Apple finally released the iPhone 5s this week, along with the colorful version of the original 5 called the 5c. There is a lot of new ground to cover with the new installment to the 5 series, but don’t expect too many aesthetic changes when you receive your new phone if you currently have the iPhone 5. Apple spent most of the time updating the hardware and introducing iOS 7 since we last heard from them earlier this year and the changes made to the iPhone 5 are mostly internal.
Under the surface of the 5s there are some significant improvements however, from new features and functions, to brazing new hardware, the phone offers customers a lot to look forward to. The most talked about new hardware feature on the 5s is the addition of full 64-bit support, this is a first for smartphones and a title that Apple was proud to take when the phone was revealed earlier this month. The second hardware upgrade came in the form of a fingerprint sensor, another first for Apple, and a feature that comes standard only with the 5s.
Just like the 5, Apple continued the tall-screen, stunning display and standard features with the 5s. The new OS (iOS 7) comes standard on all 5s and 5c models as well. The standard user probably wouldn’t notice the difference between the 5 and the 5s at quick glance because the changes are so very subtle. Not too many bold choices went into designing the new casing for the 5s model, there are some minor differences that we will point out. All of the buttons and inputs are located in the same place as the 5, and the phone itself is an exact copy when it comes to size (123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm). Apple didn’t even change the weight of the phone, and the popular 4-inch, (1,136 x 640) Retina display comes back with the 5s, something that fans of Apple devices should be happy with. With the same display though, that means the 326ppi hasn’t been upgraded either but few people have ever complained about Apple’s displays in the past.
All of previous ‘s’ models have ushered in small changes to the iPhone line, so none of this should come as a surprise to previous Apple users. The addition of the new Touch ID fingerprint scanner is one of the largest changes that an ‘s’ model has seen to date. The scanner is integrated with the Home button, and offers a new level of security that Apple has never had the chance to offer customers. The dual-LED flash located on the back is also a new feature that is only available on the 5s model. As I mentioned before Apple took home the award for bringing 64-bit processing to smartphones, that was done by replacing the Apple’s A6 chip to the new A7 chip. Apple claims that this new upgrade will double the iPhone 5’s CPU and GPU stats, due to the M7 coprocessor. Smaller changes like a better iSight camera on the back of the phone, and an upgraded FaceTime HD front-facing camera have also made the 5s a more reliable model when it comes to photos and videos.
For those of you that love to break down the numbers there are a few features that you should remember. The new iPhone 5s supports Bluetooth 4.0, both aGPS and GLONASS navigation methods, and dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n wireless networks. One of the earliest leaked changes to the Apple 5s were the new color casing, Apple now includes three new choices for customers to customize their iPhone 5s (Silver, Space Gray and Gold). If you were hoping for the gold version prepare to wait, that version is one of the best-selling models of the iPhone 5s and was the first to sell-out online.
Looking past the specs and the colors, the new features of the iPhone 5s are quite significant, not just to the customer but to the industry as well. Fingerprint scanners may not seem like a giant leap in technology, but getting one to work at a consumer level hasn’t been easy in the past. Humans all have unique fingerprints, a fun fact that we all learned in Kindergarten, but getting technology to accurately read the subtle changes in each person’s fingerprints has proved to be a costly endeavor leading up to the 5s. The technology was a huge gamble for Apple, if it didn’t work correctly then users would become furious when locked out of their phones, make it too lenient and it becomes a useless gimmick that sours Apple’s name. The fingerprint scanner is another one of Apple’s stunning achievements, the capacitive fingerprint sensor is embedded into the home button, sitting safely under a sapphire crystal overlay that barely changes the iPhone iconic design.
The technology uses a steel ring to detect a finger, that will start the scan. The “scan” is a detailed picture that has the ability to photograph your finger from multiple angles (the scan is at an amazing 500ppi, even more than the retina display itself). The new A7 chip processes the images and compares them to the image stored by the user. Another great innovation is how Apple predicted how its standard users might need to use the fingerprint scanner. The functions that the ID reader allows shows Apple’s ability to predict its customers. I say this because the ID scanner can save up to five fingers on the device, meaning you can give your kids, wife, boss or co-worker access to the iPhone 5s, now without passwords. Obviously some of these choices are perfect for work phones, while others are great for parents or families. This also allows you to use your fingerprint instead of your password when buying from the iTunes store, or making changes to your device. With how well the device works, we hope to see it integrated into the Macbook lines as well. It’s an amazingly accurate function, and the failsafe to the fingerprint reader is a password, so should anything go wrong you will still be able to get into your device.
There have been a lot of jabs at Apple for taking fingerprints in a time when our country is under scrutiny for stealing private information from its citizens. Apple states that the fingerprint images that are stored on the iPhone 5s remain only on that device, they are encrypted and stored locally, and away from the prying eyes or online hackers. This also creates a divide in the developer’s market, many developers would want to use the ID scanner in apps and other situations, but Apple has not released any APIs to use the scanner by third-parties, and because of the security, it is doubtful that Apple will allow any App to use the hardware other than its own.
We mentioned earlier that both the iSight and rear-facing cameras were improved, they are, though not through a dramatic increase in megapixels like you may have expected. The 5s offers eight megapixels at its highest performance, the same as the 5 and even the 4s actually. This isn’t to say that the pictures haven’t improved. Apple offered a .1 increase in pixel size (now 1.5µm) and the aperture has been increased to f/2.4. This will allow the camera to work better in certain situations, although it isn’t as grand of an increase as many may have hoped. Low-light situations should see a dramatic difference in photo clarity and better exposures. The iPhone 5s remains, as previous iPhones have, as a reliable and accurate camera for spontaneous photos. The camera doesn’t outclass others by comparison, but it also lives up to the Apple name. New features like image stabilization, combine multiple images shot in low-light to create a single image with a better expose than the camera would offer in a single shot. This technology is becoming more common-place in the market and it works well to create a defined image, even in less than ideal settings. Burst shooting (10 images per second) is a new feature that should allow users to capture the right moment even when your subject isn’t the easiest model to photograph (kittens, babies, kids playing soccer, the usual). All of your burst images are kept in a folder within your Photo Stream, and your phone will also pick out the best options for you to choose from, out of the multiple shots you just took. Another low-lighting improvement is the white and amber flash, this will allow the phone to adjust the flash to your current situation and lighting, offering you the best flash and settings for your image. This will provide a more natural and realistic depiction of the subject when it was photographed, though many users will still slap a filter on the image before sending it to instagram anyway, but you will get a neutral, realistic photo to start with now.
The 1.2-megapixel camera on the front of the phone still can handle 720p video, the 5s adds a BSI sensor (again with larger 1.9µm pixels) and there is an improvement in quality, but it won’t shatter any records. If you shoot video on your phone, then the iPhone 5s is a standout choice for you to consider. The iPhone 5s can handle video at an amazing 120 fps, offering a slow motion effect that should dazzle even the harshest critics. Your YouTube videos should handle this with ease, all recorded in 1080p and saved in the traditional MPEG-4 format.
64-bit processing makes the iPhone 5s faster and more responsive, and as apps are updated to utilize the feature, the iPhone 5s will only keep getting better. The real winner here of course is gaming on the iPhone 5s. Games put the largest strain on devices, and the new processor and coprocessor will allow the iPhone 5s do things that no other phone could do, and it will outperform any other phone in its current class. The M7 will allow a better battery life when using any app that utilizes the gyroscope, accelerometer or compass. This means your maps, fitness trackers and other applications that use these features will run smoother, faster, and use less battery than before.
Calling on the iPhone 5s, or any other phone, has almost become a mute-point when doing reviews. The technology has stabilized and call-clarity and networks have become much more reliable. Speaking on the iPhone 5s was clear and offered the same service that you would expect on an iPhone 5. The noise filter on the iPhone 5s will allow city-dwellers to speak and listen to their calls on the sidewalk, without irritating the other caller.
You will have quite a few options to choose from when selecting your iPhone 5s, the new phone comes in a 16GB, 32GB and a 64GB model (unlocked versions will start at $649, $749 and $849). The top carriers are offering the standard $199 with new contract offer, and the new plans that allow you to pay no money down and pay the $199 on installments, all cover the iPhone 5s as well.
If you like having the best iPhone on the market, then the 5s is your easy choice. If you are new to the iPhone market then the 5s will offer you the best performance for your money. The 5s’ improvements are substantial enough to earn the title of ‘s’ and we are happy to see Apple making better strides to increase battery-life, gaming, and unifying the mobile and desktop experience between Mac, iPad and iPhone.
If you aren’t at the end of your contract yet, and you are thinking about paying the extra fees to upgrade early, we would tell you to wait. The iPhone 5s has all of the new hardware necessary to make applications and games run better and faster than ever, and some of the do. The technology just came out though, so it will be a little while longer before developers are truly maximizing the phone’s potential, so you have time to spare if you are waiting out a contract.