Apple has finally added 4G LTE support after being heavily criticized last year when the iPhone 4S lacked the feature. Most believe they wanted to wait until the technology was refined and perfected enough to reduce power consumption, a common complaint on earlier LTE-enabled phones. It's an excuse that didn't sit well with many and likely resulted in some customers defecting to Android where LTE phones have been commonplace for some time.
Wi-Fi will still be the go-to connection for many users at home and it's another area where the iPhone 5 has been updated. The new handset now features 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi with 802.11n supporting dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. Bluetooth 4.0 is back in addition to GPS and GLONASS for location services.
Carriers are still actively rolling out LTE, and this is expected to continue for the next couple of years. My carrier (AT&T) unveiled LTE near me just three days before the iPhone 5 launched and if you've never used an LTE-enabled phone, you're in for a real treat. Using the speedtest.net app, I topped out at 22.47Mbps / 9.25Mbps in the Memphis, Tennessee area.
The rumor mill accurately predicted the iPhone 5's new A6 processor, which is Apple's first entirely custom ARM chip design. A recent report from chip consultant Linley Gwennap suggests Apple started developing the A6 in 2008 when they acquired PA Semi. Since then, it's estimated they have dumped over $500 million into the project in an effort to create a chip that balances processing power with die size constraints.
In an age of quad-core processors, Apple was able to engineer a dual-core 1.03GHz chip that is capable of outperforming almost every phone on the market today. This alone is perhaps one of the most fascinating and overlooked achievements of the iPhone 5 in my opinion.
The A6 also contains three GPU cores and two 32-bit LPDDR2 memory channels. Apple bumped the overall RAM capacity up to 1GB, double the amount in last year's model. When it's all said and done, you end up with a ridiculously fast phone. Our testing shows an overall Geekbench score of 1597 while SunSpider testing reveals a total score of 979.3ms.
But it's not really the benchmarks that are telling as much as it is the overall experience in iOS 6. Everything from surfing the web and checking email to stitching together panorama photos and playing games is snappy. I've been using a 16GB iPhone 5 extensively since the day it was released and I've yet to experience any slowdown or lag regardless of what I throw at the phone.
CSR Racing, Infinity Blade II, Asphalt7 and Offroad Legends all look and play very smoothly, although only two titles (Asphalt7 and CSR Racing) have been optimized for the new 4-inch display.
Apple says users can expect up to eight hours of 3G talk time, 3G browsing and LTE browsing. Furthermore, the iPhone 5 is said to be good for up to 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing and video, 40 hours of music and up to 225 hours on standby. Unfortunately, these are claims I haven't been able to verify yet. I've had to give the phone's battery a bit of extra juice each day, but this isn't a fair assessment simply because I'm using it much more than I normally would. I'll report back on average battery life once I have a better baseline of how it performs during a typical day.