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Same iPhone, different day: Version 5 brings a slim new chassis but a handful of annoyances

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AP Photo Eric Risberg
The long-awaited iPhone 5 sold out in stores across the US despite mixed reviews.

Time for an upgrade. The new iPhone 5 is taller, leaner, and lasts longer. But this one might be husband material yet: He’s pretty terrible with directions.

Tuesday evening brought the first reviews of Apple’s latest product release. As has become the norm for anything i-related, fanboys came out in droves.

“Finally, the iPhone we’ve always wanted,” gushed the headline on CNET editor Scott Stein’s piece.

The New York Times’ David Pogue called it “beautiful. Especially the black one, whose gleaming, black-on-black, glass-and-aluminum body carries the design cues of a Stealth bomber.”

Still, a few contrarians advise consumers to save their money, saying this one’s not as revolutionary as iPhones past—think FaceTime and Siri. They say the lack of NFC—Near Field Communication that turns the phone into a mobile wallet—also is unfortunate.

 If anything, according to the naysayers the iPhone 5 will be remembered as the one that rolled out the “Lightning” charger. It’s smaller and sturdier but not compatible with the old phones, which amounts to a big annoying headache for those living the iLife. An adapter can bridge the two but it costs $29. So that will be $29 for the docking station… and $29 for the car charger… and $29 for the extra charger at your boyfriend’s. Oh, and $29 for EarPods. Yes, they even changed those.

These are the new features: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Size matters. Writing for AllThingsD, gadget guru Walter Mossberg “found the new iPhone screen much easier to hold and manipulate than its larger rivals and preferred it. In my view, Apple’s approach makes the phone far more comfortable to use, especially one-handed.” Mossberg lauded the sleek size yet larger screen and its ability to display more content—six rows of icons instead of five.

On this note, John Gruber of Daring Fireball wants Apple to give customers some flexibility. He likes small, others like big. “In an ideal world, perhaps Apple would offer two iPhone sizes — like they do with products such as MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, and iMacs. A smaller one with the classic 3.5-inch display, and a larger (say, 4.5-inch?) one for people who want that,” he wrote.

Battery power. A common complaint among recent converts to the iPhone is how quickly their battery drains. Critics consistently reported being able to browse, talk, play games and movies for a solid nine to 12 hours with the new phone.

Call me maybe. It’s no Siri (she’s still getting slammed) but Gruber highlights the ability to “respond to a call you can’t take with either a canned text message (such as “I’ll call you later”) or a reminder to call back.

Varied lens. The quality of the camera had inconsistent reviews, with CNET’s Stein, on still pictures taken while recording video, saying, “the image quality’s a bit weaker.” Engadget’s Tim Stevens said it’s faster now: “Tap that big ol’ thumb as quick as you can and the iPhone 5 will keep up, whereas the iPhone 4S eventually fell behind.”

What lies beneath. In early days, some critics note their phones are not as sleek as they once were. In Pocket Lint Review, Stuart Miles writes, “on the black model the edge has started to wear, revealing the shiny silver aluminium metal underneath the “slate” coloured coating and, indeed, we’ve witnessed it on two separate models, ruling out a fluke manufacturing error.”

Get lost. Apple has replaced Google Maps with its own map application, and critics say it’s pretty bad. In an interview with Business Insider, Waze CEO Noam Bardin slammed the app (although he later backpedaled and said he simply thought it was a weaker program than Google). “What’s going to happen with the Apple maps, is that you’re literally not going to find things. When you do find them, they might be in the wrong place or position geographically.”

Voice and data. Few critics mentioned this but CNET’s Stein warns it will upset customers tremendously. “Sprint and Verizon models can’t use voice and data simultaneously,” he writes.

Another lightning rod. To underscore, this remains the biggest criticism—and all that money existing customers are going to have to shell out to integrate the new phone with their old lives. “It’s just too bad about that connector change,” asked Pogue. “Doesn’t Apple worry about losing customer loyalty and sales?”

 

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