Skip to main content

A member of the media uses the <strong>iPhone</strong> <strong>5</strong> after its introduction during Apple Inc.'s <strong>iPhone</strong> media event in San Francisco, California September 12, 2012.Beck Diefenbach/Reuters

There really isn't any way to make anodized aluminum sound sexy. Holding it in your hand, however, is another matter entirely.

The most striking feature about the iPhone 5, Apple's next best thing since, well, the iPhone 4S, is how light it is. Executives stressed every syllable of its weight – just 112 grams, or 20 per cent less than the 4S – during the launch event Wednesday in San Francisco. But they really couldn't impress upon people just how that feels.

During the hands-on session that followed, the difference was clear. Rather than sandwiching its components between two slabs of glass, the iPhone 5 has that anodized aluminum as its main backing material. The glass display, meanwhile, is also thinner. Taken together, the new device feels even lighter than the touted 20-per-cent figure. Compared against its hefty predecessor, it's like night and day.

The iPhone 5 is also a little longer, but the same width, so manipulating it with one thumb is still a comfortable experience. The extra length, meanwhile, makes it possible to view movies in their proper wide-screen ratio.

Many journalists at the hands-on quickly dove into the new Maps app, which is now built with data supplied by GPS maker TomTom rather than Apple's arch-enemy Google. Some deficiencies were readily apparent – there's no Google Street View, for example – while others will only become known through longer exposure.

Where Apple's new Maps app shines is in its three-dimensional modelling of cities, which for Canada includes Toronto and Montreal. The imagery is photo-realistic – it's the best way to fly around the CN Tower, for example, short of taking a helicopter ride – and approximates the feeling of a high-end video game.

There was, however, a sense of deflation after Apple's keynote concluded. With most of the iPhone 5 features leaked beforehand – a twice-as-fast A6 processor, LTE cellular network connectivity, better battery life – feature junkies were disappointed by the lack of surprises.

Some were expecting near-field communication (NFC), a wireless technology that allows for mobile payments to be made by tapping the phone to a sensor, while others were hoping for a subscription music service. Instead, Apple delivered only an updated iTunes store and some new iPods.

The lack of NFC means Apple is not yet confident in the infrastructure for mobile payments being in place, said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett. "They don't think it's time yet."