Apple iPhone 5S Review Scoring Summary
|Style & Handling|
Verdict: The best iPhone of all time with great performance, an excellent camera and a stunning design.
Full Review and Specification for the Apple iPhone 5S
Apple treated us with this iPhone generation because they’ve unveiled not one, but two new iPhones. We’ve already reviewed the more affordable, vibrant iPhone 5C and now we’re moving on to the flagship Apple iPhone 5S.
The iPhone 5S adopts the same form-factor and a similar design to the iPhone 5, but it has a brand-new A7 64-bit processor complemented by an M7 motion co-processor. It also features an improved iSight camera and comes pre-loaded with the new iOS 7 platform.
The iPhone 5S’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor has attracted a huge amount of media hoopla, while the new ‘Gold’ coloured model is a real eye-catcher. But is Apple’s iPhone 5S a worthy upgrade and can it compete with its Android rivals? Read on to find out.
Apple has stayed faithful to the design of the iPhone 5 with their latest flagship, meaning that it adopts the same compact form factor with a 4-inch display. Even if the design was identical to the previous model it would still be a joy to behold thanks to Apple's stylish and premium aluminium design.
But thankfully the design has been improved because the iPhone 5S has been on a major diet and now tips the scales at a super-light 112 grams and is just 7.6mm thick. That makes it even more comfortable to hold and it still feels every bit as premium as its predecessor.
Apple has also introduced two new colours (Space Grey and Gold) with the Silver version also returning. When we first saw the Gold iPhone 5S we thought it looked a bit garish, but after seeing it in the flesh our fears were allayed - because it’s a beauty to behold.
The new Space Grey model is also a great addition, while the Silver version is every bit as appealing as it always has been. The biggest complement we can pay to Apple is to reveal that we find it really hard to choose our favourite because we love them all.
Apple have introduced a couple of subtle design changes. The most noticeable being the new metal-rimmed home-button, which doesn’t feature the square emblem that’s present on all other iPhone models. And importantly it also accommodate’s Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor (more on that later).
The camera module has also been moved slightly and the new dual-LED flash is larger than before. Unfortunately, that means that those who are upgrading from the iPhone 5 will have to buy a new case for their iPhone 5S.
Apple’s iPhone 5 arguably maintained its position as the best-looking, best-made smartphone in the world until the day Apple unveiled their new iPhone range. But it’s now been trumped by the iPhone 5S, which has a slimmer, lighter design and comes in a great new colour range.
Other mobile manufacturers have been increasing the size of their smartphones’ displays with each new generation, but Apple have so far resisted temptation and stayed faithful to their trusty 4-inch Retina display.
That means that the iPhone 5S has the same 1136 x 640 resolution IPS Retina display delivering a pixels-per-inch rating of 326. You also get the same amazing colour reproduction you’ve come to love, excellent viewing angles and it’s still a very sharp display.
However, after getting our hands on the likes of Sony’s Xperia Z1 and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, we can’t help feeling it’s a little on the small side. The iPhone 5S also can’t playback 720p HD content (let alone full HD 1080p video) and it also suffers from its aspect ratio, which is slightly above widescreen (16:9).
There is no denying that the iPhone 5S’s display has some of the best colour reproduction around and is still very sharp. But we would have loved Apple to include a slightly larger, higher resolution display in the iPhone 5S.
The iPhone 5S includes Apple’s new A7 chip making it the world’s first 64-bit smartphone. On paper the dual-core 1.3GHz processor sounds underwhelming compared to its quad-core and even octa-core Android rivals, but fear not because appearances can be deceiving.
Benchmarks show that Apple’s new A7 chip delivers double the CPU and graphics performance of the A6 processor featured in the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C. Even more impressively the new A7 chip outperformed the quad-core touting LG G2 on raw Geekmark benchmark (on both single and multi-core tests).
In the real-world the smartphone felt speedy around the iOS platform and - even when running multiple applications at once - it remained silky smooth. The even better news is that performance will continue to improve over time as more and more applications take advantage of its 64-bit architecture.
We booted up the game Infinity Blade III, which Apple themselves used to demo the new A7 chip, and it quickly became clear that the graphics and performance were vastly improved compared to previous models. The game utilises Apple’s new 64-bit architecture and it shows - with the game loading up in around 8 seconds which makes it around 10 times faster than the iPhone 5C.
The iPhone 5S’s performance is also boosted by Apple’s new M7 motion co-processor which is dedicated to collecting sensory information in the background (accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses). Essentially, it reduces the load on the main A7 processor and at the same time improves battery life (more on that later).
The iPhone 5S feature that has attracted the most media attention is the new Touch ID fingerprint sensor. By pressing your finger on the home-screen button you can unlock your smartphone and the feature is also used to authenticate app-purchases on the App Store.
We found the Touch ID sensor to be extremely reliable and it was both quick and easy to setup. You can store up to 5 fingerprints, which can all be your own or those of trusted friends and relatives.
Privacy concerns have plagued the new fingerprint sensor since it was unveiled, but you’ll pleased to hear that all data is stored locally on the A7’s ‘Secure Enclave’ – as opposed to being stored remotely on the iCloud.
Initially, we thought the new fingerprint sensor was an unnecessary gimmick, but after prolonged use we found it a chore going back to swiping or inputting pin numbers on other phones. One thing to note is that after turning the smartphone off the iPhone 5S still prompted us to input our PIN, which is presumably done as an added security measure to deter thieves.
After initial scepticism, by the end of our review period we loved the convenience of the Touch ID sensor and it also stops children purchasing applications without their parents’ permission. But the fear that our fingerprints will also be stolen will always be stewing in the background, regardless of how many times Apple reassure us it won’t happen.
Want to learn more about Apple’s Touch ID Fingerprint Sensor? Learn all about it here.
Apple may have included the same resolution 8 mega-pixel iSight camera inside the Apple iPhone 5S, but it’s a vast improvements on its predecessor. Optimisations and improvements have been made to both the camera’s hardware and software.
The new iSight camera has a 15 per cent larger sensor with a larger aperture (f/2.2), which brings vastly improved low-light performance. And the new improved camera module allows for bigger pixels which improves the quality of snaps significantly.
We took a quick couple of pictures in low-light conditions and it was instantly noticeable how much Apple has improved the cameras performance. Everything was crystal clear and pictures were sharper than we’ve seen before on any previous iPhone.
Even when lighting conditions are really poor you can rely on the iPhone 5S’s new dual-LED flash. You also don’t have to worry about mismatched contrast or shiny surfaces when using the flash because Apple’s A7 chip automatically detects and selects the correct colour temperature using a feature branded ‘True Tone’.
The cameras software has also been boosted with new modes including ‘Burst Mode’, which enables you to take a number of shots in rapid succession and then choose the best one. They’ve also included a whole host of new filters that can be applied to images and the ‘Panorama’ mode is still present and as good as ever.
Video playback has also been given a massive overhaul and we instantly noticed that 1080p videos benefitted from improved stability and you can also now digitally zoom (up to 3 times). Our favourite new camera feature is the new ‘Slo-Mo’ recording mode, which records 720p video (at 120 frames-per-second) and retrospectively applies a slow-motion effect.
On paper the inclusion of the same resolution 8 mega-pixel camera may disappoint, but Apple have pulled out all the stops and the iPhone 5S’s camera is excellent. It’s speedy, delivers excellent low-light performance and benefits from even better video recording. Admittedly, it can’t match the Lumia 1020’s 40 mega-pixel camera, but neither can any other smartphone.
Apple’s iOS platform has also been given a complete design overhaul. The new iOS 7 user-interface is cleaner and more refined than ever before, but beyond being beautiful it’s also functional.
iOS 7 is a 64-bit platform which - after initially being branded a gimmick - is undoubtedly the future of smartphones. That gives Apple’s iPhone 5S amazing multi-tasking performance and it remained smooth and fluid around the operating system at all times.
As you’d expect Apple have introduced a whole plethora of new features, but none are more significant than the new ‘Control Center’. By swiping up from any screen you can quickly access a quick menu of frequently used settings and applications. After using it for a while we don’t know how we ever did without it.
We also loved the new ‘Today’ screen which is added to the ‘Notification Centre’. It’ll quickly tell you about the weather, current traffic conditions and whether it is someone’s birthday. It can be accessed by swiping down from any screen (even from the lock-screen) and is one of those features that makes your everyday life easier.
Another impressive new feature is ‘Air Drop’ which enables you to quickly and easily send a file to a contact using WiFi or Bluetooth. No longer having to activate Bluetooth and pair devices manually is a vast improvement, but we still would have preferred Apple to include NFC support in the iPhone 5S.
The addition of Apple’s free streaming music service iRadio is also a nice boost. While, Siri and Apple Maps continue to show signs of improvement, but still lag behind their Google counterparts (Google Now and Google Maps respectively).
Want to learn more about iOS 7? Read our iOS 7 Review here
Battery life, connectivity and on-board storage
The iPhone 5S might have doubled the performance of the iPhone 5, but impressively battery life remains almost identical. With average use you can expect to get a good days life from a single charge and we didn’t notice any significant change in battery performance compared to the iPhone 5.
As we’ve come to expect from Apple it’s an internal battery (1570 mAh) that can’t be replaced, so if it breaks you’ll have to send your whole smartphone to Apple to be repaired. But to be fair that’s now the case with a number of Apple’s rivals, most noticeably Sony’s Xperia Z range.
One of the downsides of Apple’s iPhone 5 was that it didn’t support some of the 4G bands used by UK operators. But the iPhone 5S has no such problem and supports all the frequencies used in the UK.
Apple has yet again decided not to include support for NFC, so you won’t be able to use your iPhone 5S to pay for items at McDonalds. Hopefully, this is something that will change in the iPhone 6 because NFC is already a well-established standard.
The Apple iPhone 5S is available with 16, 32 and 64GB models, which are priced at £549, £629 and £709 respectively. You still can’t use microSD cards with the iPhone 5S meaning you’ll have to use iCloud storage should you require extra space.
The initial shock of Apple launching another iPhone that looks very similar to the previous generation quickly fades when you get your hands on Apple’s iPhone 5S because it's new lighter and slimmer design is a joy to behold. While, those worried that people won’t notice they’ve got a new iPhone can always pick up the new Gold version, which looks surprisingly refined in the flesh.
We fell in love with the iPhone 5S’s Touch ID sensor and it now feels clumsy unlocking other smartphones. But the privacy concerns will put off some, but you can always disable the feature and use a pass-code instead.
The performance of Apple’s new A7 64-bit processor is astounding and the new iOS 7 platform is a real looker that introduces some brilliant new features. The new 8 mega-pixel iSight camera is a vast improvement which delivers excellent pictures and videos in all lighting conditions.
Even though the Retina display is as good as ever, we can’t help feeling it could have done with a small boost in size and a switch to a true wide-screen aspect ratio (16:9). We also would have loved Apple to include support for NFC and microSD cards.
Apple’s iPhone 5S is one of the best looking smartphones on the planet, with a stunning premium build, high-end performance and some excellent new features. It’s undoubtedly the best iPhone of all time and more than holds its own against all of its rivals, assuming you aren’t bothered by its 4-inch display.
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Apple iPhone 5S Specification
Dimensions: 123.8 * 58.6 mm * 7.6 mm
Display : 4 inch Retina display
Display Resolution: 1136 * 640 pixel resolution
Processor: A7 chip with 64-bit architecture
Fingerprint identity sensor built into the Home button
Onboard Memory : 16, 32 or 64GB
Camera : 8 mega-pixel iSight camera, 1.2 mega-pixel Facetime camera
Operating System : Apple iOS 7
Connectivity : 3G , Ultrafast, 4G LTE , Bluetooth
Colours: Space Grey, Gold & Silver
Release Date : September 20th
Prices : Starting at £549