Consumer Reports lab tests confirm Apple iPhone 5 is a winner

Consumer Reports News: October 05, 2012 07:18 AM

The Apple iPhone 5 is among the best smart phones in our Ratings and the best iPhone yet, our completed tests confirm. They also conclude that despite the widespread criticism it has received, Apple's new Maps app, available on the iPhone 5 and other iPhones, is competent enough, even if it falls short of what's available for free on many other phones.

A larger, 4-inch display; a thinner and lighter profile; 4G LTE access; and a host of innovative features all helped the iPhone 5 move up in the ranks, surpassing not only the previous iPhone 4S but also a number of other new Android-based smart phones.

The iPhone 5 also improved on areas that the iPhone 4S did well, boosting the range of functions controlled by its Siri voice assistant, and making the already top-notch iPhone camera even better.

In fact, excluding the phenomenal 41-megapixel camera we tested on the Nokia 808, the iPhone 5's 8-megapixel camera is the best we've seen on a smart phone. In the full battery of tests we give to smart-phone cameras, the iPhone 5's camera proved capable of capturing beautifully sharp and vibrant photos.

Our tests also found low-light performance and shutter speed to be on a par with the better smart-phone cameras. However, contrary to Apple's claims, our tests did not find the iPhone 5's low-light and flash shots to be notably better than those from the iPhone 4S.

Apple's latest operating system, iOS 6 gave iPhone users a free feature long enjoyed by Android-phone users: GPS navigation with spoken turn-by-turn directions and automatic re-routing. The new Apple Maps app has drawn much criticism, and our initial impressions concluded that it fell short of the best third-party navigation apps.

Now that our auto experts have completed their tests, including some carried out some days after the launch, they describe the app as relatively streamlined, and concluded that it generally provides clear guidance, including voice and on-screen directions. However, they did find that it lacks the details, traffic data, and customization options offered by the free Google navigation app found on Android phones.

They also more fully tested the Flyover feature, which lets you view the structures and streets of several major cities in 3D from multiple angles. Despite instances of "melting" buildings, bridges, and other landmarks in 3D mode, more often than not, our testers found Flyover delivered rather intriguing 3D representations that bring a map to life.

As Apple has recently apologized and promised to fix these and other map glitches, we expect the Map app to improve in time.

For details on the iPhone 5 and other new models, check out our smart phone Ratings at

Apple iPhone 5 first look
Apple iOS 6 vs. Google Android: Smart-phone navigation showdown
Sprint and Verizon iPhone 5s have 4G LTE limitations
Apple iPhone 5 promises to change the Apple-or-Android choice

Mike Gikas

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