The iPhone 5 really is all that

5 Nov

The iPhone 5 truly is the best iPhone yet and arguably the best smartphone out there.

Just two weeks ago, I was fickle about the new iPhone 5.

Peeved about the new connector, which makes my Zeppelin speaker obsolete, I came that close to buying an iPhone 4S instead.

But I came to my senses. I bought the new iPhone. And now, having used it for two weeks, I’m totally smitten. This really is the best iPhone yet and vastly superior to my old iPhone 3GS (the reviews say it’s better than the 4S as well, but I have no basis of comparison).

I love everything about this phone. I’ve not had time to play with a lot of apps, but have noticed faster operation in every way, from loading apps to downloading content from my computer to loading pages on the Internet. And I mean much faster. Seriously fast.

The audio quality of phone calls is improved with “warmer” sounding voices in the speaker. People you call will also notice a difference, thanks to the addition of two more microphones and enhanced noise-canceling capability.

The phone is lighter, thinner and has a bigger screen. It also has 1 GB of RAM – double that of the old phone.

The maps application has been criticized for its surfeit of inaccuracies, but this is a software issue that will be addressed in due course. Meanwhile, the phone seems to work as well as a dedicated GPS – as long as you’re pulling down a signal.

But really, it’s the camera that makes it for me. The 4S was already renowned for its image quality, but the 5 beats it in a number of ways. It produces sharp, nicely exposed photos in an 8 megapixel resolution sufficient for printing. It has a built-in HDR (high dynamic range) feature that captures three exposures of the same shot and blends them into one noticeably better photo, with colour and detail in both the dark and light zones. Once you try it, you might want to leave the camera in HDR mode all the time.

The most remarkable feature is the panorama, which allows you to shoot an extremely wide shot (spanning 240 degrees and up to 28 megs in size). For example, you could stand on the Big Lookout in Gros Morne National Park, and start capturing – much like shooting video – the entire panorama, from Gros Morne Mountain on your left to the Tablelands on your right. The camera then sews it all together, frame by frame, into one extended image. Very cool.

The camera’s shutter speed is now twice as fast at 1/2000 of a second, enabling you to freeze pretty much the quickest of action. The colour saturation is now “44 percent greater” which translates into richer, deeper, brighter colour. And the camera’s processor has greater sensitivity, allowing you to shoot in lower light situations.

The amount of time that lapses between when you decide to take a photo and are ready to shoot can be critical. A funny, touching or exciting moment can be lost if the camera takes too long to start up, and the iPhone 5 camera opens more than a second faster than the previous camera. It also takes less time to measure light and focus before capturing. The result, Apple says, is a camera that takes pictures 40 percent faster.

No, the iPhone camera is not as good as professional camera gear – not yet, anyway – but is definitely on par with many point and shoot cameras. As well, the 1080p HD video function is easily as good as the Flip videocamera. Which means two less gadgets to be toting around.

There is a saying in photography: the best camera is the one you have with you. And how many of us carry separate cameras around all the time? This is where the smartphone rules.

One tech critic complained that the iPhone’s screen is smaller than that of the Samsung Galaxy Note, which is correct. Whether or not that criticism is valid will depend on your own perspective. I used the Note for more than a month and was truly impressed with the size and quality of the screen. And I eventually adjusted to lugging it around. But then I picked up the iPhone, saw how perfectly it fit my hand and pocket, and realized that I missed it. For me, the screen size of the iPhone 5 is perfect. If I want larger, I’ll get a tablet.

I’m not one who advocates snapping up the newest piece of technology, especially if your phone is working fine and you’re still in a contract. But if your phone has seen better days and you’re eligible for an upgrade, you really can’t go wrong on the iPhone 5.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at http://www.thetelegram.com.

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