iPhone 5S review

iPhone 5S review

T3 5
  • This is the brand's 2013 flagship device, now much more affordable. Sporting Touch ID, a great camera and iOS 8. Is it still worth your cash? Check out our iPhone 5S review

    iPhone 5S review


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


    • Price
    • Battery life

    Update: After sitting at the top of the tree as Apple’s flagship smartphone for the best part of a year, the iPhone 5S has been ousted by the larger, slimmer and faster iPhone 6 as well as the even larger iPhone 6 Plus.

    However, the iPhone 5S still has a lot going for it, especially if you’re a fan of the compact 4-inch display and are looking to save a bit of cash. The iPhone 5S can now be had for £459 (16GB) or £499 (32GB).

    The iPhone 5S was at one point Apple’s most powerful phone, though that award has now been handed over to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but it still packs a punch and shouldn’t instantly be discounted because it’s a little on the old side.

    Now firmly in the mid-range, the iPhone 5S has a playground of worthy rivals to battle with like the HTC One Mini 2 and Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini and even low priced devices like the Motorola Moto G (2014), does it still hold its own?

    iPhone 5S: Features

    Unquestionably, the standout features of the iPhone 5S are its hardware inclusions and upgrades, namely Touch ID, the M7 motion co-processor, 64-bit architecture and the iSight camera.

    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 walkthrough 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.

    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.

    With iOS 8 you can also use TouchID to replace the passcode for opening many third-party apps, like password manager 1Password and this is a feature we love.

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

    Apple claims this will provide a 6x power saving for (iOS 7 and 8-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.

    Another improvement over the iPhone 5 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.

    In the 12 months since the the iPhone 5S was released, a number of apps and games have been released that can really push the 64-bit hardware, though we’re expecting a lot more now the iPhone 6 is here packing a faster A8 64-bit chip.

    Even with the release of the iPhone 6, the iPhone 5S doesn’t feel sluggish, in fact the iOS 8 update speeds up animations and overall performance.

    For a while Apple was the only company in the game producing 64-bit mobile devices, but in recent weeks we’ve seen a few running Android see the light of day. Both the Nexus 9 and Nvidia Shield Tablet use the tech and Android 5.0 Lollipop supports it natively, though we might have to wait until 2015 for a raft of phones using it.

    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


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


    • 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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    • Video
      iPhone 5c video review

      The verdict on the new iPhone 5c

    • Video
      iPhone 5s Touch ID demo walkthrough

      We get our hands on the new fingerprint smarts of the iPhone 5s

    • Video
      Apple iPhone 5s unboxing

      We get our hands on one of the first models in the world before it goes on sale

    • Video
      iPhone 5S running IOS 7 Demo

      Walkthrough of all the new iOS features landing on the new iPhone

    • Video
      iPhone 5S Camera Demo

      First look at the new camera landing on the iPhone 5S

    • Video
      Apple iPhone 5S hands-on video

      Here are our first impressions of Apple's latest iPhone, the iPhone 5S


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