Look and Feel
The look and feel of the iPhone 5 is the biggest change between the previous iPhone 4S and the new model - the bigger, 4-inch screen, the thinner, lighter feel, it really does make it "the best iPhone yet" - but that's all. It doesn't look, or feel like the best smartphone ever - just the best iPhone ever.
If you're a fan of the iPhone 4/4S - you'll feel right at home looking at the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 doesn't look too different to the iPhone 4/4S apart from the bigger screen, which can now house an extra row of icons (I know, I know - you've probably just burst through your ceiling in excitement, but I'm sorry, we're not responsible for the damage done to your house due to the excitement of hearing that the iPhone 5 can support an extra row of icons - there, I've done it again, I apologize!).
The side of the iPhone sports the SIM slot. You need a new Nano SIM card.
Looking at the bottom of the iPhone 5 we find Apple's new Lightning connector - which replaces the old dock connector - this is huge news. Yes, it's "all digital" now, but what about all of the consumers' various docks, accessories, chargers and everything else iPhone? Well, they're not pretty much useless - without a converter, that Apple will happily sell to you after you've just shelled out on a new two-year plan with your telco, or paid $600+ outright. There are also the speakers, mic and new headphone jack position.
The new dock connector is smaller, which is good, but better yet - the cable can be plugged in either way, which is great. You'll no longer be fooling around in the dark after a night out trying to plug your iPhone up to charge.
This is definitely a benefit over the competition's microUSB connectors, which may be more universal, but can only go in one way. Apple's Lightning connector does have some benefits, after all. But with hundreds of millions of iOS-based device owners out there, is throwing away the old dock connector a bad move? What about all of those AV receivers with iPhone/iPod touch docks? This iPhone 5 won't sit on top, where it's meant to be anymore - it will sit next to the receiver, Lightning cable convertor in tow.
The new 4-inch screen is definitely gorgeous, so is the weight and size of the new iPhone 5, but I will split this bit into two opinions:
Coming from an iPhone 4S - Wow. The screen is 4 inches now, and you can fit an entire row of extra icons, which is great if you don't store your apps in folders such as "Games", "Social", "Media", etc. Not that most people would realize, but the iPhone 5 has a higher resolution screen, sitting pretty with 1136x640 - not quite HD resolution, but we're getting there. Its predecessor, the iPhone 4S, had a screen resolution of 960x640 on its 3.5-inch display - so the iPhone 5 is 176 pixels higher than its predecessor.
The screen quality itself is still "Retina", and hasn't changed - just the size (from 3.5- to 4-inch) and resolution. We're still looking at the same 326ppi (pixels per inch).
The weight of the iPhone 5 versus the 4S is instantly noticeable - it's a huge, huge difference. The iPhone 5 weighs 112g, while the iPhone 4S weighs in at 140g, meaning that Apple have cut away 28g of weight from the older iPhone 4S. This is felt instantly, right out of the box and is something that Apple have needed to do to keep the iPhone 5 on level playing field with the thinner Android-based devices out there.
The iPhone 5 keeps the same width as the iPhone 4S, so it shouldn't feel too different in your hands, apart from being taller. The iPhone 5's extra height is great for watching movies or playing games, as it's a proper 16:9 ratio, when rotated to widescreen.
The taller screen is just high enough that you aren't doing huge thumb exercises every time you want to tap an icon at the top of the screen, so the extra screen size is welcomed, and not pushed away. The problem is that with the bigger screen, app compatibility problems occur. If an application doesn't support the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen, you'll experience black bars at the top, and bottom of the app - not cool, Apple, not cool at all.
When an Android smartphone has a 4-inch, or 5.5-inch screen - the apps auto adjust and you just enjoy your phone. This is a huge, huge fault on Apple's part - and this is obviously one of the big reasons the late Steve Jobs had for not wanting to move to a bigger screen - fragmentation among apps. Black bars should be a thing of the past, but it feels like I'm having flashbacks to 4:3 being pushed onto me on a 16:9 screen.
It's not a showstopper, or a decision breaker - but it's something to consider. 99% of apps are going to have black bars until developers release an iPhone 5-compatible version of their app. Right now, there's only a handful, a very small handful.
Apple has baked in iOS 6 into the iPhone 5, but again, it doesn't really bring anything new to the table. Coming from an iPhone 4S there are only a few noteworthy benefits such as being able to FaceTime over Cellular networks, versus Wi-Fi-only on the 4S. Maps have ditched Google, in favor of Apple's own app, which has been lauded by many.
Overall, the iPhone 5 looks, feels and is a better phone than the iPhone 4S - how much better will depend on your personal use of the device. I definitely think it's "the best iPhone yet". Now let's talk about the iPhone 5 coming from the perspective of the Galaxy S III.
Coming from a Samsung Galaxy S III - From the perspective of a Galaxy S III user, the iPhone 5 really brings nothing new to the table. Yes, it has a bigger screen. Yes, it's thinner. Yes, it has more icon space on the screen. Yes, it has 4G LTE connectivity. But - so what? The Galaxy S III has been here for months now, and Apple are really just playing catch up now.
The iPhone 5 feels slightly lighter than the Galaxy S III, which is definitely a benefit to Apple. But I feel that the screen being taller is really no benefit at all, as it hasn't increased in width - so it can look, and feel weird coming from the bigger 4.8-inch screen on the S III.
The Galaxy S III screen definitely feels more like 'home' versus the 4 incher on the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 feels like its sucked its gut in to not look fat and sport love handles, and has pushed it up toward its chest and head making it appear taller - or maybe I'm just not used to seeing a fifth row of icons (I did say I wouldn't surprise you again, so I'm sorry for that). The S III's screen just feels gorgeous for its bigger size.
The iPhone 5's Retina display does excel in pixels per inch, and when displaying text it does come out on top of Samsung's choice of using a PenTile-based display. Apple really are champions of the screen quality right now - but only in some areas. Screen quality now comes down to resolution, ppi (sharpness), color, size, and more.
Overall, if you're comparing the Galaxy S III to the iPhone 5, and coming from the perspective of an S III owner - you won't be that impressed. If Apple had chosen to really wow everything with iOS 6, pushing out something that felt different - we'd be having an entirely different conversation. The fact is, Galaxy S III owners can sleep well at night - they have nothing to fear.
After a few days of using the iPhone 5, I found the height to definitely be easier on my hands and face (when pressed up against it on a call) compared to the iPhone 4S. But, putting a Galaxy S III next to it, the iPhone 5 suddenly feels anemic. I think Apple should've gone to a wider screen, but they have their reasons to stay at this width - and that's okay. Personally, I don't like it that much; I've been spoilt by other devices.