iPhone 5 Review Roundup

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The early reviews of the iPhone 5 have landed. The consensus: this is the best iPhone to date in just about every way, and it remains the best smartphone on the market.

Our Take

Since we’re typically inundated with the “Which one should I get?” question immediately after an iPhone or iPad launch, here are my suggestions:

Color: The black model has black glass, a black finish on the aluminum, and a black band around the edge. If Batman had a Bat-smartphone, this would be it. The white model has white glass, a raw aluminum finish, and a silver band around the edge. Choose wisely.

Storage: If you take (and keep) tons of photos and videos without downloading them to a computer and clearing them off the phone, get a 32GB or 64GB. If you want to store several movies and TV shows along with your music, get a 32GB or 64GB. Otherwise, just get the 16GB. For the vast majority of people, 16GB is the way to go.

Carrier: I broke my AT&T contract and gave up unlimited data to switch to Verizon this time around (wish they would’ve paid me for the privilege). It made absolutely zero financial sense, but I’m through taking AT&T’s abuse. I had been holding out because of the simultaneous-voice-and-data issue, but AT&T’s coverage seems to have actually gotten worse in the last few months and it’s becoming a serious problem for business. When your commitment to clients is “Call our cell phones, we pick up”, you need your phone to actually ring when someone’s calling, and maintain a connection throughout the call. In other words, it needs to work like a phone.

Verizon’s LTE network is faster than AT&T’s and available in far more cities, and their voice coverage is second-to-none. Plus, I have a Verizon LTE iPad (which is amazing), and will be able to share a data plan between the two devices. So long, AT&T.

The Reviews

On to the reviews. I’ve pored through dozens of them, and hand-picked the best ones for your perusal. Enjoy:

John Gruber, Daring Fireball:

The iPhone 5 is really nice.

It feels great, looks great, has the best display I’ve seen at any size, runs noticeably faster, networks noticeably faster, is way thinner and lighter than any of its predecessors, takes better photos, and, in my six days of testing, gets totally decent iPhone-4S-level battery life.

But you don’t even have to turn it on to see how nice it is. Just hold it. You really have to.

David Pogue, New York Times:

At 0.3 inch, the phone is thinner than before, startlingly so — the thinnest in the world, Apple says. It’s also lighter, just under four ounces; it disappears completely in your pocket. This iPhone is so light, tall and flat, it’s well on its way to becoming a bookmark.

Jim Dalrymple, The Loop:

That has been my takeaway from the design of the iPhone 5 — small design changes that make for big user experience improvements. It’s important to remember that while the changes on the outside may be small to the naked eye, the changes on the inside are huge. Every major component of the iPhone has been changed in one way or another.

Scott Stein, CNET:

“This seems like a good time to discuss thumbs. As in, your thumb size and the iPhone 5. Going back to the iPhone 4S, I realized that the phone’s design has been perfectly aligned to allow a comfortable bridge between thumbing the Home button and stretching all the way to the top icon on the iPhone’s 3.5-inch display. That’s not entirely the case, now. I could, with some positioning, still thumb the Home button and make my way around the taller screen, but the iPhone 5′s a little more of a two-hander.”

The New Kindles

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In a pre-emptive strike against the expected announcement of a smaller iPad in the new few weeks, Amazon yesterday unveiled a series of new Kindles in both e-reader and tablet form. Must be nice to have a marketing machine so powerful that it forces all of your competitors to show their hands before you even publicly acknowledge the existence of a rumored new product.

Here’s a quick run-down of what’s new:

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Kindle Fire 8.9″ 4G: Slightly smaller and lower-res screens than an iPad. Basically non-existent app selection, but Amazon Prime members get streaming movies and TV shows and Kindle e-books. Then again, so do iPad owners, via Amazon’s iPad apps. The $499 4G model is too expensive for what amounts to a mobile video and reading gadget, but the $299 Wi-Fi model will hit the sweet spot for many folks, especially those who are tired of having their iPads hijacked by the kids for games and movies. Note that all the new Kindle Fire models are ad-supported (blech), which, combined with Amazon’s admission that they’re selling these basically at cost, would explain the low prices.

Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD: You can ignore the $159 Fire – if you’re shopping in this category, you might as well pony up for the nicer screen on the $199 Fire HD. The Fire HD will challenge the Nexus 7 for title of best 7″ tablet, at least until a 7″ iPad is released and lays waste to the market.

Kindle Paperwhite: This will be the biggest hit of the bunch this holiday shopping season. An all-new Kindle e-reader with a better screen and a built-in light. The 3G model is $179, but I don’t see the need for most people, since Wi-Fi is commonly available almost anywhere you go these days. The standard Kindle without a light has dropped to $69.

Improve Dropbox and Gmail Security With Two-Step Authentication

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In the wake of Mat Honan’s massive, worst-case scenario hacking a couple weeks ago, a number of cloud services have introduced two-step authentication, a feature that drastically improves the security of your online accounts.

Two-step (also called “two-factor”) authentication refers to two independent ways of verifying your identity when attempting to log into an account: a typical username/password combination plus some other method, usually a temporary code sent to your smartphone via SMS or a special app. This way, a potential hacker would have to physically have possession of your smartphone, in addition to your username/password combo, in order to get into your account.

For many people, especially those who have sensitive emails, documents, or other data in the cloud, enabling two-step verification is a no-brainer. It’s a minor inconvenience, but it pales in comparison to the headache and expense of having your online life compromised. Just ask Mat Honan.

Gmail has had this feature for some time, though most people don’t use it or don’t know it exists. As of today, Dropbox now has a two-step verification option as well.

To get started, follow Macworld’s step-by-step guide (you’ll need your smartphone and the latest preview release of the Dropbox software).

Use Amazon’s Apps To Send Content To Your Kindle

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I’ve had a Kindle for years, and the only way I’ve ever put non-Amazon content on it has been through Instapaper’s Kindle delivery feature. But that requires saving things to Instapaper first, and then waiting for the scheduled delivery to my Kindle – not ideal if I need it go through now, and Instapaper doesn’t support PDF documents.

But I just discovered this handy set of apps and browser extensions from Amazon which allow you to send content from your web browser, computer, or email straight to your Kindle.

With the browser extension for Google Chrome, you can send any blog post or article on the web to your Kindle for reading later. The PC and Mac apps let you send documents by right-clicking on them, and the email feature will add the appropriate attachments to your Kindle’s library.

Sell Your iPhone to Gazelle And Trade Up

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Thinking of trading up to the new iPhone when it comes out next month? Don’t want to deal with the hassle of selling your current iPhone on Craigslist? Gazelle has an offer you can’t refuse:

For those planning on upgrading to the next iPhone model in September, Gazelle is taking the gamble out of early trade-ins with an extension of its price-lock guarantee.

Consumers who plan on selling a used iPhone to Gazelle can get a price quote locked-in now, but don’t have to mail in their iPhone until October 1. It’s widely rumored that the next iPhone model will go on sale September 21. If rumors are true, this would give sellers enough time to hold onto their current iPhone before replacing it with a newer model.

As of today, a 16GB iPhone 4S in “good” condition will fetch $277 on Gazelle, more than covering the expected cost of a new (subsidized) iPhone. If you’re not eligible for an upgrade, it could at least take some of the sting off the $600+ off-contract price.