The iPhone 5s has been one one the most hotly anticipated smartphones of the year, setting new sales records for Apple and causing the usual controversy. If you were lucky enough to have gotten one at release then changes are you stood outside a shop for hours or just got incredibly lucky. I ordered my 32GB gold 5s at midnight on release and I still had to wait about 2 weeks for delivery. What follows is my hands on user review. This is an honest owner review and contains my own impressions and opinions. I am not an Apple fan boy and what follows is an impartial account of how I have found the device. I hope you find it useful.
Build and design
As usual the IPhone 5s is a beauty to look at and hold. Apple have been making the best quality smartphones for years and the 5s does not disappoint. The device is basically built around a top quality aluminium and glass chassis and comes in 2 new colours: champaign gold and space grey. Aesthetically the 5s is exactly the same as the 5. The device is also incredibly light weighing in at only 112g. What I like about the 5s is the way it feels and the way it fits in the hand. There is no finer quality smartphone on the market, although the HTC One comes incredibly close! Like the iPhone 5, the 5s features two speakers on the bottom edge with the lightning connector wedged between them. The headphone jack is situated just to the left. The volume rockers are situated on the left side edge with the vibrate switch above it and on the top edge is the power/lock button. The setup of the buttons and switches is pretty good with everything accessible through one handed use. My only gripe is that if you use the device in the landscape aspect your hand covers up the speakers. This is particularly irritating when playing games. I would suggest using headphones to overcome this. Another issue is with the device chipping and scratching, particularly around the edges. I have not experienced this myself due to using a case but I understand other people are experiencing this issue. All in all however the iPhone 5s has a stunning design and the new colours are a nice addition.
Hardware and performance
The iphone 5s is built around Apple’s new A7 processor. This is the worlds first smartphone processor to feature a 64bit architecture. Don’t get too excited though as the 5s only has 1GB of RAM meaning it cannot fully utilise this technology. More on this here: http://techtimemachine.co.uk/2013/09/17/apple-a7-and-64bit/. That’s not to say that the A7 isn’t lightning fast. It is. It absolutely blazes through tasks and applications like nothing else and IOS 7 is buttery smooth. Benchmark results seem to suggest that the A7 is one of the fastest mobile processors out there (if not the fastest) and gives Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 a run for its money. Although the A7 processor cannot fully utilise the 64BIT architecture it certainly brings with it a performance boost. The A7 is clocked at 1.3ghz with a PowerVR G6430 GPU in tow and 1ghz of RAM in support. This makes for a very smooth user experience and yet again Apple shows that a gig or RAM is plenty.
I have been playing Dead Trigger 2 recently and this looks stunning on the 5s. Shadow and lighting effects look amazing and reflective water effects can be overwhelmingly good for a pocket device. I have experienced no lag in gaming and the iPhone 5s is a real powerhouse in this department. IOS 7 is also incredibly smooth and looks great on the 5s. I’m a massive fan of this update and couldn’t imagine going back to IOS 6. The sooner people get used to IOS 7 the better. It’s the best update yet. One of the things that really attracts me to i-devices is the way things look. Apps and icons always look great and this is where IOS possibly has an edge on Android. Everything always works smoothly and it is simple to use. IOS 7 just enhances this experience and cleans everything up.
The main hardware difference between the 5 and the 5s is the introduction of Touch ID. This is Apple’s home brewed finger print scanner and is capable of remembering up to 5 prints. My experience with this has been mixed. When it works its spot on. Its dead quick and hassle free. However I tend to suffer with pretty dry skin on my fingers and as such Touch ID often can’t read my prints. This can be a bit frustrating when I have to revert to using the password. It is however often a great experience and really comes into its own when purchasing apps.
Apple have always been at the forefront of screen technology. Who remembers the first time they laid their eyes on retina display? Of course when I say apple I actually mean LG and subsequently Sharp. Apple moved away from LG with the 5 and 5s and partnered up with Sharp. Clearly Apple thought the screen was good enough to incorporate it in the 5s and as such it has not been changed. The experience is still one which is top notch, however this is no longer the best display out there. The display supports a resolution of 640 x 1136 which works out at 326 pixels per inch (ppi). This isn’t bad by any means but for a 4 inch display it could be better. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for example sports a huge 5.7 inch Super AMOLED HD display which manages a ppi of 386! So not only is it much bigger but it has a sharper resolution. The Note 3 is probably the best screen on the market right now and it really does overshadow the one found in the iPhone 5s. That’s not to say that the iPhones display is bad. It is still really sharp and I haven’t noticed any pixelation, even when zoomed in. It also produces great colours, sunlight legibility is great and and viewing angles are also very good. A similar display can be found in the HTC One but I feel the iPhone does it better justice. One thing I do dislike is the size. 4 inches is just not not good enough by today’s standards. I feel that this strains my eyes and just isn’t big enough for an immersive gaming/multimedia experience. Granted this display keeps the size down but I feel it could be made bigger without effecting the size of the device too much, if at all. There is plenty of unused space on the front of the device and I reckon the iPhone 6 will utilise this and make for at true edge to edge viewing experience. I also find it very difficult to type on the keyboard and accuracy could be improved. Sometimes it just does register me touching it.
Apple have opted to stick with an 8MP snapper but this is by no means the same as the one found on the iPhone 5. Like HTC, Apple have decided to increase the size of the sensor. This is now 15 % larger and the aperture has also been enlarged and said to allow an extra 25 % light in. Again like the HTC One this allows in more light and makes for better low light performance. The camera interface has been given a make over with IOS 7 and whilst basic it is functional. I’m not going to bog you down with science but my experience wight the camera so far has been pretty positive. The 5s takes some great pics and certainly performs better than the HTC One. Low light performance is good but I find the sensor becomes a little overloaded in strong light. Video quality is also very good and the slow motion feature has been very fun to use. My experience of the camera and video has been very positive and performance is very good. It’s exactly what you would expect on a high end device. I would like to see a 13MP snapper on the next iPhone however.
Over all I have been very impressed with my iPhone 5s. It is very powerful and everything comes together fantastically on IOS 7. One thing I have been a little disappointed with is the battery life. On standby this is pretty good but when you start using the device for multimedia and web browsing etc it really starts to eat through the battery. I often struggle to make it to the end of the day. I have noticed a bit of an improvement after the latest update but it is still not fantastic. Another issue for me, and perhaps my main gripe, is the size. It does feel to small for me. I know for some people this will be a positive thing but for me I just feel as though I need something larger. It feels a bit like the iPhone 5s is strapped into a straight jacket. It’s capable of so much but with that tiny display it just can’t reach its potential. The iPad Air is where we will really see what the hardware is capable but with the iPhone 5s it all just feels a bit restricted. It’s like using a nuclear reactor to power your garden shed. It’s capable of much much more but but not in its current setup. That’s not to say that the 5s isn’t a great device because it really is. It’s amongst the best you can get. It’s just not THE best. Android is easily as good as IOS nowadays and Apple no longer offer the most intuitive and revolutionary hardware innovations. There is plenty of competition to Apple and if they are not careful they will lose that edge that they have had for so long. In this age bigger is better. As such let’s hope the next iPhone takes notice and does something about that tiny screen!
If you have any experience with the 5s please let me know how you have got on.