iPhone 5s review

iPhone 5s review

T3 5
  • This is the brand’s latest flagship, sporting Touch ID, a better camera and iOS 7. Is it worth an upgrade? Check out our iPhone 5s review

    iPhone 5s review

    Love

    • Touch ID
    • Improved camera and flash
    • Wide LTE support

    Hate

    • Price
    • Battery life

    Launching 2013's most anticipated smartphone comes with its perils and pleasures. Simultaneously launching a second handset targeting a completely new demographic, for the first time in your company's history, is brave as it is hazardous. However, as we've come to expect from the most Marmite tech company in the world, if anyone can pull it off, it's Apple.

    Since the iPhone 5s and cheaper iPhone 5c were unveiled, we've spent every waking (and sometimes sleeping) minute putting the first iOS 7-out-of-the-box devices through their paces.

    The iPhone 5s is Apple’s most powerful phone to date and potentially the most game-changing iPhone it’s launched in six years. We say potentially as, for it to change the way we think about mobile, Apple's going to need a helping hand along the way. We'll come onto that.

    With big name rivals like the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z to compete against, the new iPhone certainly has a lot of work to do…

    iPhone 5s: Features

    Unquestionably, the standout features of the iPhone 5s are its newest hardware inclusions and upgrades, namely Touch ID, the M7 motion co-processor, 64-bit architecture and the all-new iSight camera. These are not only what differentiate it from the previous iPhone 5, but justify its place as the flagship iPhone when compared to the iPhone 5c.

    Now, fingerprint scanning is a pretty boring subject and our only real day-to-day experience of using the technology is with those digit readers built into laptops – a slide-to-unlock affair that worked 60% of the time.

    So, when Apple bought AuthenTec, spawning rumours of similar technology being integrated into its devices, we weren’t exactly enamoured. However, Apple has done its age-old trick of turning a dull feature into something resembling sexy.

    Introduced to replace passcode authentication for unlocking the phone and making iTunes purchases, Touch ID is a joy to use. The sensor is built right into the Home button and registration of a thumb, finger or both – five digits can be registered – takes about a minute using a most-pleasing enrolment system.

    Once recorded, Touch ID has 360-degree, readability of registered digits, meaning it’ll unlock your phone no matter what way up you’re holding the handset. The key selling point, however, is the simplicity and speed of identification.

    Check out our iPhone 5s Touch ID demo walkthough video:


    You don’t have to use Touch ID, but after a few hours with it, the mere thought of entering a four-digit passcode to unlock the device seemed so passé. And this is so easy.

    For some – 36%, according to a McAfee study earlier in the year, including this reviewer and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer – Touch ID could be the first time security of any kind will be used to protect entry to their phone. It's all seamless, efficient and totally Apple.

    Apple is keen to point out that it doesn’t store fingerprint details in iCloud or any of its remote servers. It’s all contained within the hardware, meaning nobody can get at your data. Even the NSA.

    While this is great news for security, we can’t see Apple opening up Touch ID for third-party development anytime soon. So forget your dreams about online fingerprint banking (Barclays declined to comment on its plans) and real-life retail payments. We'd have also liked the option to open different apps with different digits. Maybe in the next iOS 7 upgrade.

    Next in the handful of hardware advancements is what could turn the iPhone 5s from an evolutionary upgrade to a revolutionary game changer.

    Like the GPU that bears the graphical strain from a computer's processor, the new M7 Coprocessor takes the weight of motion measurements - compass, accelerometer and gyroscope - away from the all-new A7 CPU.

    Apple claims this will provide a 6x power saving for (iOS 7-updated) apps that record motion - Nike+, Strava, Moves, etc - but this dedicated chip can also tell what state of movement you're in and will adjust the iPhone 5s accordingly.

    To test this, we used Apple Maps to plot an A to B route that required driving and walking. Upon reaching our destination, and exiting the car, the navigation switched from car to foot, taking us down one-way streets that wouldn't have been possible in a motor.

    If the Coprocessor is clever enough to know where you are and what you're doing (to an extent), it could pave the way for the next wave of apps and features. One example we were given was this: if your iPhone 5s is put in a gym locker while you pump iron, it knows that a) you're not using it b) there's no network coverage c) it's stationary.

    The iPhone could then power itself right down, switching off 3G/4G, the screen and so forth until the time it’s picked up again, where it would come back to life, ready to take that call from your PT asking why you sat in the sauna for two hours rather than making yourself sick doing burpees.

    With a whole new data stream open to developers, it won't be long before a new breed of M7/iOS 7 apps appear in the App Store. What's more, if there's one emerging area that the M7 would supplement perfectly, it's wearable technology. iBand before Christmas, then?

    Another improvement that could pave the way for Apps 2.0, is the A7 CPU/64-bit architecture combo. On paper, Apple claims the power couple will deliver speed twice that of the A6 chip and vastly improved OpenGL ES 3.0-compatible graphics.

    At the time of writing, no 64-bit games or apps were available. The Infinity Blade demo we saw at the iPhone 5s/c launch admittedly looked outrageous in terms of graphical prowess but, while Apple says iOS 7 was built with 64-bit in mind, the spec bump won't be apparent until developers start taking advantage.

    However, Apple's in this for the long game and will soon have all its devices - iMacs, iPads, iPhones - and operating systems - Mac OS and iOS - all running under the same programming banner, which will no doubt please developers. Moreover, no one else is doing that. Apart from Samsung, who was quick to confirm its next raft of smartphones would be 64-bit.

    As another spec-war begins, we can report that the A7 chip has definitely made the Camera app a lot zippier on the iPhone 5s. Real-time previews, on-the-fly effects processing, slo-mo, autofocus (see more in iSight, below) are faster and free from lag or judder. For us, this app demonstrates the most noticeable speed improvement in the iPhone 5s's armory.

  • The Apple iPhone 5s features the new A7 processor, along with a fingerprint scanner and a new camera. T3 went hands-on...

    iPhone 5s review

    Love

    • Touch ID
    • Improved camera and flash
    • Wide LTE support

    Hate

    • Price
    • Battery life

    A year after Apple slimmed down its rock-solid iPhone 4S and introduced the world to the svelte iPhone 5, its latest superphone - the Apple iPhone 5s - has been announced and we've just had an exclusive hands-on.

    Priced from £549 contract free due for release on 20 September 2013, the iPhone 5s stand-out features include fingerprint recognition technology, a vastly improved camera and quicker A7 processor and 64-bit architecture. Plus, of course, iOS 7, which will land for upgrade on the 18 September.

    In a crowded mobile market, the new iPhone 5s will do battle with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z for the undisputed premium smartphone crown of 2013. Apple also announced the affordable iPhone 5c, so let's take a look at what sets its top-of-the-range cousin apart. 

    iPhone 5s: Size and build

    In the hand the iPhone 5s feels much like the iPhone 5, with the 7.6mm depth and 112g weight giving a lightweight yet premium experience.

    At 123.8mm tall, it fits into a pocket without trouble. Unlike the colour-coordinated iPhone 5c, the iPhone 5s comes three shades - Gold, Silver and Space Grey - adding a top-quality differentiator to Apple's most expensive handset - the 64Gb model, contract free, costs £709.

    It weighs the same as the iPhone 5 and is lighter than all of its major competitors. In typical Apple engineering fashion, each iPhone 5S goes through a rigorous build and quality control process. And it shows. 

    Best Apple iPhone 5s cases and covers 2013

    The external changes might not look that different, but it feels an expensive piece of kit. Shame that the chamfered edges remain - the scuffing and scratching issue is a real thing and Apple was keen to promote its bespoke iPhone 5s covers at the announcement.

    Button and hardware placements pretty much replicates that of the iPhone 5, with the only change being an improved flash on  the back and the Touch ID sensor that's built into the home screen. We'll come onto that... Article continues after the video

    iPhone 5s: Features

    The standout new feature here is the fingerprint scanner, which Apple calls Touch ID. Paving the way for a new era in smartphone banking, content purchasing and phone security, the scanner is built right into home button. This means you'll do away with the keypad to get into your phone, just press your assigned finger or thumb to unlock it. The same goes for buying iTunes content.

    Apple iPhone 5s: What you need to know

    Apple's Phil Schiller also said that no data would be stored on cloud servers, just the hardware itself. Giving it a quick try out, we found the setup process very straightforward - press your finger on the button 20 or 30 times to register it -  and a quick and effective way of bypassing what now seems an old security method in the way of number pecking. We'll doubtless see a glut of apps to take advantage of this in the next few weeks and months.

    Being the premium super phone in Apple's line-up, you'd expect its feature-set to earn its keep. And you'd be right. The iPhone 5s sports an improved 8 megapixel, 1.5µ pixel iSight camera on the back that, among other things, can shoot in slo-mo (720p at 120fps).

    The effect is great and will undoubtedly spawn a new wave of GIF memes and slowed-down footy skills. In addition, you get image stabilisation that combines ten shots a second to produce the best picture, a new f/2.2 aperture and 15% bigger sensor area than the iPhone 5.

    In our hands-on, it seemed to take noticeably crisper pictures than the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C. However, it's still some way off what the outrageous 41-megapixel Nokia Lumia 1020 can produce. As a comparison, the HTC One, Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy S4 have 4mp, 13.1mp and 13mp rear-facing cameras respectively.

    Apple iOS 7 apps: 10 things you need to know

    Another camera improvement is the new True Tone flash, which picks the right light for its environment to improve the picture being taken. It worked well in the halogen-tinged demo area, giving a slightly better skin tone representation. The front camera takes 1.2MP photos.(1280x960) and records video at 720p.

    The iPhone 5S supports a serious selection of 4G and LTE frequencies, which should mean compatibility with all major network providers. Wireless connectivity remains at N WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. There's no NFC. Article continues after the video.

    iPhone 5S: Screen

    Continuing the Retina trend, the iPhone 5S keeps the 4-inch, 1136x640 at 326ppi screen. Loaded with iOS 7, colours fizz with pin-sharp text adorning icons, web-page text and typed content. Display contrast is balanced and blacks are jet black, which add a real depth and clarity to the HD video and still image content we were shown.

    The hyper-colour environment won't be everyone's cup of tea but with the ability to take richer photos, you're going to want a screen to show it off with. Comparing screen size to the Samsung Galaxy S4 (5-inch), HTC One (4.7-inch) and Sony Xperia Z (5-inch), the iPhone 5S remains the baby of the bunch. Article continues after the video.

    iPhone 5S: Performance

     

    Under the chamfered chassis, you'll find a brand new A7 processor and 64-bit computing architecture, which Apple claims delivers 2x faster graphics and speed.

    Needless to say the experience is fast and furious. Apps open in an instant, video content is free from judder, image-processing (we tried processing shots in the photo app) is perceptibly faster than the iPhone 5. Content just zips along in iOS7 and anyone making the jump from an iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5s will notice a huge difference in speed and power.

    Best Apple iPhone 5s apps to download now

    We were given a demo of Infinity Blade III and the graphics looked simply outrageous. Like most hardware bumps, the real test will lie in what developers can create and with this much processing power on offer, we're expecting some special things this year. We'll have a deeper report when we get our hands on a review model. Article continues after the video.

    iPhone 5S: Battery

    Apple is quoting a a ten-hour talk time on 3G, 250-hour standby, ten hours internet use on 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi with video playback running to 10 hours and audio stretching to 40 hours. Until we get our hands on a final review sample - watch this space - we can't confirm or deny it. So there.

    iPhone 5S: Verdict

    From our early play with the iPhone 5s, we expect that the improvements in performance and features will attract the early-adopting Apple faithful as well as those finally looking to upgrade from an iPhone 4S. The refreshed iOS 7 might even tempt some Android and Windows Mobile users.

    However, the smartphone market remains a hugely competitive and keenly priced place with Samsung, HTC, Sony, even Nokia, launching some truly spectacular handsets over the last year.

    If you're not buying an iPhone 5S on contract then the prices are, well, let's call them 'premium'. And that might be a step too far for some looking to defect from other brands. But, then there's the iPhone 5c - an iPhone for the masses. It's not budget, Apple doesn't do budget, but we reckon that will be the iPhone success story

    iPhone 5s release date: 20 September 2013

    iPhone 5s price: £549 (16GB), £629 (32GB), £709 (64GB)

    Want more on the iPhone 5S? Subscribe to the T3 YouTube channel

     

    • Apple iPhone 5s Unboxing -- Exclusive & First on YouTube
    • Apple iPhone 5S hands-on: Specs
    •  features
    •  price and release date
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