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The latest and greatest incarnations of the iPhone will go on sale this Friday. Of course, several members of the press have been allowed to get their hands on the full-throttled 5s and entry-level 5c. By and large, the reviews have found the 5c to be a more affordable (and colorful) reinvention of the iPhone 5, while the iPhone 5s is just about the best phone out there.
The iPhone 5c: A more colorful iPhone 5
CNet's senior editor Scott Stein gave the iPhone 5c four-out-of-five-stars and sums the device up as a $99 version of the “iPhone 5 in a more colorful case.”
The only new additions to the 5C (versus the old 5) are iOS 7 coming preinstalled, new LTE antennas that work with more international carriers, a better low-light-sensitive front-facing FaceTime HD camera, and a slightly increased internal battery versus last year's model -- better on paper, but not on a magnitude that most people would appreciate.
John Gruber of Daring Fireball gives a warm reception to the 5c, but similarly describes it as a re-purposed iPhone 5 in a different coat. His own benchmark tests found the “5C review unit scored nearly identically to my personal iPhone 5.”
On the inside, it’s an iPhone 5, with a few relatively minor upgrades. (To wit: the cellular antenna now supports more LTE bands and faster LTE speeds, and the front-facing FaceTime camera is better.) Otherwise, it’s the same A6 processor, the same iSight camera, the same everything as in the iPhone 5, so far as Apple has claimed and I can tell.
Lauren Goode at AllThingsD calls the 5c “a solid premium phone,” but notes that:
While the 5c looks and feels very familiar, it’s still a good phone and an improvement over the 5. But its improvements are evolutionary, not revolutionary.
Vincent Nguyen at SlashGear found better battery performance in the 5c than in the iPhone 5.
In practice, we saw better performance than we did on last year’s iPhone 5. With typical use – push email turned on, some multimedia playback, use of the camera, nearly an hour of GPS navigation, and some browsing over both LTE and WiFi – we still ended the day with charge to spare.
The Loop's Jim Dalrymple said consumers should not be dismayed by the 5c's plastic coating:
There is absolutely no give to this phone at all. It doesn’t bend or buckle anywhere in the casing, which is what you want, obviously. It feels as solid as the 5s.
David Pogue of the New York Times calls the 5c “a terrific phone” that comes with the right price. Specifically, he notes that the revamped iOS 7 is
[M]ore efficient to navigate, because nothing on the screen is eye candy; everything is a button, so you spend less time hunting for things.
Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech also found the 5c nearly identical to the iPhone 5 in performance and benchmark tests, noting “If you were planning on buying a cost reduced iPhone 5 once the 5s came out, the iPhone 5c should have no problems filling that role.”
The final finish on the 5c is smooth and looks a lot like what you see when you open up a can of brightly colored paint. As with all plastic/polycarbonate phones with a glossy finish, smudges are easily picked up by the iPhone 5c. The colors are light/bright enough where smudges on the device aren’t hugely distracting though, and of course the smooth back surface is easy to wipe off.
TechCrunch's Darrell Etherington describes the 5c as “a refreshing change of design pace.”
The phone feels ‘young’ overall, and it’s likely that’s the kind of consumer that’s going to enjoy this device; the youth market and those just getting their first smartphone or moving up from their first budget Android device to the big leagues.
Matt Warman of The Telegraph gave the 5c four-out-of-five stars in his review.
So this model is by no means revolutionary; it's a conscious shift in a new direction. It's beautiful, in its own way.
Engadget's Myriam Joire weighs in to say that the 5c’s “gorgeous handset that brings a breath of fresh air to the iPhone lineup.” In terms of specs, she found it to be largely indistinguishable from the iPhone 5, with one surprising exception:
Compared to the iPhone 5, the 5c features a speaker that's slightly boomier and a bit louder at maximum volume.
David Phelan at The Independent gave both new iPhones a combined five-out-of-five stars, dubbing them “the best smartphones Apple, or anyone, has made”:
The [5c's] plastic case is smooth, astonishingly shiny and warm to the touch – the smooth edges and exceptional build quality make it one of the most appealingly comfy-in-the-hand phones.
Edward C. Baig at USA Today comments “the iPhone 5c may have a cheap price, relatively speaking, but there is nothing cheap about the phone.”
Plastic be damned — the phone feels good in the hand. Apple says it is built around a steel frame that doubles as an antenna… Apple didn't cheap out on the inside, either, though the technological improvements in the 5c are fairly modest — better high-definition FaceTime camera, bigger battery, more LTE wireless options.
Stuart Miles of Pocket-lint gave the 5c four stars out of five, but still managed to give the device a less-than-glowing summation:
[I]f you are looking to upgrade from the 4 or the 4S, want to stick with Apple, but can't justify the 5S and its price, then this colourful option is could to be perfect for you.
The iPhone 5s: Basically, the best phone out there
“The new iPhone 5s is a delight,” Walt Mossberg at AllThingsD declared. “Its hardware and software make it the best smartphone on the market.” Regarding Apple's revolutionary touch ID technology built into the Home button, he states:
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.
TechCrunch's Darrell Etherington says, “With the iPhone 5s, Apple once again wins the right to claim the title of best smartphone available.”
And thanks to the 64-bit A7 processor, this phone, more than any iPhone before it, is likely to be the device that grows more appealing as the software ecosystem catches up, which is great news for buyers looking for something that isn’t so easily replaced by the next big thing that comes along.
David Pogue at the New York Times notes that the 5s offers a noticeable speed upgrade over the previous generation:
Apple says the 5S’s chip is twice as fast as before. Nobody was exactly complaining about the iPhone’s speed before, but, sure, it’s plenty quick.
Vincent Nguyen of SlashGear did not let the “s” in the title, damper his enthusiasm:
We’ve come to expect evolution not revolution from the “S” update to Apple’s iPhone range, but the iPhone 5s could be enough to buck that trend.
Scott Stein at CNet sees “big potential” in the iPhone 5s and rated it four-out-of-five stars.
The iPhone 5S is not a required upgrade, but it's easily the fastest and most advanced Apple smartphone to date.
The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple loved the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
It was almost immediate. It’s much quicker than entering in the passcode manually and all I have to do is rest my thumb on the Home button…
For his 5s review, Anand Lal Shimpi found the phone to be a slight upgrade from the iPhone 5 with most of the evolution happening inside the phone.
The iPhone 5s design remains one of the most compact flagship smartphones available. The move to a 4-inch display last year was very necessary, but some will undoubtedly be disappointed by the lack of any further progress on the screen dimension front.
In his glowing review, David Phelan at The Independent said of the 5s:
I’ve been impressed at how much faster everything – everything – moves.
Myriam Joire at Engadget described the 5s as “an evolution of the iPhone 5,” but not “a must-have.” Still, her tests found a noticeable jump in performance over the iPhone 5:
The iPhone 5 may be fast enough for some, but the 5s is significantly faster. In a few tests, the 5s performed more than three times better, while in others, it was closer to a 50 percent increase.
The Telegraph's Matt Warman gave the 5s 4.5-out-of-five stars in his review.
This is a device that adds features that make the existing iPhone even easier to use, more powerful and turn it into a better camera, all in a package that remains the classiest on the market.
The iPhone 5S is, in some measures, computationally superior to the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro from just five years ago. In your [expletive] pocket.
For all the chatter about what Apple has or hasn't included in its latest phones, the most radical alterations arrive with iOS 7. Fonts have been redrawn (not to everyone's liking, I'm sure). Apple scrapped the "skeuomorphic" design long associated with iOS in favor of a more modern translucent experience. I think most people will come to embrace it
Stuart Miles at Pocket-lint gave the 5s five-out-of-five stars, declaring “If you want a phone that just works, then the iPhone 5S is a very good place to start.” In particular, he loved the new suite of camera features:
Ultimately Apple has created a cracking camera that requires you to have zero knowledge of how to take pictures - and we love that.
Be sure to check out Macworld’s in-depth review of iOS 7, which comes pre-loaded on both the 5s and 5c, as well as all our continuing coverage of the latest updates to Apple’s mobile operating system and smartphones.