The iPhone 5 is Apple’s answer to a changing smartphone market and the next evolution in the iPhone story and the Apple brand, but how does it measure up to the iPhone 4S?
Apple iPhone 4S VS iPhone 5: Design
It’s always interesting to try and distill what it is that Apple’s designers thought when they were tasked with bringing new life to a flagship product – a task made all the more difficult when the challenge is to redesign one of the most successful designs of all time, one used for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.
The leap from iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4 was significant from a design perspective, the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 4S less so, but the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5 is an interesting balance, changing key elements of the now established iPhone ‘look’ without alienating the current fan base. To the eye, the key styling elements are all there: thin, precise lines, a blend of metals and glass that exude a sense of quality and refinement and of course the all important Apple logo shining on the phone’s back.
The iPhone 5 is 7.6mm deep, while the iPhone 4S is 9.3mm deep, so the overall look is less obtrusive than that of the iPhone 4S. Weighing 112g to 140g, the iPhone 5 is significantly lighter than the iPhone 4S and initially feels unnaturally light if you’ve grown accustomed to the last two iPhones.
Looking at the back panel, the iPhone 4S is made of a single piece of glass, while the iPhone 5 sports a two-tone glass and aluminium aesthetic, in black and slate or white and silver, adding strength to the frame of the handset and reducing the risk of a cracked glass back, as seemed all too common with many a iPhone 4S user. Having said that, some iPhone 5 users have reported the aluminium is more prone to scratches than the iPhone 4S.
The headphone jack on the iPhone 5 now sits underneath the device next to the speaker and microphone grilles, moving from its top position on the iPhone 4S. It’s personal preference as to whether you prefer the old position, with its proximity to the volume controller. The iPhone 5 now has Apple’s new Lightening connector port which is significantly smaller than the ancient 30-pin connector on the iPhone 4S.
Apple iPhone 4S VS iPhone 5: Screen
The most significant difference between the two phones is the size of the screen. Previous iPhones never strayed from the 3.5-inch display size, the iPhone 5’s screen now comes in a 4-inch flavour.
Apple has increase the resolution of its new flagship to 1136×640 pixels, compared to iPhone 4S’s 640×960 resolution, the iPhone 4S has a slightly higher PPI of 330 in contrast to 326ppi on the iPhone 5. Apple quotes 326ppi for both though, however to the eye there’s very little difference and text is exceptionally sharp. Apple has increased the colour saturation of the iPhone 5’s LCD by 44 percent, so colours are bolder and brighter on the iPhone 5.
With its new size and resolution the iPhone 5 is now better suited to 16:9 video playback than the 3:2 aspect ratio of the iPhone 4S. Apps will need optimising and updating to fit the iPhone 5’s new format, so some currently have pillar boxing – which doesn’t look great, especially on the white version.
Apple iPhone 4S VS iPhone 5: Performance
As Apple boasted at the iPhone 5’s launch event, the processing and graphical prowess are twice that of the already capable iPhone 4S. The Apple-made A5 processor in the 4S has been exchanged for the new A6 chip, which now features a 1.2GHz dual-core processor rather than the 1GHz of before. Memory too has doubled to 1GB for some extra clout.
In general use the iPhone 5 feels marginally quicker than the iPhone 4S, apps load more quickly and general navigation feels fluid. At the moment the iPhone 5 doesn’t do anything that the iPhone 4S can’t do, so their real world benefit most likely won’t come into play until new, more demanding apps reach the App Store.
The reworked internals and added space brought on by that larger display means the iPhone 5 has a marginally larger 1440mAh battery (the iPhone 4S used a 1432mAh battery) which outperforms the iPhone 4S despite having to power the aforementioned bigger screen.
The iPhone 5 now supports 4G, meaning it will be able to access faster internet speeds, supposedly up to five times faster than the3G speeds reachable on the iPhone 4S, although, it’s worth bearing in mind that it only supports the 1800mHz 4G band here in the UK, which is exclusive to EE customers (Orange or T-Mobile) and later Three. EE invited us to speed test its new network using Speedtest.net and the iPhone 5 is significantly faster, reaching a download speed of 43.22Mbps, although speeds will vary depending on location.
Apple iPhone 4S VS iPhone 5: User interface
The usability of the device is governed primarily by the operating system included and the iPhone 5 is the debut handset to feature the new version of Apple’s operating system; iOS 6.
The gap between iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 is narrower than you might think though, as the iPhone 4S also runs iOS 6 and surprisingly Apple didn’t keep any feature back exclusively for the iPhone 5.
Apple has brought a number of new features to the table, including Passbook and Maps but for the most part the interface and navigation around the UI is the same. Naturally the new native applications have the ability to scale to the larger display size, so services such as Mail and Safari are able to display more message or web page respectively in one go.
Apple iPhone 4S VS iPhone 5: Camera
The camera UI is significantly different with a less obtrusive design and new shutter button icon from within the iPhone 5’s camera app. Despite the discrepancies both iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 offer Panorama which works extremely well on either phone as well as a continuation of features such as HDR photography.
It was a little disappointing that the numerical jump of the new iPhone’s name didn’t carry across to its camera. As with the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 continues the trend of employing an 8-megapixel snapper on the back, which has been redesigned to fit the frame, yet offers the same great versatility as before.
Images are vibrant and it copes very well with contrast and low light noise, with improved clarity in every aspect, likely thanks to to a new sapphire crystal lens which Apple opted for thanks to its strength and transparency.
The front-facing iSight camera technically sees greater innovation in the jump from iPhone 4S to iPhone 5, as for the first time Facetime can go HD.
The VGA camera which shot video at 480p resolution on the iPhone 4S was perfectly serviceable, however the new unit on the iPhone 5 is a 1.2-megapixel front-facer capable of 720p HD video, vastly improving the quality of video calling.
Apple iPhone 4S VS iPhone 5: Verdict
The iPhone 5 looks like the natural evolution of the iPhone 4S, with Apple having shaved fat from its profile whilst enhancing and in many cases added a number of features. Although crucially iPhone 4S get virtually the same features, so don’t miss out on anything new. We’re yet to see the iPhone 5 really get up to full speed but no doubt it won’t take long for developers to gravitate towards the newer iPhone. That is to say, iPhone 4S users might start to see barricades for select apps appear increasingly frequently, despite the fact that for now, the playing field is a little more even.
Adjusted to reflect the ppi