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Is It Worth Upgrading To The iPhone 5? Is It Better Than 4S / 4 / 3GS?

Updated on December 14, 2012

The iPhone 5. Is it worth the upgrade from your current phone? Is it really any better?

This article is for the people out there that have one of the previous iPhones, either the 3GS, 4, or 4S, who are interested in the iPhone 5, or at least may be aware that there is a new iPhone out and are wondering whether it's worth the upgrade. As usual, this depends on several factors. Such as....

Are you an internet user? 4G>3G

The new iPhone 5 has 4g network capabilities. This means that internet access is up to 5 times faster than current 3G access. Supposedly this means that rather than waiting for buffering etc, the experience of phone browsing will be like browsing with broadband enabled. So iPhone 5 having this amazing technology is good right?

Well the iPhone does have 4G capability, or at least it will have, when it becomes available, which is going to be at some point in the future... Currently some of the network providers are saying that late 2013 is when they are expecting to launch 4G. As at the time of writing 4G isn't available, then 4G on the iPhone 5 isn't really much of a selling point and when the networks have released it properly, there is a good chance (certainty?) that all of the other smartphones on the market will have 4G capability. So I don't really think this is a particularly fantastic selling point, or at least not at the moment and certainly not a reason to upgrade now.

Why you go through a windtunnel when you have 4G is anyone's guess, but apparently this is what it's like..

Do you watch videos on your phone? Bigger, more vivid screen.

This is a pretty big selling point of the new iPhone. The last few generations of iPhone have all had a 3.5 inch screen. The resolution of this has been upgraded throughout the phone's life but the size has stayed the same. This has now changed with the iPhone 5, the screen size is now 4 inches. The difference between 3.5 and 4 inches doesn't sound like much, but it is actually a pretty big increase, the new screen is approximately 18% larger. The other thing is, the iPhone 3, 4 etc have all had a 3:2 ratio screen. The iphone 5 screen ratio is 16:9.

For those who have no idea what that means, it is the ratio between height and width. 16:9 is the ratio that all modern TVs display at, it is widescreen ratio which is the way youtube videos and in fact most videos that you'll find on the internet are now displayed. Displaying a 16:9 ratio on a 3:2 screen meant black bars at the top and bottom, the new screen displays videos of that ratio with no black bars, which means that not only is the screen bigger, but because the whole screen is now filled, the visual effect is a far larger screen.

The screen is not only bigger, but it is a lot more colourful and vivid than the older iPhone with much better contrast as well. To appreciate the difference you'd have to see the phones side by side, but with a 4 and 5 next to each other displaying the same photo, the older phone looks pretty washed out in comparison. I was amazed at the difference in the flesh, I had read about it on the net, but it still surprised me when I saw the improvement.

The following pictures are a mock up to show the difference in size between the old and new iPhone. They don't show the difference in colour & contrast, but do let you appreciate the size changes.

iPhone 5 screen size compared to iPhone 5

As you can see from the picture above, the difference in ratio plus the difference in size, means a pretty large visual difference when viewing videos. I watch quite a lot of video on my iPhone, so this is a pretty big deal for me. Of course this will also make a difference for games, apps and internet browsing as well.

Are you bothered by waiting around for things..?

The CPU in the iPhone 5 is reportedly twice as fast as the one used in the iPhone 4s, which is itself noticeably quicker in operation than the iPhone 4. This to me is a pretty big deal. Most people that use their phone for apps will find this useful as it decreases waiting time.

Amongst other things, I use my phone as a satnav and the satnav apps on iPhone are pretty large and take a chunk of processing power. At the moment, when I press the satnav app I have to sit there for quite a while, while the app loads up. If I close the app for any reason, then once again there's a nice long wait (well a few seconds anyway) while the phone slowly gets its wits together and reopens it. Any reduction in time spent waiting around is very welcome in my opinion.


Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? Hello?

Do you ever find yourself saying this? Something I have found annoying since the birth of mobile phones is losing signal. The iPhone 4 often suffered from a problem with the signal, the internet antenna and the call antenna were separated by a gnat's thigh width, which meant that if you held the phone and your hand bridged the antenna, you lost signal. Not so bad if you weren't touching the thing, or had a bumper case for it, but if you ever took off the phone sheath and went bareback, then loss of signal and annoyance, frustration and anger soon followed. Or at least it did for me, my friends assured me that their phones worked perfectly, with or without a cover, but that wasn't my experience.


Anyway, the iPhone 5 has a new antenna design that puts the internet antenna and the call antenna at opposite ends of the phone so you can't bridge it unless you have hands like a werewolf. This has improved the signal in my experience, upstairs at my place was somewhere I always struggled to get a decent wifi signal from the router downstairs. It now comes through with full strength, a massive improvement. This isn't just from the antenna improvements, Apple have also pumped up the signal strength of the phone. This will probably fry your brain even quicker, but at least it means more chance of you can enjoying an uninterrupted catch up with your friend, talking about last nights tv or something, even if you do end the call dribbling.

There are other things that the iPhone 5 does better than its predecessors. One of those is that has a better camera than the 4S. The 4S camera is way better than the camera in the 4 and of course the 3GS camera lags behind both. I don't carry a camera around with me, but regularly use the iPhone camera so any improvement there is a good thing.

A weakness of the older iPhones is that they are rubbish in low light. This has been improved in the iPhone 5, as well as the overall sharpness and quality and it now works 40% faster. At the moment one thing I dislike is getting the camera out for a photo and missing the opportunity, or having to tell people to wait for a few seconds so increases in speed are definitely a good thing.

Check out how sharp the image below is from the iPhone 5. Pretty good considering it is a phone taking this photo, not a dedicated camera! The camera in the iPhone 5 is noticeably improved over the 4, the 4S already has a decent camera and I haven't tried it against one of those yet, but it is easy to see the improvement over the 4, whether you'd a camera buff or not.

Here is an untouched image from the iPhone 5 camera

What about other gubbins?

The new phone also has the potential for better graphics on games, not a big deal for me as I don't play phone games, but that will interest some people.

Something else Apple have done is make the charging port different. The charger now plugs in both ways, which is a nice touch, but not something that you'd upgrade for.

There are lots of other little changes of course, but apart from the iPhone 5 being faster and having a better camera etc, the main difference between it and the older iPhones is that the screen is now massive and a lot more colourful in comparison to the older iPhones. I know half an inch isn't a huge amount in the grand scheme of life, but I also don't know many people that would turn down another half inch. That sounds slightly perverse, but you know what I mean.

There are larger screened phones out there, the Samsung S3 has a larger screen than the iPhone at 4.7 inches and at present is the main competitor. In my personal viewpoint, the phone is a bit too big to carry in your pocket, whereas the iPhone fits in a bit better. Some Samsung fans / anti Apple people may scream and gnash their teeth at that, but that's the way I feel so there we go.

Want one? Open your wallet!

So are you going to upgrade to the iPhone 5?

See results

It it worth the upgrade then?

I can't tell you whether it is worth it for you or not. It is better than the 4S but the 4S is probably powerful enough for most people and you have to weigh up whether the better screen is worth it for you. However if you have an iPhone 3 or 4, then it seems a no brainer to me as it is considerably better in every way.

One thing I know is that I am very pleased I upgraded. I guess you have to decide whether improvements to the camera, processor, and the larger and more vivid screen are enough of a draw to pull you in and open your wallet wide. Before making up your mind, you really need to see one in the flesh as the difference between the new and old phones is easily visible straight away. If you're not sure, then share a pic between both devices and compare it side by side. You'd have to be blind not to prefer the iPhone 5 in my opinion.

If you have any comments, please leave them below. Thanks for reading!


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