Sep. 19, 2012 at 9:54 AM ET
Every time an Apple product comes out, a select few reviewers get first dibs on testing it first. On Tuesday night, the iPhone 5 reviews went live, and by and large, they were positive. There was one consistent gripe throughout — a change in how the iPhone connects to chargers and accessories — but reviews overall carried the "best iPhone ever" theme.
David Pogue, at the New York Times, identifies the three factors that have made the iPhone a success — design, components and compatibility — and says that while the iPhone 5 excels at the first two, its new connector, which makes older docks and chargers obsolete, takes away points in the compatibility department. (Pogue does point out, however, that the new connector is smaller, sturdier and easier to use than the old one, because it doesn't matter which side is up when you plug it in.)
At USA Today, Ed Baig says that after more than two years with the same 4/4S look, there's pent-up demand for a new Apple design: "What I detect this time is lust," he writes. At the same time, after evaluating the product, he says that Apple has met expectations "with a gem."
The connector issue does come up. "You can't blame folks for making a fuss," writes Baig, but "most of these people will probably buy the darn phone anyway, and do so, I suspect, with glee."
The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg perhaps overstates things with the headline "The iPhone takes to the big screen." After all, a 4-inch 16x9 screen is not big compared to most competitors. Also, Mossberg harps on the new Maps app (which may be problematic, but is a feature of iOS 6 — available as a free download Wednesday to most iPhone owners — not the new iPhone).
Still, his review is generally positive, praising the speed of the new chip and the 4G LTE cellular data connection. Mossberg does have a beef with, you guessed it, that new connector, a "design change that's already rankling people."
CNet's Scott Stein named it an Editors' Choice, and said it "adds everything we want in an iPhone" (4G, bigger screen, new processor) and that it's "absolutely the best iPhone to date."
So what's bad? Stein laments the fact that Sprint and Verizon models can't handle a voice call and data interaction simultaneously. He also blasted that durned connector, and the fact that even the new, larger screen is way smaller than the ones found on competing Android devices. No surprises, but all things to take into consideration.
TechCrunch's MG Siegler calls the phone "an absolute home run" and goes on and on about how light it is, specifically that its lightness "just doesn't seem real." (We also said something to this effect after the launch.)
As for the apps that don't yet fit the 4-inch screen, Siegler says "it's really not a big deal."
Siegler points out something that hasn't really made the rounds: The headphone jack is on the bottom of the iPhone 5, like it is on an iPod Touch.
Notably absent from the review circus (at time of publication) is tech site The Verge, which is typically among the chosen reviewers.
So while reviewers agree it's the best iPhone yet, the question remains, how does it fare compared to a Samsung Galaxy S III or other competing smartphones? Despite some criticism of the Android OS and some of Samsung's add-on software features, nobody seems to want to say the iPhone 5 slays the competition outright. Most reviewers answered instead with an "it's up to you" shrug. That is, if you want a really big screen, then go for one of the Android phones, but, as Mossberg puts it, the iPhone 5 is "an excellent choice."