We are a divided country. Yes, politically, but more so smartphone-cally.
If you're an Android phone user, your interest in iPhone 5 is purely academic. You are as unlikely to switch to an iPhone 5, regardless of how glowing a review anyone gives it, as a lifelong Democrat is to vote for Mitt Romney (and vice versa).
If you're an iPhone user of any stripe – except iPhone 4S owners, who likely aren't eligible for a full subsidy upgrade – you will want to switch to iPhone 5 regardless of any negative criticism I level here.
So perhaps this review is aimed primarily at exhausted BlackBerry owners or feature phone users who are thinking of finally switching.
For anyone considering an iPhone, forget the hoopla over its screen size and aesthetics and smaller Lightning jack and EarPod earphones (see my Friday post "Apple iPhone 5: Hands-On Photo Tour").
iPhone 5 is all about speed and performance.
World's most powerful smartphone?
For me, iPhone 5's primary appeal is its 4G LTE capability, long available on Android phones. AT&T's 3G and HSPA+ "4G" service in Manhattan is awful – I rarely get any consistent data connection wandering around midtown. I suspect many of your iPhone users suffer the same connectivity frustrations.
And, boy, does iPhone 5 deliver on LTE connectivity. Web pages load in the wink of an eye, apps download in seconds, maps load nearly instantaneously, photos upload nearly as fast as the iPhone can capture them. I am one happy 4G LTE smartphone owner.
But iPhone 5 is not really faster at these connected functions than any 4G LTE Android phone, including cheaper ones such as the new Motorola Droid M. What iPhone 5 has is arguably the most powerful portable processor produced.
According to PC Magazine, Apple's custom A6 chip makes iPhone 5 not only "The Fastest Smartphone in the Land" but "the fastest handheld computer sold in the U.S."
More mature Siri
This LTE+A6 processor combination boosts the performance of something no Android smartphone has – Siri. Remember, Siri has to communicate with her servers in the cloud to perform even the most simple tasks. As a result, after my initial infatuation I stopped seeing her.
But LTE speeds communications with her and the A6 processor expands her capabilities. She understands my requests to call people without repetition or play a particular song more regularly now. I stuttered through a request for the location of a local restaurant and she managed to correctly interpret my request the first time. She can now even update your Facebook status for you.
Perhaps Siri's most convenient expanded function is booting apps. A problem of this modern smartphone age is we have too many apps scattered helter-skelter across several screens or buried in folders. We finally have use for that obscure app, but we can't find it. Now you can just ask Siri to open that app, regardless of where you stuck it.
Screen and size advancements
My biggest disappointment is with iPhone 5's 4-inch screen size. Oh, it provides plenty of real estate. As noted in my photo tour on Friday, iPhone 5's 16:9 aspect ratio actually makes video play larger than the half-inch advantage over previous 3.5-inch iPhones.
But the screen on nearly every new Android phone is much larger, giving me a macho size-comparison inferiority complex. Even the Motorola Droid RAZR M has a 4.3-inch display. And contrary to Apple's advertising assertion, I can operate most larger Android phones with one hand.
Even though it has a larger screen, iPhone 5 is actually thinner (7.6 vs. 9.3mm) and lighter (112 grams vs. 140 grams) than the 4S. But iPhone 5 is as light and slippery as a bar of hotel soap. I found I had to grip it tighter to make sure it didn't slip out of my one hand. But in so doing, I discovered iPhone 5 has some rather sharp edges.
But as with all iPhones, we're going to cover this thin, beautiful phone in a thick and ugly case.
It's the operating system, stupid
Most of iPhone 5's appeal over Android lies in its iOS operating system – and the latest iteration, iOS 6 (ably covered by my compatriot, Barb Gonzalez, including an excellent tips and set-up guide), is available for nearly all iPxxx devices – and its all-enveloping ecosystem.
Some random observations on iOS 6.
You may have heard there's a bit of a hullaballoo about Apple's Maps app. With its on-going battle with Google and Android, Apple dumped Google Maps for a maps app of its own design – and it didn't turn out too well according to a multitude of online critics. But the flyover 3D satellite view is kind of cool.
The Panorama camera function also is really cool, even if I don't know how often I'll use it.
I'm one of many folks who have experienced problems with Wi-Fi connections. If you are, too, here's the fix: Settings > Wi-Fi > tap blue arrow to the right of the Wi-Fi network you're connected to. Scroll down to the bottom of the resulting page > HTTP Proxy > Auto.
VIP email inbox segregates emails from the people you really want to hear from – it's a great way to make sure you don't miss an important missive. Go to the email app, then tap on the blue arrow to the right of "VIP," then "Add VIP…" You simply tap on names from your content list, and all mail from these folks from any email account you set up.
There's a lot more to iPhone 5 and iOS 6 than enumerated here. Barb will cover the iOS 6 and I'll bring more usage advice on the hardware side – including using the FaceTime video chatting function over LTE – in a few days.
If you're an iPhone 3G, 3G S or 4 owner (as noted, 4S owners may not be eligible for the full subsidized price on iPhone 5), run, don't walk, to get an iPhone 5 – it's 4G LTE connectivity is a revelation and will completely change how you use your phone.
If you're considering your first smartphone purchase, I'd wait and check out the new Windows Phone 8 models such as Nokia's Lumia 920 or the HTC 8X first. And ask an Apple store owner to demo Siri on the iPhone 5 – she may be your deciding factor.
While I think iOS is easier to grasp and master for someone new to smartphones than Android, I also think Windows Phone 8 is even easier for smartphone neophytes – and maybe a bit more fun.