Some thoughts after two weeks with an iPhone 5 … Well two iPhones actually …
Let’s start with the big four issues – call quality, getting stuck with only Edge or no data service, getting stuck off WiFi. and poor battery life.
AT&T support had me try lots of things over three days before giving up and suggesting the phone be replaced and then suggesting replacing the SIM card. Ultimately, none of these actually resolved the issues. All tolled, it cost me 8-10 hours of my life and $45 is gas and tolls for the drive to the nearest Apple Store.
So at this point I’m on my second iPhone 5 and my second SIM for the phone and one thing is better and all other things are just the same.
The first iPhone 5 had a small scratch on the aluminum. This is consistent with Apple’s attempt to improve quality control. The replacement phone has no scratches – so one thing did get better.
Along the way, I bought a nan-SIM to micro-SIM adapter. This let me test the iPhone 5 SIM in my old iPhone 4. The conclusion was the SIM was fine and the local cell towers are not great but not really any different from a month ago.
*Personal Opinion Alert:*
My guess is that the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 network switching algorithms are at the root of the problems. The iPhone 5 has LTE. However, there is no LTE in my area and I am between two cell towers. It appears the network switching is getting stuck on a weaker tower and/or is constantly hoping for an LTE signal. This results in a much shorter battery life and often failing to settle with a 3G signal.
It turns out there is some interdependency between LTE and cell calls too. You can not toggle the LTE option while on a call without dropping the call. I don’t understand this one but I did find several cases of people attributing poor call quality to LTE “hunting”.
So, when I turn off LTE on the iPhone 5, my battery life returns to that of my iPhone 4 (but no better), call quality returns to that of my iPhone 4 (but no better), and my data service returns to that of the iPhone 4.
The remaining issues are that the data service still can get stuck at “E” (for the low speed Edge service) and can occasionally get stuck not connecting to my home WiFi (even though it sees it and has the password). I attribute the latter if not both of these to iOS 6. I would not be at all surprised to see a update quietly appear to improve the switching and connecting algorithms.
My work around for “stuck on E” is to cycle the Airplane Mode. My work around for not connecting to my WiFi is to manually select it from the Setting menu. Both of these are annoying but they work. (BTW: the failure to connect to WiFi has been reported and witnessed on other devices running iOS 6 so that further points to some software problem.)
So, while the iPhone 5 has a wider screen (which doesn’t really help with anything) I do like the better camera and faster CPU. Still, it’s not even close to being a good justification for the cost of the upgrade. Remember, you might get the iPhone 5 with a new contract for $200, $300, or $400 but you will also need a minimum of one extra charging cable at $20-$30 and a new case at $20-$60 and none of your old accessories such as a charging dock or clock radio or stereo speaker dock or car interface will work so there’s another $75-$300 in extras (and they don’t even exist yet).