The iPhone 5: A Smartphone Of Extraordinary Grace [Review]

Display

The iPhone 5: A Smartphone Of Extraordinary Grace [Review]

The iPhone 4S display looks grimy compared to the iPhone 5.

Over the last couple of years, Apple has become synonymous with quality displays. Starting with the incredible revelation of the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, Apple has specialized in making their displays more beautiful than the competition. While Retina displays haven’t come to all of Apple’s products yet, it’s clearly the future: when you look at one of their devices, Apple wants the screen itself to look like what’s on it is more real and alive than the competition.

The iPhone 4 was the first step towards this goal. Like digital camera makers before them, Cupertino started by cramming the iPhone 4’s display with as many pixels as possible, doubling the resolution to a then-unheard-of 960 x 640 resolution. According to Apple, this meant that from 10-12 inches away, the iPhone 4’s Retina display matched the “resolution” of the human eye, making pixels too small to be individually discerned (this actually isn’t true, but there’s no doubt it was a vast improvement).

The iPhone 5: A Smartphone Of Extraordinary Grace [Review]

There’s more to display quality than just pixels.

The iPhone 4 and 4S Retina display had some small problems, though. According to display expert and DisplayMate honcho Dr. Raymond Soneira, the colors tended to be undersaturated, with too much contrast. The display also reflected about 8.1 percent of the light that bounced off of it, making it harder to see in bright light. The temperature of colors on the display was a little too blue, while the color gamut was only about 64 percent of what it should have been, with small color shifts and large brightness drops when viewed from angles other than having been seen head-on.

In other words, just like in digital cameras, there’s more to image quality than just resolution. With the new iPad and the Retina MacBook Pro, Apple solved most of the above problems. For the iPhone 5, Apple has rolled all of these improvements into their smartphone. The result is a display that looks every bit as vivid and bright and inky and colorful as the Retina MacBook Pro, just in the palm of your hand.

The blacks feel as if they have been painted on, and the brights shine.

Look at an iPhone 5 display, then look back at the screen on an iPhone 4S. It’s enough to make you say “bleccch.” Compared to the iPhone 5’s screen, the iPhone 4S looks washed out, dim to the eyes, as if there were a thin layer of grimy dish water between the glass and the panel. I’m not an expert in display quality, so the scientific tests I’ll leave to the likes of Dr. Soneira, but the effect is profound: colors are more colorful without being luridly oversaturated, and there are more of them. (Phil Schiller claims that, unlike the iPhone 4S’s meager 64%, the iPhone 5 runs the entire color gamut.) The blacks feel as if they have been painted on, and the brights shine.

The iPhone 5: A Smartphone Of Extraordinary Grace [Review]

The iPhone 5’s in-cell touchscreen.

Perhaps all of this talk of color gamut and contrast misses the point, though. The starkest improvement in the iPhone 5’s display isn’t that it has better colors or brightness or contrast, but the fact that it no longer seems to be light just shining out from under glass. Instead, the effect of using an iPhone 5 is as if you are looking at the surface of a painting upon glass. It’s absolutely beautiful.

The effect isn’t imaginary, either: it’s the result of a couple of major technological improvements of the iPhone 5. The first is Apple’s use of Gorilla Glass 2 for the screen, which is 20% thinner than its predecessor. The second is the new In-Cell touch technology used in the iPhone 5, which combines the LCD and the touchsensing layer into one. What this all means is that what’s on your iPhone 5’s screen is actually closer to your eyes than it once was and separated by less glass.

We have no doubt that in the iPhone 6, Apple will find a whole new way to wow us when it comes to display quality. But if the ultimate goal of display technology is to make the screen in front of your eyes like looking through a window to another world, Apple has taken that window and flung it open.

Related
  • ddevito

    Where are your sections for:

    poor durability building materials
    Light leakage
    Rattling battery

  • brownlee

    Where are your sections for:

    poor durability building materials
    Light leakage
    Rattling battery

    No where. Because those problems are imaginary.

  • Tallest_Skil

    No where. Because those problems are imaginary.

    You’re an administrator! BAN this freak! He hasn’t made a single post in which the truth was anywhere near it! His sole purpose here is to lie about Apple to modify public opinion!

  • ddevito
    Where are your sections for:

    poor durability building materials
    Light leakage
    Rattling battery

    No where. Because those problems are imaginary.

    https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4337007?start=0&tstart=0

  • Ed_Kel
    No where. Because those problems are imaginary.

    You’re an administrator! BAN this freak! He hasn’t made a single post in which the truth was anywhere near it! His sole purpose here is to lie about Apple to modify public opinion!

    I just posted links PROVING these issues do indeed exist. Check yourself before embarrassing yourself.

    Dude, give it a rest. As with any manufacturing process, there are bound to be a few hiccups. These problems are not widespread. Apple will fix it and everyone will move on from it. I suggest you do the same.

  • ddevito
    No where. Because those problems are imaginary.

    You’re an administrator! BAN this freak! He hasn’t made a single post in which the truth was anywhere near it! His sole purpose here is to lie about Apple to modify public opinion!

    I just posted links PROVING these issues do indeed exist. Check yourself before embarrassing yourself.

    Dude, give it a rest. As with any manufacturing process, there are bound to be a few hiccups. These problems are not widespread. Apple will fix it and everyone will move on from it. I suggest you do the same.

    You and all the other crazed fanatics are back peddling. And I love it. Had this been a flagship Android phone I’m sure you fanboys would be all over it. I’m just making sure everyone is aware of what is going on is all.

  • Macky Suson

    I just love how people fight and try to look forward of getting bad news from Apple. Well, let me tell you this. I love Apple products not because people are talking about it, well it’s a plus that a lot of people are talking about it, but that’s not the main point.

    About the map, Apple’s map can shitty as hell right now, but was Google’s Map perfect when it was just starting? I don’t think so. Google’s map is plain and boring. That’s why back to iOS 5, I paid for an App called Gothere.sg which has a better interface and more accurate than that Google Map. I respect Android users being contented with a copy cat OS. Yes it’s a copy cat and I don’t need any proven article to post here because I know most every one is aware about that. They’re map is boring because they just keep updating… that’s it. Updating. Have you heard about Google Map Developers transferring to Apple? That’s right… it’s because they want something challenging and that is making a new world of iMapping.

    My first Android was Samsung 7″ the one with the huge screen for a phone, 2010 model. Battery… f***ing King of Drain. Apps? King of Foreclosure! and then I sold it. I bought the Acer Iconia after that with the “claimed” better OS, but the difference? Nothing! I wasn’t happy about it. That’s why I decided to buy an iPhone 4. Camera? Not good. Call experience, not good. But I was happy, because at least I can open Twitter, Facebook, Skype, YM, and some good games without foreclosing every time I used it… and then iOS 5 arrived. And it was hell lot better…. And there, I knew, I was gonna stick to it. I love the integration, Find My Phone, Find My Friend, iCloud, iMessage, Facetime and by that time… it was the fastest and consistently reliable OS, iOS. And I bought iPad 2. And Macbook Pro. And iPod Touch, because it was easy for me to synchronize my contacts, mail, notes and calendars. And I can sync it with iTunes wirelessly… and I was happy with that… why? It’s because it’s just getting better and better… and better…. and better. And here comes the copy cat “Shamesung” which they’re followers, who can merely afford iPhone or just born being bullies who coined iSheep. Until now, I don’t understand how it was invented… and I don’t bother knowing it. Why, because I just don’t care.

    Finally, I love my Apple products…. and no one could tell or dictate me, not to love it. And I will not stop using it because of the Map. The Map is just getting started. And I know for sure, with the Turn by Turn and Flyover and with the developers who are starting to develop something for Transits, sooner or better, it’s gonna be great.

    P.S, I am Asian and Siri and I are now best of friends. And I got an iPhone 5 on’ it’s first day. I AM VERY HAPPY. So haters just keep hating…. because I don’t care. ;)

  • brownlee

    ddevito, I’m not going to review issues that are not present in my device, but point taken: a small number of users are having these issues. We’ve been posting about them on the front page. I think you can make your point without spamming link after link in the comments here, though, so I’ve deleted all of your link comments but the one, which I think makes the points you want.

  • ddevito
    No where. Because those problems are imaginary.

    You’re an administrator! BAN this freak! He hasn’t made a single post in which the truth was anywhere near it! His sole purpose here is to lie about Apple to modify public opinion!

    I just posted links PROVING these issues do indeed exist. Check yourself before embarrassing yourself.

    Dude, give it a rest. As with any manufacturing process, there are bound to be a few hiccups. These problems are not widespread. Apple will fix it and everyone will move on from it. I suggest you do the same.

    When a company takes the stage and tells the world how much better they are at designing and making something expect nothing but the best. Anything else gets scrutinized. Deal with it.

  • ddevito

    ddevito, I’m not going to review issues that are not present in my device, but point taken: a small number of users are having these issues. We’ve been posting about them on the front page. I think you can make your point without spamming link after link in the comments here, though, so I’ve deleted all of your link comments but the one, which I think makes the points you want.

    Fair enough, but you replied saying the issues were imaginary :)

  • SupaMac

    @brownlee, girlfriend? I thought you lived with your inamorata. I liked that word better. :)

  • BryanElliott

    Nice wallpaper. Can you point me to the source Mr. Brownlee ?

  • Ed_Kel

    @brownlee – @ddevito has been flagged as a troll 363 times. When the HELL will you block him?! How can people respect a site that its own administrators don’t respect enough to keep clean?! We come here for news and thoughtful engagement with fellow readers yet lately, and with ddevito’s 363 flags, we have been bombarded with thoughtless degrading comments. Start handling your site or you’ll begin to loose your readership.

  • FriarNurgle

    Can’t wait for mine to get delivered.

  • ddevito

    I just love how people fight and try to look forward of getting bad news from Apple. Well, let me tell you this. I love Apple products not because people are talking about it, well it’s a plus that a lot of people are talking about it, but that’s not the main point.

    About the map, Apple’s map can shitty as hell right now, but was Google’s Map perfect when it was just starting? I don’t think so. Google’s map is plain and boring. That’s why back to iOS 5, I paid for an App called Gothere.sg which has a better interface and more accurate than that Google Map. I respect Android users being contented with a copy cat OS. Yes it’s a copy cat and I don’t need any proven article to post here because I know most every one is aware about that. They’re map is boring because they just keep updating… that’s it. Updating. Have you heard about Google Map Developers transferring to Apple? That’s right… it’s because they want something challenging and that is making a new world of iMapping.

    My first Android was Samsung 7″ the one with the huge screen for a phone, 2010 model. Battery… f***ing King of Drain. Apps? King of Foreclosure! and then I sold it. I bought the Acer Iconia after that with the “claimed” better OS, but the difference? Nothing! I wasn’t happy about it. That’s why I decided to buy an iPhone 4. Camera? Not good. Call experience, not good. But I was happy, because at least I can open Twitter, Facebook, Skype, YM, and some good games without foreclosing every time I used it… and then iOS 5 arrived. And it was hell lot better…. And there, I knew, I was gonna stick to it. I love the integration, Find My Phone, Find My Friend, iCloud, iMessage, Facetime and by that time… it was the fastest and consistently reliable OS, iOS. And I bought iPad 2. And Macbook Pro. And iPod Touch, because it was easy for me to synchronize my contacts, mail, notes and calendars. And I can sync it with iTunes wirelessly… and I was happy with that… why? It’s because it’s just getting better and better… and better…. and better. And here comes the copy cat “Shamesung” which they’re followers, who can merely afford iPhone or just born being bullies who coined iSheep. Until now, I don’t understand how it was invented… and I don’t bother knowing it. Why, because I just don’t care.

    Finally, I love my Apple products…. and no one could tell or dictate me, not to love it. And I will not stop using it because of the Map. The Map is just getting started. And I know for sure, with the Turn by Turn and Flyover and with the developers who are starting to develop something for Transits, sooner or better, it’s gonna be great.

    P.S, I am Asian and Siri and I are now best of friends. And I got an iPhone 5 on’ it’s first day. I AM VERY HAPPY. So haters just keep hating…. because I don’t care. ;)

    Yet another iOS migrator who bases his/her opinion of Android on two of its worst products. That’s like getting an iPhone 4 and saying iOS6 sucks.

  • brownlee

    @brownlee – @ddevito has been flagged as a troll 363 times. When the HELL will you block him?! How can people respect a site that its own administrators don’t respect enough to keep clean?! We come here for news and thoughtful engagement with fellow readers yet lately, and with ddevito’s 363 flags, we have been bombarded with thoughtless degrading comments. Start handling your site or you’ll begin to loose your readership.

    I don’t moderate the forums, that’s Buster’s job. You’ve got a point, though: that’s a massive amount of trolls. Consider him banned.

  • Drmstix303

    John, killer review man!

  • brownlee

    Nice wallpaper. Can you point me to the source Mr. Brownlee ?

    Sure. Here you go:

  • CharilaosMulder

    What I’d like to hear some opinions on:

    1. Apple ditched stainless steal in favor of aluminum. Doesn’t this make the iPhone feel cheaper BECAUSE it’s lighter? And isn’t aluminum a much weaker material, therefore making the iPhone more prone to scratches?

    2. anyone else afraid there won’t be a huge “made for lightning” market? I mean there WAS a huge almost-monopoly market for the 30pin, but will the same happen to lightning or will accessories shift towards USB?

  • RageAndSin

    You guys need a new website to aggregate everything that isn’t in regards to mac… oh i dunno maybe “cultofiPhone”

  • HausnerPL

    This isn’t a true review it a song of praise to the iPhone…. Not a word on the competition, i can’t see any flows pointed… Read it if you already wont to by iPhone 5 if you doubts and/or wont really learn something go somewhere else….

  • Pat Smith

    sorry, but frankly this is a huge disappointment. it merely catches up to Android. i have had the original iphone, 3gs, and the 4 and after seeing how little innovation went into this phone switched to galaxy s3. it may be the best iphone but it is NOT the best phone.

  • RadTech5000

    Nice review, I just got my new iPhone 5 blk today I’ll be letting you know what I think of it.

  • BlakeCole6

    just as Brenda responded I’m in shock that a stay at home mom can profit $6326 in 4 weeks on the computer. did you look at this page(Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/oTwrO

  • Mojo_LA

    How will they make the iPhone 6 better? An OLED screen. Because they require no backlight (the organic pixels are self luminous) this kind of display would easily make the next iPhone thinner, lighter and give back at least 20% more battery life. AND it would look far better; more refined color, perfect black levels (when the screen goes black the pixels turn themselves off) so no more murky grey “black” screens and ultra vibrant whites. So, this change alone would do what all iPhone 5 reviews think are impossible: make the next phone even thinner, lighter and have a better looking display. And the jump from 10 to 12 hours battery life would be huge! OLED is undeniably the display tech of the future, let’s hope Apple adopts it into their phones and iPads sooner rather than later.

  • Mojo_LA

    I’m still using a 3Gs because I skipped the 4 – the rumors of a larger screen didn’t materialize and it seemed elementary that the 5 would finally have it. Between that and antenna gate I decided to save my upgrade and wait for the 5. Now that it’s here, I’m very tempted, but can’t help but wonder what improvements the inevitable 5S will bring. Buying a 3GS was the best decision anyone could have made – that little S increased the lifespan of the phone by several YEARS; the 3G was phased out and went unsupported two years ago – the 3GS is still alive and kicking!

    Anyone else tempted to wait for the 5S? I suppose I can wait a few weeks and see if any major issues like Antennagate show up; if not, the 5 right now seems like a good bet. I mean the new chip is so fast it’s hard to imagine the 5S being THAT much faster, or the Phone itself being obsolete as quickly as the 3G was.

  • Tallest_Skil

    How will they make the iPhone 6 better? An OLED screen.

    Not happening, period.

    AND it would look far better; more refined color, perfect black levels

    Sorry, but that’s also completely incorrect.

    OLED is undeniably the display tech of the future

    I deny it. It’s the tech of people who want an easy way out.

  • Mojo_LA

    I’d like to know what makes you say OLED is not better than LCD. I’ve SEEN OLED screens in action (and not just on a phone) and they are everything I said. Oh I did forget one other thing, OLED has NO MOTION SMEARING. Even fast LCD panels have a little ghosting when items move, but OLED does not have this issue. The way I see it is OLED has the image quality of the best CRT but with the convenience of LCD (ask any video person and they’ll agree, CRT screen are better than LCD. LCD only took over because it was thinner and lighter).

    So your comment is an utter fail, unless you prefer your picture without true black, super high contrast (OLED has essentially infinite contrast range, LCD cannot compete), better color and thinner and lighter.

    There have been less than perfect OLED screen put into some phones, but those were early OLED panels – the tech keeps getting better and better. Go look at one of LG’s soon to be released 55″ OLED TVs and after you’ve held a magnifying glass up to the screen, let me know what flaws you manage to find in a display that drops everyone else’s jaw.

    Oh and ANOTHER thing I forgot to mention – OLED has no viewing angle issues. Even LCD screens that claim “wide viewing angle” change contrast, brightness and color as soon as you move even an inch of center. If you have several people standing aound an LCD screen they all see a different picture! OLED does not have this problem and, again, it’s like watching a CRT or a movie screen – no matter what angle you’re at, everyone sees the same picture.

    And I said they are thinner and lighter, but when you see just how thin and light you’re going to freak. That 55″ TV is maybe an eighth of an inch thick and weighs only 16 pounds. You can hang these things on the wall with thumb tacks, no more heavy duty braces needed (that’s what happens when you don’t need a backlight assembly anymore).

    Sorry dude, it IS the way of the future. Every single person who sees one will want one and there isn’t a single thing LCD has in it’s favor. By this time next year a 4″ screen will be essentially perfect and Apple WILL utilize them. It’s one of the few ways they have left to make the phone thinner and lighter and use less power. Soon no one is going to be using LCDs and Apple is known to be ahead of the curve, so I predict they’ll start using them BEFORE the general public is savvy to them.

    But please, go ahead and share your REASONS for saying I’m wrong, not just contrary, trolling anti-comments.

  • blairh

    John, I really hated parts of this review. I’m sorry but dear God sir, you go overboard at times.

    For starters, this part drove me crazy,

    “The device is so light that the first time I picked up my new iPhone 5 out of its box, I ended up pulling at it too hard and spastically hurling it across the room.”

    I seriously doubt this happened. And if it did, you should be embarrassed. I was using an iPhone 4 since it hit the market, and I received the iPhone 5 on the 21st. While I certainly noticed the lighter weight, this concept that it’s so light that you might fling it across the room at first touch seems utterly ridiculous.

    While you did bring up the scuff issue that I and others are having, you didn’t give it the proper attention. I have the black iPhone 5 and with extreme care I’ve accumulated close to a dozen nicks in the chamfered edges without a case. iFixit confirms how prone this specific areas is to scuffs/scratches/nicks. I wish you and other reviewers would simply state this. It appears Pocket Lint is the only *professional* review to point this out. Also, telling others that the 5 can and should be used without a case is a mistake. (Gizmodo is guilty of this too.) Yes, I love the look and feel of the 5 naked, but I’m also aware that using my phone in such a manner is going to result it an accumulation of countless scuffs along the chamfered edges. The consumer needs to determine if they are okay with this or not. (I’m not, and I’m now using a case and waiting for a bumper to arrive in the mail.)

    You also absurdly asked here and before how the iPhone could POSSIBLY get better. Man, this one irritates me the absolute most. Let me clearly lay out some improvements for future iPhone’s.

    1. A slightly wider screen. Keep the height, but allow it to be a touch wider. It would improve the size of text in portrait and not be difficult to use with one hand. The problem with the SIII and those other large screens is that it’s almost impossible to reach the corners with one hand without shifting it up and down in your hand. Apple can and should give us a slightly larger screen in the future. Ideally 4.3″ IMO keeping the 16:9 aspect ratio.

    2. An LED notification light. Why do reviewers never mention this? It’s a fantastic feature found on countless other smartphones.

    3. The ability to use the screen with gloves on. (The Lumia 920 apparently allows this.)

    4. A coating on the chamfered edges that won’t make scuffs and the like so inevitable. Again, I have close to a dozen after a week and before using the case I was handling my 5 with extreme care.

    5. The changes above are all with respect to hardware. How about some obvious software improvements moving forward like the ability to toggle screen brightness and wi-fi without going into settings and with the use of Siri.

    Despite it’s flaws, I love my iPhone 5. But I don’t think it’s nearly as flawless as your review makes it out to be.

  • skfalco

    Very solid and good review Mr Brownlee i agree with you in most points but there is one… i mean apple won’t make an iPhone better in everyway and more advance? That sounds like a challenge… but a challenge pointed to Steve.. honestly Tim cook let the iPhone out without 1 feature that would be the killer one.. i mean think about the 4… that was a revolution or previous models every other smartphone in the market would be afraid of the 3GS, the 4 etc, right now… i bought an iTouch and i feel i’m not losing anything vs. the iPhone 5, yes the processor, but hey my One X does a pretty solid job and looking at the numbers with JellyBean… the A6 is NOT the fastest one and with Vsync of course not the smoothest experience right now, The camera well maybe yes it’s the best right now but lumia 920 is just around the corner.. so =( i’m an apple and android fan but as of right now apple did a pretty good job, just not good enough, we miss you Steve, but apart from that, very good review =)

  • Mojo_LA

    I think quite a few people have chimed in about the new aluminum casing. As far weight goes, I agree that a little weight makes something feel solid and sturdy, but Apple has a pretty good track record about high quality construction. I think the iPhone 5 is sort of like the “iPhone air.” When the MacBook Air was introduced, it was incredibly light yet still sturdy and difficult to break. I’m sure the 5 will be the same.

    As far as scratches go, well, this is a textbook case of not being able to have your cake and eat it too. Anything you take with you everywhere you go and use constantly for years on end is going to get scratched and nicked, it’s as simple as that. Remember, Apple (and everyone else) makes these things shiny and pretty so they will inspire lust on the showroom floor. They want people in the Apple store to look at the phone, hold it in their hand and say “I must have this.” What happens after you buy it is of very little concern to them. But let’s be real, if you want to take your iPhone everywhere you go and use it all the time it’s going to get scuffed up, it’s unavoidable no matter WHAT it’s made of.

    On the other hand, if you slap on a screen protector and a case, guess what? It will stay nice and shiny forever. I’ve had my 3GS since the first month it came out and when I take it out of the case it still looks as good as new. And don’t whine “but if you put it in a case no one can see how pretty it is!” Well guess what, when the thing is in your hand or pressed up against your face no one can see it anyway!

    So either stick it in a case and protect it(and every time you drop it you’re going to be SO glad you bought that case) or go naked and enjoy the shiny for as long as you can. But worrying about it is pointless.

    As far as the new connector goes, of course everyone is going to remake all their accessories and everyone is going to go out and buy new speaker docks and new gizmos that won’t work (or work well) with the adaptor. Remember, for millions of people, the iPhone 5 will be their first iPhone, so it’s not an issue for them! For the rest of us, it’s the price of progress.

    Your comment about accessories shifting towards USB is a little confusing. If they start making USB speaker docs, I don’t think ANY phone will work with them! Besides, USB would be slower and not offer the same level of control as a lightning connector. And now I’m going to stop writing about the possibility of USB accessories for the iPhone because it’s not ever going to happen!

    What I’d like to hear some opinions on:

    1. Apple ditched stainless steal in favor of aluminum. Doesn’t this make the iPhone feel cheaper BECAUSE it’s lighter? And isn’t aluminum a much weaker material, therefore making the iPhone more prone to scratches?

    2. anyone else afraid there won’t be a huge “made for lightning” market? I mean there WAS a huge almost-monopoly market for the 30pin, but will the same happen to lightning or will accessories shift towards USB?

  • ToniPan

    3 Months with my new iPhone 5 and i always enjoy the sound quality when I capture videos or sound.

    The only problem is that everyone walking around with the same iPhone after 3GS.. I purchased a carbon sticker from http://www.coolcasing.com
    and i don’t get bored from the same exactly design over and over.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in Featured stories, News, Reviews, Top stories | Tagged: , , , , , |