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Review: Apple iPhone 5 for AT&T

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What's not to like about a bigger Retina Display? The iPhone 5 is the first iPhone to break from the traditional 3.5-inch display that Apple has used since Day 1 for each subsequent generation of iPhone. The iPhone 5's display is the same width as previous generations (640 pixels), but a bit taller (1136 pixels, compared to 960 on the iPhone 4/4S). The result is a display that now has a 16:9 aspect ratio. Even by growing to four inches, the iPhoen 5's display is still much smaller than that of the Samsung Galaxy S III or the HTC One X, both of which offer 720 pixel HD displays. Personally, I was hoping Apple would go bigger than 4 inches, and would use the 1280 x 720 standard for HD content. It didn't. As it is wont to do, Apple chose its own pixel count.

The new display's aspect ratio matches much of the content available from the iTunes Store, such as movies and television shows. The Retina Display's pixels are packed so tightly that picking out individual pixels is near impossible. The iPhone 5's screen may not have the colorful brilliance of Samsung's Super AMOLED screens, but the iPhone 5's LCD is the sharpest out there, and still exceedingly bright. I found that using the auto-brightness feature worked well when transitioning from indoors to outdoors. It amped up the brightness when I walked outside, making it easier to see, and did the reverse when indoors to conserve power.

The biggest benefit to this taller screen is that you see a little more of everything on the iPhone. You can see more emails, more of your Facebook timeline, more of your Twitter feed, and so on — as long as the apps have been updated. Apps that haven't been customized to the iPhone 5 yet can't fill the entire screen. Instead, you get black bars (88 pixels each) above and below the content. It's a letterboxing effect, and it looks crummy. Unoptimized content practically swims on the front face of the phone.


The iPhone 5 has an entirely new radio and antenna design, and is the first iPhone able to access and use LTE 4G networks. I tested the AT&T version of the iPhone 5.

Signal performance on AT&T's regular HSPA 3G network was a bit mixed. Most of the time it would show the same number of bars that other AT&T devices showed. Every so often, however, it would completely freak out and drop the network altogether for a second or two before jumping back to full strength. I saw the iPhone 5 drop to AT&T's EDGE network several times, which is something I haven't seen any phone do in a while. I was not all that impressed with data speeds over AT&T's HSPA+ network. It peaked at 4.6Mbps down, but averaged closer to 1Mbps down. Uploads peaked at 1.4Mbps, but average 0.6Mbps. That's pathetic.

It was a different story under LTE 4G coverage. I drove to an office park that I know has AT&T LTE 4G coverage. Given that it was 10PM on a Saturday night, my guess is I had the entire LTE cell to myself. I saw peak download speeds of 28Mbps and peak uploads of 8Mbps. Averages were closer to 15Mbps and 4Mbps. When I drove away from the LTE 4G coverage area, the transition to HSPA coverage was seamless, but speeds dropped immediately.

The iPhone 5 didn't miss any calls, nor did it drop any, even in weak signal areas. I attempted to give the iPhone 5's antenna the "death grip" (a.k.a, obstruct the antennas with my hands), but it had no impact.


The iPhone 5 is the best iPhone yet for making calls. Sound quality is significantly clearer than on the iPhone 4S running on AT&T's network (in the exact same location). The clarity of the earpiece is much improved, as is the volume. The iPhone 5's speaker is the loudest for an iPhone, though it's not the loudest phone we've tested. The iPhone 5's noise cancellation tech worked well, as those who I called were able to hear me clearly even though a loud television was blaring in the background on my end of the call. My parents never sounded so good through a cell phone. Calls also sound good went routed to the speakerphone, which was clear and loud(er). The iPhone 5's speakerphone is not as loud as the best, but the combination of good quality and good volume means calls sound particularly good. Ringers and alert tones can be set to very loud volumes, and the vibrate alert (which can be customized!) is very, very strong.


Apple claims to have made all sorts of power-management tweaks to the iPhone 5, which also happens to pack the largest battery of any iPhone. It will last one full day no doubt. Even under heavy usage (and I mean heavy!), it lasted for a full 24 hours. I used the iPhone to check email, check RSS, take pictures, shoot video, upload images to Photo Stream, make calls, send tweets, play games, read the news, and download, install, and set up all my apps/accounts. I used the heck out of it, and it still had more than 20% power after 24 hours. Power users will probably want to charge every night, but it won't be necessary all the time.

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