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Monday, September 16, 2013

iPhone 5S review: hands on with Apple's new iPhone 5S


We haven't yet had time to properly test the iPhone 5S, so this first iPhone 5S review is based on time spent with the device and the specifications as compared to other iPhones.

The 16GB iPhone 5S will cost £549 inc VAT in the UK. The 32GB flavour will set you back £629 inc VAT, and the 64GB model a whopping £709 inc VAT. For comparison purposes, the now retired iPhone 5 used to cost as follows: 16GB = £529, 32GB = £599, and 64GB £699.

The iPhone 5S is the first 64-bit smartphone. It comes with an all-new A7 chip with 64-bit architecture. It also has what Apple calls an M7 motion coprocessor, which should mean a lot more apps that use motion-tracking, such as fitness apps. Apple doesn't tend to say how much RAM it puts into its smartphones but don't expect it to stint on the iPhone 5S. The iPhone 5S comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB flavours. 64-bit computing in a phone will likely make little difference in the short term, but is a sure fire way to future proof what should be a superfast phone.

My colleagues Lex Friedman, Jason Snell, Dan Moren tried the iPhone 5S and this is that they said about its performance: "We found it speedy and snappy, and iOS 7 looks great. We weren't able to run any benchmark tests or particularly hungry apps, so there was no way to put to the test Apple's claims of it being twice as fast as the iPhone 5 in many tasks. As we said, the iPhone 5s feels more or less like the iPhone 5. It's truly an iPhone with an "s" at the end at its name - a whole bunch of upgraded internals built on top of a phone design that seems quite familiar."

As the Macworld guys suggested, the iPhone 5S is designed in keeping with the iPhone 5's tone. It comes in three metallic shades, including a gold effect.

The iPhone 5S's dimensions are 123.8x58.6x7.6mm, and it weighs just 112g. Here's what the guys say: "The iPhone 5s feels an awful lot like the iPhone 5. It isn't noticeably heavier in hand, nor is the look particularly different - save for its new colour options.


"When the iPhone 5s was only a rumor, much was made about one of those new colour options: the gold version. But this isn't some crazy, Vegas-style iPhone: It's a muted metallic colour that's the gold equivalent of the iPhone 5's silver. The gold iPhone 5s has a white front and gold metallic sides and back. The new "space gray" iPhone is basically the old black iPhone, with the slate metal shade brought up into a dark gray. (Space, by the way, is completely black - not gray.)

"We also got a chance to see Apple's new leather iPhone 5s case during our time on Apple's campus. To our hands, the cases didn't actually feel - or even look - especially leathery. They fit extremely snugly, and even the Apple representatives on hand mentioned that the cases can be a chore to remove or put back on. And because the iPhone 5s is exactly the same dimensions as the iPhone 5, you can use Apple's new case for your iPhone 5 - or iPhone 5 cases on your new iPhone 5s."

Another hardware spec Apple never gives away, and for which we'll have to wait to tear down a handset, is battery life. But unusually for a tech company Apple's claimed battery life figures tend to be close to the mark (steps back, waits for 'fanboy' accusations...). The iPhone 5S has a built-in, non-swappable lithium-ion battery. Apple says the iPhone 5S will last for up to 250 hours on standby, and 10 hours of talk time. Web surfing is 8 hours on 3G, and 10 hours on LTE and Wi-Fi. Apple claims 10 hours for video playback and 40 hours audio playback, for the iPhone 5S.

As I said before, before testing I expect these to bear out.

The iPhone 5S has two cameras, a front-facing FaceTime camera and a rear-facing camera known as an iSight camera. The specifications work out as follows.

The iPhone 5S iSight camera has what Apple describes as a 'better 8Mp sensor', than either the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 5C. It lists the sensor as 8 megapixels with 1.5µ pixels. It has ƒ/2.2 aperture and a true-tone flash. The FaceTime Camera takes 1.2Mp photos at a resolution of 1280x960, and offers 720p HD video recording.

We'll have to test the iPhone 5S properly before we can properly pronounce on its camera capabilities.

The iPhone 5S has a 4-inch (diagonal) widescreen Multi-Touch display, with a 1136x640-pixel resolution that makes for a pixel density of 326ppi. Expect 800:1 contrast ratio and 500 cd/m2 max brightness from both the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S.

Both the iPhone 5S will launch with iOS7, and be upgraded for free to all new versions of Apple's operating system.

The big ticket new feature of the iPhone 5S is the new Touch ID fingerprint system. Here's what the guys had to say:

"The fingerprint sensor is built into the iPhone 5s's Home button, which as a result feels ever-so-slightly different.

"Configuring and using Touch ID is a breeze, and feels a bit like the future. First, a disclaimer: Touch ID does not preclude you from locking your phone with a passcode. In fact, to use touch ID you must also have a passcode on your phone. If the fingerprint scanner somehow gets borked, or if you hand your iPhone to someone else while driving, or if you lose your hand in a freak accident, you can still get into the device by using the passcode.

"In the Settings app, under Passcode and Fingerprint, you can tap to add a new fingerprint. To add one, you'll need to enter in your device's passcode first. The upshot: Even if someone snags your unlocked iPhone, they can't add their own fingerprints willy-nilly; they'd need to know your passcode first.

"Because the iPhone 5s will store up to five fingerprints, you can have the phone memorize two of your own fingers - say, both thumbs or a thumb and an index finger - and still have room left over for your significant other or kids to add their prints, too.

"When you tap to add a new fingerprint, iOS 7 prompts you to tap your finger on the Home button several times. After a while it may also coach you to change your grip on the phone, so it can map a larger portion of the surface area of your fingertip - just as though you're getting fingerprinted down at the police station. A fingerprint icon continues to add details as you tap, until finally the phone tells you that the process is complete.

"can name each stored fingerprint - My thumb or Lauren's index, say - to keep track of which is which. And if you want to edit a print's name, or delete it, there's an easy way to figure out which is which when you're in the Touch ID portion of the Settings app: Just put your finger on the Home button, and the saved fingerprint linked to that finger gets briefly highlighted in the list.

"Once you've saved the fingerprint, you can use it for two purposes: You simply put your finger on the Home button, and the device will unlock after a moment. If it can't identify your fingerprint, you'll see a Try Again message. After a few tries, the iPhone will flip over to the passcode keypad, giving you not-so-subtle encouragement to just give up and use a passcode instead.

"The other place you can use your fingerprint is anywhere you're prompted for your Apple ID password - specifically, iTunes Store purchases. When you go to buy an app, for example, the iPhone 5s will prompt you to provide your fingerprint. But if you can't or don't want to, you can choose to tap in your actual password instead."

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