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iPhone 5S review

Faster, new camera and a clever fingerprint reader. But is it enough of an upgrade?

The iPhone 5S was Apple's attempt to stay at the sharp end of the smartphone market, and it's an iterative update compared to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus which represent a real leap.

Detractors will point to the identical shell (colours aside) of the iPhone 5S and claim that it's not much more than a rebadged iPhone 5 (nope... that's the iPhone 5C, people) but to do that misses the point of this new device.

We liked

If you want to match the iPhone 5S spec for spec with other smartphones, then it's a difficult task - but it
misses the point of Apple's device.

Below the surface Apple put together one of the most cutting-edge smartphones around last year, imbued with a top-end camera and a really innovative feature with Touch ID.

There's only so much that smartphone manufacturers can do to differentiate these days, and while Apple can't expect consumers to be wowed by the same shell, it can expect to get some interest in the sharp camera and gives a sense of relief with the new A7 chip.

The M7 chip is a really cool tool for developers to play with, though it has taken months for the iOS 8 update to really unleash its potential with the Health app and third-party tie-ins.

Yes, the 64-bit element of the A7 chip doesn't have a huge role to play now, but it does make things like camera use so much faster, and facilitates the increased security in Touch ID. I just hope Apple starts to exploit its power in the future.

We disliked

I'll start with a different refrain: the screen technology on offer here is what upsets us most. There will be a lot of upgraders from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5S, and many of them will be disappointed to see that two years later they're still looking at the same resolution, albeit a bit stretched out.

The only reason they'll be a little sad is that the Full HD screens of the rivals are so much more impressive - in its own iPhone 5S world, the screen is just fine and looks great and clear - but woe betide anyone that sees one of the larger devices out there.

I do want to applaud Apple for sticking to its guns and offering up a decent choice for those that like a smaller display, but this is already too big for one hand, so a little more real estate wouldn't go amiss. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are evidence that Apple agrees.

And then there's the price. Some reviewers don't seem to think this should be taken into account, that the mere fact Apple can command such a high cost for its phones, both on contract and SIM free, and still sell millions shows this is a moot point.

Perhaps it was less of an issue when Apple was such a market leader, but now there are at least four worthy competitors out there, and they all cost less. Even taking the price drop into account the iPhone 5S still looks pretty expensive.

I can't see what lives in the iPhone 5S to justify being the most expensive phone on the market at release, although I do recognise the effort that's gone into the premium design and spec list for the 5S.

Battery life is also a too suspect for my liking, and I'm already considering buying a second charger to carry around when using the iPhone.

Verdict

The iPhone 5S was, predictably, the best iPhone ever from Apple - but what's intriguing is just how much
I enjoyed using this evolutionary device.

There's always an apathy with any kind of 'S' device from Apple, as it's historically just the same thing
made a little bit better. It's true the advances on the iPhone 5S are few, but the ones that are there are
very impressive indeed.

64 bit apps have been slowly trickling out (although not really making use of the chip thanks to a lack of
RAM), and the A7 processor is clearly capable of some very heavy lifting.

Although we're past a year since launch and there still aren't that many high power apps available to take advantage of this chip - which makes sense given there's not really enough RAM to support it.

The camera is improved impressively, taking some excellent shots with minimal backlift needed from the user, and the Touch ID sensor is the first real step into biometrics on a smartphone, and one that Apple has succeeded in implementing.

The new iOS 8.1 has helped things a great deal, adding features here and there, fixing bugs, and opening up possibilities for Touch ID and the M7 co-processor.

It's no longer the best iPhone on the market, that would have to be the iPhone 6, but the iPhone 5S still has a place in the Apple eco-system. For fans of smaller phones this is still the best option Apple has to offer.

The combination of iOS 8 to freshen things up with a powerful core and great camera mean that this phone should be considered on its own considerable merits, and while the relatively high price will continue to put many off, anyone already wedded to the iPhone bandwagon, or even if they're just on the fence, will find a lot of joy in a phone that's a lot more than an iterative update.

First reviewed: September 2013

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBNo
Contract TypeSIM-free
Built-in Memory64 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotNo
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, UMTS, HSPA+
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationNo
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyiPhone 5s
Cellular Generation4G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1700, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution8 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Phone StyleBar
ColourSilver
Operating SystemiOS
Brand NameApple
Battery Talk Time10 Hour
Screen Size10.2 cm (4")
Screen Resolution1136 x 640
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)112 g
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerApple
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Backlight TechnologyLED
Operating System VersioniOS 7
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, iMessage
Pixel Density326 ppi
Front Camera Resolution1.2 Megapixel
Height123.7 mm
Width58.7 mm
Depth7.6 mm
Radio TunerNo
Battery Standby Time250 Hour
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product NameiPhone 5s Smartphone
Processor Speed1.70 GHz
Product LineiPhone 5s
Screen TypeLCD
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Gyro Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass, Fingerprint Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberMF359X/A
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.apple.com/uk
Marketing Information

Unrealized until now. Indispensable from now on.

A chip with 64-bit architecture. A fingerprint identity sensor. A better, faster camera. And an operating system built specifically for 64-bit. Any one of these features in a smartphone would make it ahead of its time. All of these features in a smartphone make it an iPhone that's definitely ahead of its time.

The gold standard. Also available in silver and gray.

iPhone 5s is precision crafted down to the micron. And it's evident throughout. The beautiful aluminum housing. The sleekness of metal and glass. Sapphire crystal in the Home button. And more sapphire crystal protecting the iSight camera. Design and construction of this level is unmatched. As a result, iPhone 5s looks and feels unbelievably thin and light. And it's available in three elegant expressions: gold, silver, and space gray.

Package Contents
  • iPhone 5s Smartphone
  • EarPods with Remote and Mic
  • Lightning to USB Cable
  • 5W USB Power Adapter
Limited Warranty1 Year