The iPhone 5: 8 Things to Know Before You Buy

The iPhone 5: 8 Things to Know Before You Buy

Where will you be for the iPhone 5 release date on September 21?

iPhone 5 black and white

Approximately 80 zillion people will be lining up outside Apple for the iPhone 5 release on September 21. Will you be one of them?

Sitting in line outside your local Apple Store? Following the news online as you wait for the iPhone 5 you pre-ordered on September 14 to be delivered? Looking sadly at your iPhone 4S while waiting to get one day closer to your upgrade? Fiddling on your Android phone and laughing derisively at the Apple fanchildren?

We're always keeping an eye on the bottom line to consumers (like the 6 Reasons to Buy & 5 Reasons Not to Buy a new iPad). Before you decide where you are going to be, check out our breakdown of the good and the not-so-good in Apple's latest smartphone.

The Screen is Big (but not huge)

As has long been predicted, the iPhone 5 has a larger screen than all of its predecessors. It keeps the Retina Display, but moves from a 3.5" diagonal to a 4" diagonal screen. The main thing to note is that the iPhone has gotten taller, but not wider. In practical terms, it means a 5th row of apps on the home screen. Apple made a conscious choice here in not going as big as current Android phones, many of which range between 4.6" and 5.3." Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "What is the design center for a phone? It's this...your hand...As you carry your phone, it should fit beautifully in your hand." What do you think of the new size? Is it too big? Not big enough?

It's the Thinnest Smartphone (for now)

The iPhone 5 specs out at 112 grams and 7.6mm thick. That's 20% lighter and 18% thinner than the iPhone 4S. However, the "Thinnest" crown may not be Apple's for long, given the competition from other handset makers.

Kiss Your Old Docks Goodbye (or buy an adapter)

The 30-pin dock connector that has been an Apple mainstay since before the first iPhone was released is gone, freeing up valuable space on the bottom of the phone. Unfortunately, instead of going for the ubiquitous micro-USB connector used by many other gadgets, Apple has a new dock connector of their very own. It is reversible (so no squinting and flipping it over when you realize it isn't going in). Apple also says it has an "adaptive interface," but no word on what that actually means just yet. There is a $29 adapter to use with your old docks and speakers in the Apple Store, but we'll likely see less-expensive, non-OEM  versions popping up soon.

Your Existing Apps Will Be Letterboxed (for a while)

Since the screen is longer, your existing 3rd party apps will appear in letterbox form until an update is available. First-party (Apple-made) apps will take up the whole screen right off the bat.

It's Faster (in more ways than one)

The iPhone 5, as expected, is LTE-capable, meaning that it has true 4G connectivity. AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all support true 4G, allowing users to take advantage of their speedy new connection. In addition to improved data speeds, you can also expect faster response times thanks to the A6 CPU.  Apple says it is two times faster than the chip for the 4S.

The Battery Will Last Longer (if Apple does say so themselves)

Even with LTE, which can be a power hog, the iPhone 5 has a reported 8 hours of talk time, thanks in part to that energy efficient A6 chip. If you restrict data use to WiFi only, you'll allegedly be able to get 10 hours of talk time. Of course, these numbers are self-reported, and we've seen in the past that actual user experience doesn't always agree with Apple's battery life expectations.

There Are Lots of Little Tweaks (not to mention iOS 6)

1080p video? Check. Improved microphone so Siri can understand what you are saying? Check. Still photo improvements? Check. Lots of little improvements add up quickly in the iPhone 5. Many have been long awaited and expected, but Apple has a few surprises that we can't wait to try out firsthand. The iPhone 5 runs on the just-about-to-be-released iOS 6. That means you'll have access to to Passbook, Apple Maps, an updated Siri and more right out of the box.

It's Got a New Look (kinda)

Gizmodo writer Brian Barrett says "It's still very recognizably the most popular smartphone in the world. If you've won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, you don't suddenly trade in your thoroughbred for a one-eyed pony because it's more interesting to look at." But just as you can easily spot the difference between the iPhone 3G/3GS and the iPhone 4/4S, the iPhone 5 has a different look and feel. Like previous generations, there is a white version and a black version. The big change from the 4/4S is that rather than a glass back, the iPhone 5 has an anodized aluminum backplate with glass panels at the top and bottom. Of note, the backplate is brushed silver aluminum on the white model and slate aluminum on the black.

So what's the verdict readers? Will you be buying the iPhone 5 right away, waiting, or skipping it entirely? Let us know in the comments below!

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