Apple iPhone 5 and the UK Networks

Well, after all the build up, leaks and excitement, the Apple iPhone 5 was announced on Wednesday 12th September. So, what’s new, how does it compare to the competition and how will it connect to our UK mobile networks as it sports 4G?

iPhone5

First up, we have to say, although it’s cosmetically not a great deal different in appearance to the iPhone 4 and 4S, it’s a nice looking device. We suspect people (us for one) were expecting something different from Apple, as they always push the boundaries, but if the iPhone 4 and 4S worked well, why change what isn’t broken in terms of form factor.

With regards to specs, it has a new processor, the A6, that will apparently ‘double the speed’ of processing and graphics from the previous A5, which sounds great, but the old phone wasn’t exactly slow. This processor remains dual core, which to some is a surprise considering Android devices have been running quad core processors for quite a while now. But we’re still looking forward to seeing benchmarks against the iPhone 4S and Android devices running quad core, dual core and the relatively new and untested Intel processors. Other than that, bigger screen, improved speakers and headphones, wireless ‘a’ added for WiFi and a new ‘Lightning connector’. This connector is 80% smaller, but for those that have a multitude of Apple compatible products already, you’ll need to spend £30 on the adaptor. Then of course, it’s thinner and lighter, which is always welcome.

A couple of things we’re personally disappointed in is no camera upgrade, although we know Apple have improved the processor, no Near Field Communication (NFC) and no support for all 4G bands that’ll be rolling out to network providers in the UK. Also, no face recognition, but then, is that just something quirky?

On the 4G front, only EverythingEverywhere (EE) will have a 4G network that iPhone 5 will run on (1800 MHz). The frequencies / bands that the other networks will be bidding on in the future will run 4G on a frequency that the iPhone 5 won’t support (800 MHz and 2600 MHz)!? So if you want 4G in the UK, you need to be on EE. But having said that, it’s only initially being rolled out to 16 cities by the end of 2012. They are Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton which will cover just over a third of the country. EE plan to have 98% of the UK covered in 4G greatness by 2014, but we’ll see how that progresses. Which then makes us think, will there be an iPhone 5S by the end of next year or even a iPhone 6? If so, what changes and improvements will Apple make? We’ve also heard a rumour, which is exactly that, a rumour, that Apple may make an iPhone 5 specific for the UK market to support more 4G networks. Personally, we can’t see why they’d do that, but we’re sure we’ve not heard the end of the 4G coverage ‘discussions’, especially from the networks perspective…

We think the bigger changes come from the software update from iOS 5 to iOS 6 which is due on Wednesday 19th September. But this isn’t iPhone 5 exclusive, previous iPhones (3GS, 4 and 4S) will also get iOS 6. Although over 200 new features, the main ones are new maps with turn by turn directions supplied by TomTom (gone are Google maps, to be replaced by Apples own maps), improved Siri, Facebook integration, improved Facetime, find my friends, the list goes on and more can be found here. Worth noting, no 3D ‘flyover’ maps for the UK, just the USA at the moment.

So in true Jerry Springer fashion, what are our ‘final thoughts’?

If you’ve Apple blood running through your veins and you have to have the latest Apple product, then there’s little choice. For everyone else, we’re not sure it’s so clear cut. Is it worth the premium over the 4S? Is it worth signing into a new 24 month, or 18 month (if you’re lucky) contract, especially as there’s limited to no 4G coverage in the UK at the moment? Whilst in that contract, will a new iPhone be released with better network support? We personally think the biggest improvement comes with iOS 6 and as previously mentioned, this isn’t iPhone 5 specific with the 3GS, 4 and 4S all benefiting. It’s also that time of year when mobile phone manufacturers are releasing new devices on the build up to Christmas, so will be interesting to see what’s on the horizon.

Our final, final thoughts (sorry), which also relates back to our previous post – I’m going to sit and wait a few more months and will post back in due course.

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