When the iPhone 5 was announced, it was clear to me that it was the product of obsessive refinement from Apple. The design wasn’t dramatically different from the iPhone 4 and 4S, but at the same time Apple improved upon practically every aspect of its past design.

Now that I’ve had a chance to fondle an iPhone 5 in person, it’s the polish and refinement that’s most striking. Yes, it’s as thin and incredibly light as everyone is saying. And like the best Apple products, it also does an amazing job of making its predecessor seem antiquated.

Side-by-side, the iPhone 5 instantly makes previously attractive elements from the iPhone 4S design feel less appealing: the glass edge extruding from the metal antennas seems a bit too thick, the glass rear feels almost gaudy, and the device itself just feels short and squat. (And remember, I was a big fan of the iPhone 4S, and it’s also been my daily phone for the past year.)

I’ve only had a few hours to play around with the iPhone 5 (loaned for review from Apple), but the difference in usability between the 4S is almost immediately apparent. The taller, thinner design feels more comfortable in your hand. And thanks to the faster A6 processor, coupled with LTE 4G speeds, just about everything on the phone seems to happen instantly.

I’m slightly disappointed by the AT&T LTE speeds I’m seeing so far (around 10 megabits per second down, and 2-3Mbps up), but our office building could be affecting reception. It’s also pretty jarring to run apps that aren’t yet optimized for the iPhone 5’s larger screen. In the screenshots below, you can see that Twitter is optimized, but Instagram isn’t yet. For a photo application, the black borders on the iPhone 5’s screen are particularly noticeable.

Below, check out a collection of hands-on shots with the iPhone 5, the new Lightning connector (which feels almost impossibly small), and the EarPod headphones.

Check back for our full iPhone 5 review next week.

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