When the iPhone 4 leaked (thanks to Gizmodo) in 2010, I hoped and prayed that it wasn’t the final design. Immediately I spotted that this square, flat design in front of my eyes was going to lack the curves that made my 3GS so comfortable to hold. I wasn’t wrong. The 4th generation iPhone killed off one of the reasons that I loved iPhone so much. I got used to it over time, but, part of me still wishes that Apple would return to making comfortable phones instead of impressing with “thinner and lighter” all the time.
The iPhone 5 clearly takes some design influences from the iPhone 4/4s. It has the same flat, rounded rectangle shape and the same black plastic antenna “gaps” on the right and left edges. In fact, from the front, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the same phone – just stretched out. But, that’s more to do with the patented front face that’s existed on the iPhone since day one. It’ll always be a glass covered rectangle with rounded corners and a single button at the bottom in the center with a rounded square in the middle.
Other similarities are the buttons. The new iPhone keeps the metal lock/power key and volume up and down keys. It also has a very similar, light, durable SIM tray and Mute switch with the iconic orange label to tell you when it’s muted. On the back, the camera is placed in virtually the same place as it’s always been: top left corner.
There are more changes than you’d think on first glance alone. Firstly, there’s the part which caused so much controversy when the 4 was released: the external antenna. It’s still there, but, the design has changed. One part that Apple was keen on promoting was the delicately chamfered edges. Instead of the right-angled protrusion that exists on the 4 and 4S, the 5′s frame has a glistening, nicely angled finish. This not only looks better than the previous design, it also feels better.
The most radical change was on the bottom edge. Apple replaced the 30-pin connector with the tiny Lightning port. The headset jack was removed from the top edge and moved to the bottom alongside a pair of individually machined sets of holes that act as a cover for the speaker and microphone.
On the back, what was once slippery, heavy glass is now light and durable anodized aluminum. It helps the phone feel much lighter, and less fragile. Getting the aluminum to blend in with the phone was a tough challenge especially with the black model. Cupertino pulled it off remarkably by coating it in a slate-hued paint, which although prone to scratches, helps give the device a very classy appearance.
The most obvious change: the display size and form factor. You can’t fail to notice that the iPhone 5 looks stretched out compared to the last two models. Its 4″ display is the star of the show. And, although it does look odd when you’ve become accustomed to a 3.5″ display – it does make much more sense having a widescreen display on a media consumption device. Video was awful on previous phones.