Review: Apple's iPhone 5 destined for success

It builds on the legacy of its predecessors with bigger screen, faster chip, LTE

As expected, the iPhone 5 already appears to be a big success for Apple. Buyers flooded Apple's online store on Sept. 14 to get their pre-orders in, while delivery times for those who waited have already backed up to mid-October. According to Apple, two million iPhone 5s were sold in the first 24 hours they were available. (Full disclosure: I was among those online just after 3 a.m. ET.)

iPhone 5 in black
The new iPhone 5, in black, with the Music app running. The larger screen allows more info to be displayed.

The iPhone 5 is the first iPhone to sport a 16:9, 4-in. screen, a new custom-designed A6 chip for improved performance, LTE wireless access and an aluminum-backed redesigned case. Not surprisingly, people waited in lines for days outside some retail stores to get an iPhone 5 when they went on sale Friday morning, and most places quickly sold out. That was true of various Apple Store locations (which should get renewed shipments of stock this week), as well as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint stores.

Over the past few years, the iPhone has become so important to Apple that iPhone revenues alone now dwarf the whole of Microsoft.

I've spent a few days with Apple's latest phone, as well as iOS 6, and my quick-take verdict is that Apple has again delivered a product worthy of the iPhone name and legacy. (That's true for both the phone itself, and for iOS 6 -- despite complaints by some users that the new Maps app isn't as well-done as its Google-based predecessor.)

Apple has clearly learned lessons from previous generations; the iPhone 5 is better in every facet than its predecessor, the hugely popular 4S.

In true Apple form, prices remain unchanged. The 16GB model sells for $199, the 32GB model goes for $299, and the top-end, 64GB model retails for $399 (all prices require a two-year deal with your wireless carrier). The 16GB iPhone 4S is now just $99 (with a two-year commitment), and the 8GB iPhone 4 is free, with contract. As before, you can have any color you want, as long as you want white or black.

On Friday morning, before my iPhone 5 was delivered (I bought the 64GB version), I made sure to back up my iPhone 4S to iCloud (go to Settings>iCloud>Storage & Backup and tap the Backup Now button). Yes, if you have iCloud backups properly configured, your iPhone backs up your data to Apple's servers when it's idle and connected to a power source and Wi-Fi network; manually doing one last-minute backup was my OCD kicking in. Backing up to iCloud allows you to do a restore anywhere there's Wi-Fi access. And it meant I could get the new iPhone 5 up and running quickly.

In the box

The iPhone 5 arrived in a box similar in size to past models, although slightly taller and a smidgen wider. Included inside were a wall plug, a basic printed welcome packet (complete with two Apple stickers), Apple's new headphones, now called EarPods, and a USB 2.0 to Lightning connector. The new connector replaces the 30-pin Dock connector, which has been standard since the first iPod in 2001.

The iPhone 5 is pure iPhone, retaining the iconic single-button front face, with this year's model enclosed in a thinner, taller, aluminum and glass housing. The black model features a black aluminum antenna design that frames the outer edge of the the phone; the back housing is mostly comprised of a dark gray aluminum panel sandwiched between two glass inlays at the top and bottom. (The glass sections help with reception.) The white model features a gleaming silver antenna frame around the edge, and a backplate made of a gray aluminum instead of the darker slate color on the black model.

There are a couple of other cosmetic changes to note: the FaceTime camera is now centered above the noise-canceling earpiece, and the headphone jack has been moved to the bottom.

Keith Shaw and Ken Mingis discuss the features of Apple's iPhone 5 smartphone, and whether the larger screen, 4G LTE network and other features will excite the legions of Apple fans.

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