Apple sold 5 million iPhone 5 units in the first three days after release. Considering most of these buyers never saw, held or played with an iPhone 5 in person, that’s a big leap of faith. While we haven’t seen any flubs the scale of “Antennagate” this time around, there have been plenty of complaints about the new smartphone.
Let’s take a look at the most common gripes people seem to have. While not necessarily universal or even exceptional in the world of smartphones, these are the iPhone 5 problems that people have been complaining about the most online and around the world. Wherever possible, we’ll also let you know how you can work around these issues or fix them if you’re encountering them as well.
Problem: Apple Maps
It’s no secret that Apple and Google are no longer exchanging Christmas cards. The “thermonuclear” war Steve Jobs initiated on the Android platform is far from over. With iOS 6 and the new iPhone 5, Apple stripped out the Google Maps app as the default and replaced it with its own Maps app. A flurry of stories in the days following release focused on mistakes and inaccuracies in Apple’s new navigation system.
The data is inaccurate for many places, the app is buggy, and many core features of Google Maps that people had come to rely on simply don’t exist in Apple’s Maps app. The fuss in the press got so bad that Apple CEO Tim Cook actually apologized publicly, and promised the app would improve over time.
Workaround: There’s no way to fix the Maps app, and no telling how long it will take Apple to get it right, but in the meantime you can always turn to an alternative. Here’s a roundup of the best alternative map apps for iOS. We’ve been hearing that the Google Maps app for iOS 6 is just around the corner for a while now, but right now the only way to access it on your iPhone 5 is through the browser: Point it to maps.google.com.
Problem: Can’t connect to Wi-Fi
A number of people have reported issues with their iPhone 5 connecting to specific Wi-Fi networks. Sometimes it refuses to connect at all; sometimes it drops the connection. Some people report that even standing right next to the router with their iPhone 5 the signal strength is extremely low, but it works fine on other devices.
Workaround: You can always try holding down the Home button and the Lock button together for a few seconds until you see the Apple logo and the phone restarts, but this is unlikely to be a permanent fix.
Solution: Apple released the iOS 6.0.2 update specifically to fix the Wi-Fi issue, but it has persisted for a number of people. If you have the latest version of iOS and you are still experiencing Wi-Fi problems, you should go to an Apple Store or call support and see if you can get a replacement. A number of people have reported it as a suspected hardware issue and have been given replacement devices that didn’t have the same problem, although there hasn’t been any official recognition of a hardware issue.
Problem: Overheating and excessive battery drain
After the iOS 6.1 update rolled out, a number of user complaints regarding overheating and a fast draining battery surfaced. Some reports linked this to a problem with Microsoft Exchange 2010 that was supposed to be fixed in Apple’s iOS 6.1.2 update. However, some users are still reporting an excessive battery drain problem, even after the latest update.
Workaround: Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts and Calendars > Fetch New Data and turn Push to Off and select Manually at the bottom of the screen. This means you’ll only get new emails when you actually fire up the email app, but it has solved the battery drain and overheating for some people while they wait for another software update from Apple.
Possible solutions: Some people have reported the issue solved itself after a hard reset. To perform a hard reset, hold down the Lock and Power buttons simultaneously for a few seconds until the iPhone restarts. You can also try deleting your Exchange account, restarting the device, and entering the details to create the Exchange account again. Beyond that, it looks like your only option is to wait for another iOS update. We’ll keep you posted.
Problem: Scratches on the body
Reports of the iPhone 5’s anodized aluminum casing getting scratched and scuffed very easily started to emerge quite quickly after the launch. A number of people found the coating was easily scratched off around the edges and chipped on the back panel, revealing the silver aluminum beneath. There were also reports of iPhone 5 units being scratched right out of the box.
Apple’s marketing boss, Phil Schiller, responded to an email from a complaining customer to say, “Any aluminum product may scratch or chip with use, exposing its natural silver color. That is normal.”
Workaround: Assuming your smartphone isn’t scratched on arrival then you should invest in a bumper or go shopping for iPhone 5 cases. If it does get scratched you could always polish off the coating to create a silver highlight around the edge or even laser engrave something on the back.
Problem: Purple glare on photos
The camera on the iPhone 5 is supposed to be the best yet, but many users have reported a strange purple glare. The effect seems to rear its ugly head when there is a strong edge or out-of-scene light source. The standard lens flare effect we’re all used to seems to have a purple hue when using the iPhone 5 camera. In direct comparisons with other cameras, such as that on the iPhone 4S, the difference is pretty clear.
Workaround: Apple released a support document addressing this issue and suggested that, “Moving the camera slightly to change the position at which the bright light is entering the lens, or shielding the lens with your hand, should minimize or eliminate the effect.”
Problem: Light leakage
A few people reported that light was leaking out around the power connector on the white iPhone 5. It’s not really noticeable unless you are in low light or dark surroundings, but it is a flaw.
Solution: Show the offending iPhone 5 at an Apple store and they’ll replace it with a new one.
Problem: Rattling from inside
A number of people reported a rattling noise coming from inside their new iPhone 5 when lightly shaken. Apparently in the rush to meet demand some iPhone 5 units shipped with a battery that was not properly set.
Solution: Take your iPhone 5 to an Apple store and they’ll fix the loose battery or offer you a replacement.
Problem: Date and time bug
There have been several threads in the Apple and Verizon forums about a bug with the date and time incorrectly updating on the iPhone 5. Some users reported that the device was losing minutes, but others complained of it being hours out of sync and even changing the date by several days. The majority of complaints concern Verizon customers, although there are some complaints from Sprint customers as well. Many people have suggested it is related to the LTE network, but neither Apple nor Verizon was keen to take responsibility.
Solution: You can try switching the update from automatic to manual in Settings > General > Date & Time. Some people have suggested switching off LTE or resetting the phone, but there’s no definite fix. If you experience this problem then complain to your carrier. Some customers suffering from the problem have reported it magically vanishing so there’s a good chance that Verizon is working on it behind the scenes. Judging by reports of similar issues from people on Verizon with other phones it is likely not an Apple problem.
Problem: Screen flicker
Reports of an intermittent screen flicker on the iPhone 5 have also been pretty common. This glitch most frequently appears on the virtual keyboard in the App Store when users go to enter their password to purchase an app. It turns up as flickering lines across the bottom of the screen over the keyboard, but it’s relatively minor.
Solution: Wait for the next iOS update because it looks like a software glitch and will likely be fixed when Apple rolls out a platform update. There’s not really anything you can do about it in the meantime.
Problem: Unresponsive touchscreen
A few complaints have come in that the iPhone 5 touchscreen is randomly dropping touch input when a finger is dragged forwards and backwards diagonally across the display. Some people have even reported a completely unresponsive touchscreen or the screen going blank for a few seconds. There have also been complaints about the touchscreen registering touches when the user hasn’t touched that part of the display. While this doesn’t seem to be a widespread issue it is clearly a pretty extreme problem. There could be more than one issue here, some tests suggest the quick swipe failure is an iOS issue, but the more severe unresponsive or wrongly registering touches problems are likely to be hardware related.
Solution: If your problem is severe then take your iPhone 5 to an Apple store and show them the issue and you’ll get a replacement. You could try resetting or restoring your iPhone 5, but this is probably a hardware problem and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a replacement. If you are experiencing the quick swipe problem then you may just need to wait for an iOS update.
Problem: Home button not working
A lot of people have run into problems with the physical Home button not working. For some iPhone 5 owners it has been flaky and increasingly unresponsive from the start, for others it has gradually worn out through use.
Workaround: If you’re planning to get your iPhone fixed or replaced, but you still need to use it in the meantime, then there is a good workaround for an unresponsive Home button. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Assistive Touch and turn it on. You’ll see a small circle on screen and when you tap it you’ll have access to Home, Siri, More, and Favorites, which allows you to bypass the button.
Solution: If it is still under warranty then you should be able to get a replacement from Apple. If you’re able to visit an Apple Store then that will be the fastest way to get it dealt with; they’ll probably repair it on the spot or get you a replacement. If you can’t get to an Apple Store then contact Apple or your carrier and ask about your options. Note: if there’s any sign of damage (like an indication you dropped it) or if it is outside warranty then there will be a charge for the fix.
Problem: Power button not working
A number of iPhone 5 owners have had problems with the Power button. In most cases it seems to be getting less responsive over time. It may require multiple pushes to register and it often seems to be unresponsive on the right, but works better if you push on the left side.
Solution: Head to an Apple Store and if you’re still under warranty and there’s no sign of obvious damage then they’ll replace it for you on the spot. Alternatively you could take it back to your carrier or retailer.
Problem: Running out of space
Your iPhone 5’s storage can fill up a lot faster than expected and it’s not always clear what is taking up the space. A number of users have complained about a large Other folder. It can be made up of all sorts of things from documents, to emails, to the Siri cache.
Solutions: Some people recommend that you factory reset your iPhone, but that’s a little extreme. There are a couple of things you can try first. You could delete old messages and emails, any downloaded files, and your Safari cache. Go to Settings > Safari > Advanced > Website Data and delete some of the entries, particularly if there are websites listed that you don’t intend to revisit.
If you have a data corruption problem, possibly from a failed sync, then it will also show up in Other and you’ll need to restore your iPhone to get rid of it.
You could also try something like PhoneClean, which is free software that runs on your PC or Mac and can delete junk files from your iPhone 5 when you plug it in.
If you’ve encountered any other iPhone 5 problems or you want to volunteer some fixes then post a comment. With the severe problems we’ve suggested that you visit an Apple Store to get them resolved. That’s because this will always be the quickest way to find a fix or get a replacement phone. If you are unable to get to an Apple Store then contact customer support, but you can expect to be asked to run through troubleshooting steps and then have a bit of wait time before they’ll ship you a replacement.
Updated on 8-27-2013 by Simon Hill: Added Home and Power button problems, and running out of space (large Other file) problem.
Updated on 3-11-2013 by Simon Hill: Added issues with Wi-Fi connections and battery life problems to the list.
Article originally published 12-4-2012.