Excellent camera and flash; Lightning fast A7 processor; Fingerprint sensor works well; Solid and elegant design in new colors; Bright display
Relatively small screen; Below-average battery life; Limited camera features
The iPhone 5s boasts a fantastic camera and an array of cutting edge technologies that make this compact smartphone a force to be reckoned with.
Apple is giving Android the finger with the iPhone 5s. And we're not just talking about the fingerprint sensor beneath the screen. The new A7 chip inside this unassuming beast promises to run circles around the Galaxy S4 and other devices. Apple's sequel ($199 for 16GB) also features a beefed up camera with larger pixels as well as a new dual flash system. Then there's iOS 7, which sports a colorful yet clean new design that looks like an antidote to cluttered Android skins. At a time big-screen flagships are all the rage, though, should you give this compact powerhouse a chance?
Same weight, same dimensions, same 4-inch display. That's to be expected when Apple is in between major redesigns. But that doesn't mean the iPhone 5s doesn't have flair. The new gold version (really more of a champagne) has panache without going to gaudy town. The gold ring around the power button provides a nice subtle contrast to the white front. But there's something more industrial chic about the space gray iPhone 5s with black front. The silver version is the most pedestrian of the three models.
Otherwise, the iPhone 5s has the same sturdy yet elegant aluminum-and-glass design as its predecessor, complete with polished chamfered edges. Other than the HTC One, no other smartphone comes close to looking like a luxury item. The only notable aesthetic differences between the iPhone 5s and the 5 is the new circular home button and dual flash on the back.
It's worth noting that the iPhone 5 remains one of the lightest (3.95 ounces) and most one-hand-friendly designs around. You just have to be willing to give up larger screen size for this convenience.
Fingerprint and Touch ID
Setting up Touch ID couldn't be easier. Just place the finger you want to register on the sensor multiple times until the 5s gets a complete profile. You can also register multiple fingers, which we recommend because you never know when you need to pick the phone up with your left or right hand. On a few occasions the 5s didn't recognize our finger the first time, but overall we appreciate the convenience.
However, Touch ID has a lot of unrealized potential. For example, we could see Apple pairing the technology with Passbook apps for mobile payments or redeeming offers. And although you can store multiple fingers on the iPhone 5s, we wish you could set up special profiles for your kids so that when they touched the sensor only the apps you approved popped up on screen. Or how about mapping certain fingers to certain apps?
The iPhone 5s also continues to boast one of the brightest displays on a smartphone, making it easy to view content even in direct sunlight. The device registered 500 lux on our light meter, which while slightly below the 525 lux turned in by the 5 trounces the 396 smartphone average. The 5s also outshines the Galaxy S4 (480), HTC One (375) and LG G2 (351 lux).
Much more than a fresh coat of paint, iOS 7 adds some much needed functionality to the iPhone. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen launches Control Center, presenting setting shortcuts to everything from Airplane mode and Wi-Fi to screen brightness and music controls. You'll also find launch shortcuts for the camera, calculator, timer and a flashlight utility.
While Control Center is welcome, we wish you could long press any of the settings icons to open its corresponding menu, as you can with the Galaxy S4. We also wish you could customize the launch shortcuts along the bottom; we would add a Settings button before a flashlight.
Swiping down from the top of the screen launches the revamped Notification Center, which has three tabs. The Today view is essentially your Agenda, including upcoming events, the current weather and reminders. You'll also find tabs for All notifications and a separate one for any ones you missed. We're not sure these need to be separate.
One of our favorite iOS 7 features is AirDrop. So long as the other iDevice is within fairly close range, you can easily share photos, videos, contacts and more. (Apple says AirDrop works using a combination of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.) We shared an 8-MP photo between two iPhone 5s devices in a couple of seconds--and we didn't have to bump the phones together to do it.
Overall, iOS 7 is a gorgeous and very capable operating system, but it still lacks the flexibility of Android. We also wish we could turn off some of the fancy animations, such as the icons flying onto the home screen when you unlock the device. This effect introduces a bit of lag where there was virtually none before. For more details see our very comprehensive iOS 7 review.
A7 Processor and Performance
A handful of 64-bit apps are available now, and more are sure to come soon. Options include apps from Autodesk (like Sketchbook Pro and Pixlr Express Plus), Smule's Sing! Karaoke, algoriddim's djay 2 and vjay and Gameloft's Total Conquest.
Apple claims that the iPhone 5s offers double the overall speed and graphics performance, and our benchmarking mostly bore this out. Loading the "Minion Rush" game, for example, took just 16 seconds on 5s, versus 26 seconds for the older iPhone 5.
We saw similar results in synthetic benhcarks. On Geekbench 3, which measures processor and memory performance, the 5s notched 2,556, which is nearly double the older iPhone 5's mark of 1,297. The 5s also beat most Android phones, including the HTC One (2,460) and Moto X (2,068), thought the Galaxy S4 scored an even higher 3,177.
We also ran the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test, which gauges graphics performance. The iPhone 5s scored a very high 13,795, second only to the Snapdragon 800-powered LG G2 (16,201). The Moto X, HTC One and Galaxy S4 all scored below 11,000.
We're assuming both developers and Apple will work out the kinks in short order.
Here's a feature that'st ripe for all sorts of possibilities. The iPhone 5s has a dedicated M7 coprocessor that measures accelerometer, gyroscope and compass data, which can be used for fitness apps and other applications. Nike on one such app called Nike+ Move, which will ostensibly give your 5s Fitbit Flex-like capabilities. But that's not all the M7 chip can do; it knows when you've stopped moving (such as when you're in bed or at the office) and can save battery power by pinging the network less.
Over time we see all sorts of fitness, navigation and other apps debuting to support the M7. Perhaps you could even use your 5s as a game controller for the Apple TV while using less power.
Outdoors, a close-up shot of a pink white and red flower outdoors delivered accurate color and crisp detail. We could make out practically every fold in the petals.
The iPhone 5s has a powerful burst mode that automatically shoots multiple images when you hold down the shutter button. (Storage permitting you could capture 999 stills in a row.) We like that the phone automatically presents whatever it calculates as the best photo, whether it's an action shot or group shot. For instance, when we shot a passing taxi in New York City, the 5s showed us an image first of it centered in the frame.
The most fun you'll have with the iPhone 5s will likely be with the camcorder's slow motion video recording. In this mode you'll shoot 720p footage at 120 frames per second and the 5s will automatically slow down the middle portion of the clip to quarter speed.
The results were truly impressive. A clip we recorded of a fountain slowed down to the point we could see individual streams of water. The audio slowed down, too, which was kind of freaky. You can easily set what portion of the clip you want to be slow or fast.
We also appreciated the 5s' optical image stabilization when recording video. After recording ourselves jogging across a basketball court with both the iPhone 5s and 5 and playing back the footage, the 5s' clip looked much less jittery. Even when walking at a slower pace towards an American flag, the 5s' video looked noticeably smoother.
Last but not least, the 5s sports a front 720p FaceTime camera. When we captured our face indoors under the same lighting conditions at the same time, the 5s' shot looked clearer with less noise.
There's something very refreshing about a phone that doesn't come with any carrier-branded apps. But that's not the only reason we like the iPhone 5s. Apple now offers its Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps for free, giving users an Office-like experience on the go. iPhoto and iMovie apps for free.iTunes Radio satisfies.
MORE: How to Use iTunes Radio
Apple's App Store not only looks sleeker with the iOS 7 update, it offers new ways to discover the hundreds of thousands of apps available.
4G LTE Performance
The iPhone 5s reportedly features a 1560 mAh battery, a jump from 1440 mAh on the previous model. As a result of that extra capacity--and presumably other efficiencies from its new chips--Apple claims that its flagship can last up to 10 hours on LTE. On the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over 4G LTE on 40 percent brightness, the 5s lasted 5 hours and 46 minutes.
That's a half hour less than the smartphone category average (6:16). The AT&T Galaxy S4 turned in a shorter 5:13 in regular mode but a longer 5:54 in power saving mode. The HTC One (5:55 in regular mode, 6:20 in power saving) also lasted longer than the iPhone 5s. The LG G2, which benefits from a 3,000 mAh battery, lasted 10 hours and 42 minutes.
Anecdotally, the iPhone 5s demonstrated pretty good staying power. After being unplugged for 8 hours and 29 minutes, which included 3 hours and 19 minutes of usage (email, taking photos and video, gaming, streaming music), the battery meter on the 5s read 24 percent. So with moderate usage you should expect to get through most if not all of a typical workday.
Editors Note: We've reached out to Apple for comment on our test and will update this review with any feedback and further test results.
Configurations, Plans and Pricing
In addition to the three color options, consumers will be able to purchase the iPhone 5s with 16GB of storage for $199, 32GB for $299, and 64GB for $399.
On AT&T, shoppers will be able to sign up for a traditional two-year contract, or you can opt for AT&T's new NEXT plan, which requires no payment upfront, but costs $27 per month for 20 months. With this plan, consumers will also be eligible for an upgrade after 12 payments, as opposed to two years with a traditional plan.
Assuming you prefer a more compact design, though, you'll be delighted with everything else the iPhone 5s has to offer. The improved iSight camera takes fantastic looking photos (especially in low light) and Apple still offers the best selection of high-quality apps, including the ones that are built in. Although we wish iOS 7 offered more customization and better parental controls, the experience is more polished and less cluttered than most Android phones. The bottom line is that the iPhone 5s is a superbly designed smartphone that deftly balances ease of use and swift performance with impactful features.
- How to Use iOS 7
- iPhone 5S: Why We Love (and Hate) Apple Products
- Apple iPhone 5s vs Samsung Galaxy S4: What Should You Buy?
|Phone Display Size||4|
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||iOS 7|
|Networks||4G LTE (Band 2, 4, 5 and 17); 4G (HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul); 3G/UMTS (850/900/1900/2100MHz); GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900MHz)|
|Processor Family||Apple A7|
|Memory Expansion Type|
|Display (main)||4 inches/1136 x 640|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Front Camera Resolution||1.2MP|
|Camera Resolution||8 MP|
|Audio formats supported||WAV|
|Audio formats supported||AIFF|
|Audio formats supported||AAC+|
|Audio formats supported||AAC|
|Talk / Standby Time|
|Size||4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|