Review: Apple's iPhone 5 destined for success

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

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The result, of course, is that older Dock products will not work with the new iPhone. Apple sells an adapter (available next month for $29) that may work, but that depends entirely on what the peripheral is and does. Having to buy an extra accessory has disappointed some people, but Apple innovates and the world keeps on ticking. Third-party Lightning support is a high priority for many companies, so early-adopters issues should subside soon.

Networking and LTE

Like last year's model, the iPhone supports HSPA, HSPA+, and DC-HSDPA on its auto-switching antenna design; like the iPhone 4S, you cannot hold this device wrong and block the data signal.

The big change this year is that this is the first iPhone to support LTE networking, the latest advance in cellular communications. Although the iPhone is late to the LTE party, so are most cities, as access is still limited. Actually, the lack of AT&T LTE anywhere I frequent in Orlando and surrounding areas is why I returned my AT&T iPad for one that uses Verizon's network: For LTE, Verizon simply has more coverage, though AT&T is working to catch up. Most of us will be relying on the same 3G connection speeds we've used before (though in some areas it's called "4G" by AT&T for marketing purposes).

AT&T is also the only carrier in the U.S. that has disallowed FaceTime calls over cellular -- unless you subscribe to a Shared Family data plan; Sprint and Verizon allow FaceTime calls with no problems.

Also notable: the iPhone 5 has a new Wi-Fi chip that supports 802.11a/b/g networks, as well as the 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n frequencies. The result, if you use 802.11n, is theoretical transfer speeds over Wi-Fi of up to 150Mbps.

Final thoughts

The question I often get is: "Should I upgrade?" If you're like a lot of iPhone owners whose contract is ending, you're likely upgrading from the iPhone 4, which arrived in June 2010. If you're interested in staying with Apple, then yes, the iPhone 5 is an all-around smart upgrade.

As noted already, though, you'll need to balance that with the fact that the new model is no longer compatible with cases made for earlier versions and the Lightning connector means accessories based on the old 30-pin version won't work.

Those quibbles aside, the iPhone 5 has been refined and improved in every aspect .

With the iPhone brand, Apple has developed a large store of good will -- that is, the assumption by techies and non-techies alike that whatever Apple ships will be better than its predecessor. That's why many people, including die-hard PC and Android fans, said they would buy the iPhone, sight unseen. It's a reputation for quality that has been built up over time, with each iPhone release exceeding expectations. It helps that Apple has consistently topped customer satisfaction surveys largely based on the company's focus, attention to detail, and high level of craftsmanship.

With iPhone 5, Apple once again delivers. The iPhone 5 is a great piece of hardware on its own. But when you factor in Apple's digital ecosystem (iTunes, the App Store, iBooks) and its integration with other products (Photo Streams, AirPlay and iCloud), and superior third-party support, you can see why the iPhone 5 is destined to be another major success.

iPhone 5 back side

The iPhone 5 features a matte black finish on the back, a change from the glass back on the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4.

Michael deAgonia, a frequent contributor to Computerworld, is a writer, computer consultant and technology geek who has been working on computers since 1993. You can find him on Twitter (@mdeagonia).

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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