will bring over your open tabs from the desktop version of Safari and load them on the iPhone.

 

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Clock

The iPhone's lock screen hasn't changed much, but it still offers a decent-sized digital clock up at the top that can be used as a watch replacement.

Game Center

If you're the type to play games in a socially connected way, then Game Center is for you. It supports multi-player over-the-network gaming sessions and serves as a portal to all your gaming needs. it is easy to set up a profile and start engaging with friends (or total strangers, for that matter), and enjoy gaming with others.

GPS

The iPhone 5 ships with the brand new Apple Maps app. We looked at Apple Maps in detail in our iOS 6 review. The GPS radio itself performed just fine. Using Apple Maps, I was able to locate myself to within about 10 feet. The only problem is the speed. Sometimes it found me in an instant; other times it took close to a minute to pinpoint me. Hopefully this is a software bug and not something specific to the GPS hardware of the iPhone 5. Most phones provide an exact location in less than 20 seconds.

Newsstand

Apple put a magazine-consumption app on the iPhone last year called Newsstand. It is present on the iPhone 5, as well. It works with the App Store and allows you to download and read magazines on your iPhone. Buying and/or subscribing to magazines is painless if you have an iTunes account all set up.

Passbook

Passbook is Apple's new app for replacing tickets, coupons, and loyalty cards. See our full rundown of Passbook in the iOS 6 review.

Siri

Siri is much better, but still not perfect. See our full rundown of Siri in the iOS 6 review.

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