The iPhone 5s will be in stores on Friday but a few lucky journalists were able to get their hands on the new smartphone early to test out all the new features. Here are the top ten reviews you need to read.
The new camera will mean more to you. Its sensor is 15 percent bigger, and the individual light-detecting pixels are bigger. Take photos side-by-side with the iPhone 5S’s predecessor, and the difference is immediately obvious; lowlight pictures are far better on the new phone. Clearer, brighter, better color.
The shots we took with the 5s were consistently better than what we took with the 5: they were sharper, with finer details, more natural colors and far less noise. As you might expect, our daylight shots were roughly on par, though there were a few times when the 5s won out by a slight margin, offering just a little more detail. All told, the 5s plays in the same league as all those other flagships with a bigger emphasis on imaging. Even so, our sample shots still showed more noise and less detail than the same images taken with the Nokia Lumia 1020.
At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss the fingerprint sensor as a whiz-bang feature designed to attract eyeballs and do little else. But this isn’t that. The fingerprint sensor, unlike some other questionable recent smartphone tech like gesture control or eye-tracking, doesn’t feel like a gimmick or tech demo; it feels like a mature feature that actually enhances the overall experience of using an iPhone in a noticeable way that you encounter very frequently.
The good: The iPhone 5S delivers an improved camera, a nifty fingerprint sensor, and a next-gen CPU and motion-tracking chip. Apple throws in the iWork app suite for free. iOS 7 adds some nice step-ups, too, including AirDrop file transfers and the Android-like Control Center.
The bad: External design is identical to that of the iPhone 5, including a 4-inch screen that looks downright tiny next to Android competitors. For now, the fingerprint sensor only works with Apple apps. The 64-bit A7 processor and M7 motion-tracking chip don’t have killer apps yet. iOS 7 differences are potentially jarring for longtime iPhone users.
In my scores of tests, with three fingers, the reader never failed me and none of the 20 or so people I asked to test it was able to unlock the phone. If a finger match fails three times, the phone offers you a chance to type in your passcode instead. After five failures, it requires the passcode. Apple says the odds another person’s finger would work are 1 in 50,000, versus 1 in 10,000 for breaking a four-digit passcode.
With 64-bit computing now achievable at a power consumption, chip size and cost appropriate for mobile devices, it seems inevitable that manufacturers will move to this in time. The performance and security benefits, along with potential reductions in complexity of both hardware and software, ought to aid the reliability of both. It’s not a whole new game-changing era of computing dawning upon us – but it’s certainly a welcome, logical next step in the progression of mobile technology.
The addition of a gold option is an interesting choice. Brian and I saw the gold iPhone up close at Apple’s Town Hall event and it really doesn’t look bad at all. It’s a very subtle gold finish rather than a gaudy gold brick effect. I think gold is likely the phone I’d opt for simply because it’d be very different than everything else I have, but otherwise space grey is probably the best looking of the three devices to me.
Touch ID is magical in how simple it makes using the iPhone 5s. Press the home button and you’re looking at the homescreen; it’s actually cutting down on even more taps compared to an PIN-free device, since now you don’t have to swipe the unlock bar either. We haven’t had a single occasion where someone else could unlock the phone with an unregistered finger, and nor have we had to resort to the PIN code.
Apple says the A7 is the first 64-bit chip in a smartphone, something that’s of far more interest to technophiles than average consumers. But you may see evidence of the greater power in things like the complex graphics of some visually intensive games and the speed of the 8-megapixel camera’s autofocus. And, like a new motion processor, its value may become clearer as new apps take advantage of it.
10. Luke Peters – T3
As another spec-war begins, 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.