Faster, new camera and a fancy fingerprint reader. But is it enough of an upgrade?
The new iPhone 5S is a solid upgrade of the iPhone 5, but with a few key changes: the processor is more advanced than ever, the camera has been upgraded and, most importantly, there’s a fingerprint sensor.
On top of that there’s the added bonus of a faster GPU (to help power all those teeny tiny pixels rolling around and changing colour in the display) as well as an uprated power pack to keep things moving.
And, as expected, the iPhone 5S is the poster boy for iOS 7, with the new display offering the best look yet at the new flatter, sleeker operating system from Apple.
In our plays with the beta version of the OS, some elements were noticeably slow or jumpy (although this was very much because we weren’t on final software) but with the iPhone 5S everything just flows around as smoothly as possible.
The design of the iPhone 5S isn’t a great leap forward, with the chassis remaining largely the same as the iPhone 5 in keeping with Apple’s tradition of using the core model as the base for the sequel, before releasing a ‘true’ evolution next year.
Even though we knew this was coming, we can’t say that we aren’t a little disappointed as the rumours around the iPhone 6 hint at a dramatic redesign of the device as well as a new material type to make it feel even better in the hand.
There are three colours to choose from, with silver, gold and ‘space grey’ coming in to give another option to consumers looking to mark themselves out in the iPhone game, especially at the sharp end. If you’re after colour, then the iPhone 5C is your friend – that thing comes in five different options, with cases that you can stick on top, too.
The design of the iPhone 5S is, as we said, pretty similar to what we’ve seen before, so colour aside you’d struggle to see if someone is packing a new or old version of the phone with the larger screen.
But let’s forget about all the stuff we expected and focus more on the fact that there’s a fingerprint sensor in there now – we’re talking about biometrics that actually work with a phone.
The premise is simple: You turn on the phone using the home or power button, hold your finger down on the round key and you’re into the phone. It’s incredibly fast, very slick and makes you feel like you don’t have a passcode on there at all.
Apple hasn’t just made this a one-trick pony though. When setting up the sensor you’re asked to guide your finger on and off the button in a variety of ways – this means that no matter how you jab at the home key to unlock your device, the iPhone 5S will be able to react correctly.
In our tests this worked incredibly well – Apple really has cracked the first step in biometrics on a phone, and when you compare it to Android’s Face Unlock, it’s world’s apart, and shows the power when a phone company doesn’t have to rely on such a wide spread of hardware.
Granted, it’s only on the iPhone 5S – so an update from Android should enable the tech in phones like the Galaxy S5 and HTC One Max.
The camera on the iPhone 5S isn’t new in terms of megapixels, but Apple has performed the same trick as HTC (to a degree) by increasing the sensor size but making the pixels that much larger.
This leads to a more stable photo and a better low light performance… this approach should see a sharper image but probably won’t have as strong low light performance.
On top of the camera, there’s also the option for burst mode to capture 10 photos a second as well as a new slow motion mode, which allows you to shoot 120 frames per second at 720p HD. You can even edit the footage to run faster and slower using just your finger.
We saw it in action, and it really seemed to work pretty well.
The last camera element that seems impressive is the new flash on offer, which is a dual LED option. The clever thing is not only does the flash chuck out both white and amber colours to improve the tone of the flash, but the iPhone 5S will calculate the situation and alter the flash accordingly.
The other change here is the new M7 chip which sits alongside the new A7 chip – which is superbly powerful graphically. The M7 chip essentially takes the place of the Fuel Band from Nike, allowing the iPhone 5S to monitor the gyrocscope, accelerometer and compass without disturbing the main chip.
This is great for fitness apps, according to Apple, and won’t drain the battery just because it’s constantly monitoring motion.
But the big question in the mind of many reading this is ‘Should I got for the iPhone 5S or get the cheaper iPhone 5?’. Well, if you’re looking to get what will likely be one of the best handsets on the market as well as future-proofing yourself (although you’ll probably upgrade your phone before Apple ceases support for iOS on the iPhone 5S) then the newer model will please you no end.
However, the iPhone 5 still comes with all the bells and whistles needed to make iOS 7 run smoothly, as well as packing a decent enough camera and screen to excite enough users, who will also get the benefit of a few dollarpounds off the monthly cost of their new device.
The iPhone 5S isn’t a market-leading device in so many ways; but then again, that’s never been Apple’s strategy, and that’s a good thing.
There are so many people out there desperate to hold onto a smaller display, finding the 5-inch behemoths too cumbersome for the pocket or the hand. That’s not to say we’re not fans of what LG, Samsung and HTC are doing with their devices, but there’s clearly a demand for a smaller-screened handset.
And smaller definitely isn’t less beautiful with the iPhone 5S, thanks to that improved camera and fingerprint scanner to really make everything pop and snap when you’re doing the smartphone basics -such as opening the phone a million times a day.
The iPhone is a handset designed to give the best blend of power, sophistication and performance, and the iPhone 5S has taken that message and improved on it once more. The price will still be too high for some, but those locked into the iOS ecosystem, or just willing to take a punt and try something a bit different, will be massively pleased with the new iPhone.
And if you’re one of those that deserted the platform after poor battery problems or signal issues, you’ll especially like the iPhone 5S, which feels like one of Apple’s most stable devices to date while carrying on the tradition of a close eye on premium design.
We would like a touch more heft with the metallic chassis, as it almost feels too light the first time you hold it, but with more colours, more power and a spec list that feels like it’s got the right mix of performance and precision, we can see the iPhone 5S being the top-selling device once more for the Cupertino firm.
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