- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I had to give it back, darn it. For some odd reason, Verizon Wireless didn’t want me to hang on to the iPhone 5 it loaned me Sept. 21, kickoff day for the new device, which went on to sell more than 5 million units the first weekend.

I’m guessing they had a customer, perhaps.

While a fuller discussion of the iPhone 5 awaits a (promised) review unit from Apple Inc., a weekend with the new device gave enough in the way of impressions to be useful, I believe.

It’s taller, yes, and thinner, but it’s also lighter. It’s not as imposing as the Samsung Galaxy Note, reviewed here seven months ago. Then again, the iPhone 5’s 4.5-inch display is eight-tenths of an inch smaller than the Samsung model.

What the iPhone 5 is, however, is a more pocketable, and, thus, portable device than the Galaxy Note, which some called a “phablet,” or a cross between a phone and a tablet. That can be important to many users, including this reviewer: I never had a “brick” phone back in the 1980s, and I’m not up for toting a brick around right now.

There has been some talk online about how scratch-friendly the iPhone 5’s new glass-and-aluminum case is, but here, too, limited time didn’t allow a careful study. I’m one of those people who would rush out and get either ZAGG’s Invisible Shield ($49.99 for front and back coverage) or Wrapsol’s Ultra screen and back-of-phone protection for $29.95 before doing just about anything else, so I’d worry less about scratching because the phone would be protected. Using a good case, such as anything from Otterbox, also would be a suitable way to guard against this.

But no phone is worth protecting unless it performs well. During my very brief experience with the iPhone 5, I noticed no performance deficiencies: its 4G LTE antenna worked well in pulling down data and video; Wi-Fi connections were also very good.

Voice quality was excellent, as to be expected, but so was sound quality on the listening end. The built-in speaker, though monaural, was fine when watching a streaming video. For music, I’d prefer a good set of earbuds, headphones or an external speaker. Apple has redesigned the earbud for the iPhone 5, with a more “natural” shape to fit (and stay in) the ear. Time didn’t permit my testing these, but my preferred headset, the Street by 50 earbuds from SMSaudio.com ($119.95) worked just fine.

Purists, myself included, might object to the placement of the headphone jack: It’s now on the bottom of the iPhone 5, instead of the top. At the same time, I imagine we’ll all get used to it.

More challenging, initially at least, is the “Lightning” connector, smaller and notably different than the traditional 30-pin iPhone/iPod/iPad adapter. The good news: the supplied USB-Lightning cable worked well with my car stereo’s USB connection. However, it appears I’d have to shell out $29 for a 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter if I want to use the iPhone 5 with my clock radio/iPhone dock, although the adapter is not guaranteed to work, according to the fine print on Apple’s website.

I expect this challenge will be met in the marketplace, when accessory makers unleash a torrent of goods that will support the iPhone 5’s new profile and its connector. The holidays should be interesting this year.

Of the greater questions, whether the iPhone 5 merits scrapping your older (or not so older) iPhone, and how the new iPhone operating software, iOS 6, fares, fuller answers must await that longer review. For now, suffice it to say that Apple’s newest product already has flown off the shelves, and not without very good reason.

Email mkellner@washingtontimes.com.