The iPhone 5 isn't quite out yet, but a handful of reviews are already in from testers who received early access to Apple's newest handset. The overall verdict? It's not quite perfect, but the iPhone 5 drags Apple into the LTE age with stunning aplomb, delivering one of the best mobile experiences there is -- and it's definitely the best iPhone ever.
The addition of 4G LTE wins praise from all comers, as does the faster A6 processor. The 4-inch display is another winner: reviewers love the extra screen real estate and the rich, vibrant colors. The move to a larger display does spark some divisiveness, however. While most think the phone is exactly the right size, some prefer the even-larger screens found on Android devices.
Here's some of the best highlights from around the web so far. And stay tuned for our own in-depth review:
The Guardian's Charles Arthur: "Another element you can't see from the pictures: when you start typing, or swiping between apps, it feels as though you're touching the pixels; the production process has eliminated a layer of glass in the touchscreen. It's spooky at first; after only a short while other phones feel thick."
SlashGear's Vincent Nguyen: "What the iPhone 5 really convinces me, though, is that throwing bells and whistles into a device doesn’t necessarily make it a better phone in the end. I’d drifted from the iPhone 4S because I had core needs it was no longer satisfying: a larger screen, for instance. Where the iPhone 5 edges back into the picture is in how well it integrates into my daily life. So many things I can make work on Android – video calling, for instance, but iPhone simply makes them more straightforward. If they’re straightforward, that means I use them more."
The New York Times' David Pogue: "If you have an iPhone 4S, getting an iPhone 5 would mean breaking your two-year carrier contract and paying a painful penalty; maybe not worth it for the 5’s collection of nips and tucks. But if you’ve had the discipline to sit out a couple of iPhone generations — wow, are you in for a treat."
Engadget's Tim Stevens: "This is without a doubt the best iPhone yet. This is a hallmark of design. This is the one you've been waiting for."
In summary, almost everyone dislikes that older apps became letterboxed in the transition, though Pocket-Lint says "the colour quality of the screen is so good that the unused black area on the screen almost seamlessly blends into the black-pigmented glass surround - you really won't notice it."
Tests show that despite all that extra oomph, the iPhone 5 has better battery life than the iPhone 4S. The camera also takes slightly better pictures and now has panorama capabilities, which apparently work great.
Reviewer after reviewer comment on how amazingly light the iPhone 5 feels in their hands, and though the handset looks largely like its predecessor, that's a good thing. Pocket-Lint also noticed that the black on the edge of the phone scuffed fairly quickly, revealing the silver metal underneath.
Passbook, Apple's NFC alternative, was unavailable to review. Overall, reviewers say iOS 6 is a minor improvement over iOS 5. The new Maps app is smooth and pretty, not quite as functional as Google Maps -- but close. The improvements to Siri also please, as does the new Shared Photo Streams feature.
Now for the bad news: the new Lightning connector is universally panned. Reviewers understand the switch and say it should be good for the future in theory, but in today's practical reality, its incompatibility with older docking accessories, lack of iPod Out support, and reliance on the older USB 2.0 spec (rather than the speedier USB 3.0) get it a big thumbs down.
All in all, though, the iPhone 5 looks like another big win for Apple.