iPhone 5s review
- Touch ID
- Improved camera and flash
- Wide LTE support
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.
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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.
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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.
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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)
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