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The Apple iPhone 5 has arrived

The iPhone 5 uses a smaller nine-pin USB cable, called Lightning, which comes in the box but is not yet readily available in stores or online.

The iPhone 5 uses a smaller nine-pin USB cable, called Lightning, which comes in the box but is not yet readily available in stores or online.

There is no hiding the fact that when Apple launches a new iPhone, the technology world spends an endless stream of words on it. Indeed, rumours on the next model start the day after a new model is launched.

Malta is party to this frenzy as the Maltese are increasingly adopting the iPhone and other smartphones.

The iPhone 5 is finally coming officially to Malta, just a few weeks after the launch in other countries. The question begs: should you get one?

Different people would have a different answer to this question. There are the veteran iPhone users, users of other smartphone brands, and plain old mobile users who just want to call and text.

So what does the iPhone 5 really have to offer?

Apple says the latest iPhone has a new four-inch Retina display, an Apple-designed A6 chip for blazing fast performance, and ultrafast wireless technology – all while delivering even better battery life. iPhone 5 comes with iOS 6, the world’s most advanced mobile operating system with over 200 new features including the all-new Maps app with Apple-designed cartography and turn-by-turn navigation, Facebook integration, Passbook organisation; and even more Siri features and languages. Sounds impressive, and in part it truly is.

The iPhone 5 is a beauty. Apple is among the best designers of aesthetically-beautiful technology and the latest iPhone is another feather in their cap. The new four-inch screen is larger than previous models and therefore it has more real estate for internet and apps, plus it’s a Retina display, the best around for smartphones.

The larger screen does not translate into a heavier phone. On the contrary, Apple managed to make it lighter, thanks to some trimming, including the use of the nanoSIM rather than the microSIM and a new smaller USB adapter. It’s still perfectly possible to touch any part of the screen with the thumb while holding it in one hand.

Processing power has been improved compared to the iPhone 4S, the previous model. The A6 processor is faster and handles the most demanding apps with ease.

The larger screen and the increased processing power go heavy on the battery. There is a limit how light you can go without having a large battery to cater for all these needs. The iPhone 5 inherits battery issues from the 4 and 4S, in the sense that the user has to be very careful and take the usual precautions in order to prolong battery life, such as dimming the brightness, closing unused apps and switching off wi-fi when not in use so that the juice lasts longer.

Speaking of wi-fi and connectivity, the iPhone 5 is good on wi-fi and sports LTE, the next generation mobile communication system which is faster than 3G. It is a pity that no mobile operator in Malta is offering LTE at the moment.

Siri on iPhone 5 is better than it was on the 4S, though there is more room for improvement.

The rear eight-megapixel camera is good and yes, there are smartphones with more powerful cameras, but the camera and four-inch Retina display com-bination is nice. The front camera can record 720p video.

In terms of software, the iPhone 5 comes with iOS6, which is also available free to install on older iPhone models. iOS 6 is not really the highlight of the new iPhone, although it introduces Passbook for e-commerce vouchers and the new Apple Maps with turn-by-turn navigation (not yet available in Malta).

Unfortunately the Apple Maps are a complete let-down compared to Google Maps, and users are truly collateral damage in the war between Apple and Google. We would like to think that no such thing would have happened if Steve Jobs were still alive. Updates are expected from Apple in this area.

Then there are the little things to keep in mind. The iPhone 5 uses a smaller nine-pin USB cable (called Lightning), which comes in the box but is not yet readily available from stores or online except from Apple. This means that if you buy the iPhone 5 you have just one cable to carry with you everywhere until adapters or cables by third-party manufacturers are available.

Then there is the issue of scratches. Some users have complained that aalthough it is aesthetically pleasing, it is easily scratched. We could not verify this as we could not try to scratch it on purpose!

Since rumours on the iPhone 5 had been doing rounds for months, and people fuelled the frenzy with their wish lists, many expected the iPhone 5 to do everything for everything. It does not. Some iPhone 4S users might think they can easily skip the 5, and they are right. Those still on 3G and 3GS should upgrade immediately. The iPhone 5 is constantly being compared to the Samsung Galaxy SIII and a host of other large-display Android-based smartphones. For example, some still see the lack of NFC in the iPhone 5 as an important miss. This is a debate with no definite winner.

Our verdict: iPhone 5 is an improvement over previous iPhone models and it remains one of the best smartphones around.

The iPhone 5 was made available for review by Vodafone Malta, Apple’s official communications partner in Malta.

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