(Reuters) - Apple Inc's iPhone 5 has won rave reviews from tech bloggers and other reviewers who were given the faster, slimmer and lighter smartphone ahead of its release to customers later this week, with CNET describing it as "flat out lovely."
The new connector to link the iPhone to docking stations got the thumbs down because it renders existing speakers and other accessories obsolete, but the phone itself wowed reviewers.
"The iPhone 5 is the iPhone we've wanted since 2010, adding long-overdue upgrades like a larger screen and faster 4G LTE in a razor-sharp new design. This is the iPhone, rebooted," wrote Scott Stein at CNET, a technology website.
"The new design is flat-out lovely, both to look at and to hold".
Britain's Telegraph newspaper swooned that the iPhone 5 is "arguably the most beautiful object Apple has ever produced".
Apple touted the phone as 20 percent lighter than the previous one but Charles Arthur, writing in Britain's Guardian newspaper, said this still comes as a surprise when you first handle it.
"It's really light, making the year-old iPhone 4S feel like a paperweight," he wrote.
"There's also a subtle friction to the edges and the metal back that makes it far less likely to slip from your grasp (a complaint often made of the iPhone 4 and 4S)."
Walt Mossberg, writing in the Wall Street Journal's All Things D blog, labeled it the best smartphone on the market but criticized Apple's new mapping application, which replaced Google's maps used on older models.
"While Apple's maps feature a 3-D "flyover" view of some central cities, they lack Google's very useful ground-level photographic street views," he said.
"They also lack public-transit routing. Apple will instead link you to third-party transit apps," he added, although he praised the addition of turn-by-turn map navigation, something Google had not made available in its iPhone app.
Buyers have embraced the new iPhone too, buying 2 million in the first 24 hours of presales in the fastest iPhone launch ever.
Apple's U.S. online store has imposed a limit of two phones per customer, with projected delivery dates pushed out to 3-4 weeks.
Apple stock hit an all-time high of $703.50 on Wednesday, ahead of the phone's official availability on Friday, before easing back to $701.03, down 0.1 percent.
Time magazine's Harry McCracken said the iPhone 5 compared well with the Galaxy S3 produced by Samsung, with whom Apple is locked in a bitter patent fight.
"The Galaxy does more stuff; the iPhone 5 does somewhat fewer things, but tends to do them better," he wrote.
McCracken said the addition of LTE mobile network connectivity, allowing iPhone 5 users to make use of faster, 4G networks, was worth the price.
However, David Pogue, in the New York Times, questioned whether it was worth breaking two-year phone contracts to upgrade from a year-old iPhone 4S.
"(It's) maybe not worth it for the 5's collection of nips and tucks. But if you've had the discipline to sit out a couple of iPhone generations -— wow, are you in for a treat," he wrote.
The Huffington Post said the design was a generation ahead of others while Bloomberg said the iPhone "retains the title of handsomest phone you can buy."
"The fit and finish really are more like a fine wristwatch, as Apple boasts, than a gadget you might shove into pocket or purse," wrote Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky.
TechCrunch blogger MG Siegler accepted his past liking for Apple products might color the thinking of some readers but said the new phone was fantastic.
"Of course, you're probably expecting me to say that. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong," Siegler argued. "The fact of the matter is, you can either listen to me or lose out. You're going to want this phone."
Writing by Rodney Joyce; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty