Apple’s newest smartphone improves on several features that needed an upgrade, but is it enough to make it the best device out there?

The most noticeable thing you’ll spot with the iPhone 5 is that it’s slightly longer, sporting a 4-inch screen that’s larger only in length. It’s not quite up there with the big 4.3 and 4.8-inch touchscreens on Android devices.

Physically, the handset is only about 4 mm longer, and it’s still the same width. Otherwise, the 5 is lighter and thinner than the 4S.

The taller screen, however, plays 16×9 HD video like a proper widescreen TV, no more letterboxing on the side. With its predecessors, you’d get a bit of black around the edges. It also helps that the screen appears to show deeper colours with more clarity

The iPhone 5 looks good, that’s for sure, with a new aluminum body that looks better and is actually stronger – able to withstand an unfortunate tumble from my hand (down to concrete). In terms of design, it’s almost like the Porsche 911. Very predictable, very consistent, but Apple is just making minor tweaks over the years.

A faster A6 chip powers the phone through apps and multi-tasking better than on the 4S. Apple says it’s up to twice as fast as the old chip (A5) although it’s not blatantly obvious unless you play a lot of games. Those apps, such as Asphalt 7, play smoother and with virtually no lag on the iPhone 5.

My favourite feature on the iPhone 5 is its LTE connectivity, which lets users surf the web at speeds comparable to a home or office Internet connection, compared to connecting via 3G.

While the high-speed LTE coverage isn’t widespread yet, it helps load pages and social media feeds almost instantly when you’re in range.

The iPhone 5 also sports dual-band 802.11n wireless, so you can take advantage of quick Wi-Fi networks and data transfer rates.

Apple is introducing a dramatically new  headphone design with the new earbuds they supply with the iPhone 5. Fortunately, music sounds much better from the new pair.

The camera underwent a minor update, capturing better photos in low-light situations with more vivid colour saturation – but sometimes with noticeable and undesirable chromatic aberration (purple haze) when taking pictures into direct sunlight or indoor lighting.

Ultimately, it’s not all good news. In terms of battery life, it seems the iPhone 5 runs out of juice about 10 per cent earlier than with the 4S. A larger screen, faster processor and LTE connectivity are likely to blame for sucking the juice dry noticeably quicker.

The new Lightning connector is also another sour spot, particularly if you’ve been in Apple’s mobile ecosystem for a while. The connector is sturdier and smaller, but means some will have to buy adaptors for their speaker docks, car chargers, etc. It’s almost like the switch from Beta to VHS years ago. Some of your gear and your media is going to be useless.

If you have any previous iteration of the iPhone except the 4S, the 5 is worth upgrading. The iPhone 5 is also worthwhile if you’re looking for an app ecosystem more robust than what’s available with Android.

But don’t forget to explore the Samsung Galaxy S III or LG’s Optimus G – especially if you’d like a big screen. The iPhone 5 has both close on its heels in its rear-view mirror.