Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5 won the backing of Consumer Reports, whose criticism of an earlier model became known as “Antennagate” and who said the latest device is among the best on the market despite its map flaws.

The larger screen, thinner and lighter body design, and faster wireless speeds set the handheld apart from the company’s previous models, according to the magazine, reinforcing a preliminary review it published last month. Consumer Reports also praised improvements made to Apple’s voice-recognition software, Siri, and the iPhone 5’s camera.

“The Apple iPhone 5 is among the best smartphones in our ratings and the best iPhone yet,” the magazine said.

Consumer Reports, which is published by Yonkers, New York- based Consumers Union, has picked fights with Apple before. When the iPhone 4 was introduced in 2010, the 76-year-old magazine refused to recommend the device because of a design flaw with its antenna that led calls to be dropped if it was gripped a certain way. The problems led Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to call a rare press conference to apologize and pledge to give customers free cases to fix the defect.

With the iPhone 5, the most criticized feature has been the new mapping software, which is prone to misrouted directions and locating landmarks inaccurately. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has apologized for the flaws and pledged the company will improve the software.

‘Competent Enough’

Consumer Reports said the problems aren’t significant enough to stand in the way of recommending the handset.

“Apple’s new maps app, available on iPhone 5 and other iPhones, is competent enough, even if it falls short of what’s available for free on many other phones,” Consumer Reports said.

Apple switched to its own mapping software with the iPhone 5, replacing Google Inc.’s product, which had provided the mapping data since the iPhone was first introduced in 2007. The switch was the latest evidence of Apple’s business rivalry with Google, which makes the Android operating system used by Samsung Electronics Co. and other smartphone makers.

The Cupertino, California-based company sold 5 million iPhone 5 models in its first three days on sale last month. The company is battling rivals including Samsung for dominance in a smartphone market estimated to be worth $219.1 billion by Bloomberg Industries.

Apple shares fell 0.7 percent to $666.80 in New York yesterday. The stock has risen 65 percent so far this year.