- Fingerprint sensor
- Two Tone camera flash
- Slow-mo video
- Faster than iPhone 5
- Works with all 4G networks
- Future-proof 64-bit chip
- M7 chip
- More expensive than the iPhone 5 was
- Screen is small when compared to other high-end phones
The iPhone 5s has proven to be a popular smartphone, and according to a research report published in early April, it has been the world’s most popular smartphone ever since it launched in September 2013. Counterpoint research’s worldwide smartphone survey showed that the iPhone 5s has maintained its position as best selling smartphone worldwide. In second place is the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 4s is in fifth position behind the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Note 3.We think that the iPhone’s position as the top selling smartphone is well deserved, despite the smaller screen and apparent higher price (while in practice there is little difference in price when you choose to buy your smartphone on contract). There will be competition from the Samsung S5 and the HTC One M8 over the next few months, and it’s good competition, but we don’t think it’s enough to really concern Apple.If you are upgrading from the iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s the iPhone 5s is a no-brainer. If you have an iPhone 5 you may have less to gain from the iPhone 5s, but the speed improvements are still a bonus, as is Touch ID, and particularly for UK customers, the iPhone 5s will work with more 4G networks than the iPhone 5 does. The real competition is from the rumoured iPhone 6 said to be on the horizon. With the new model expected to launch in September 2014 we expect that many will hold off purchasing a new iPhone with a view to buying an iPhone 6 at launch. However with many networks offering deals where you can sign up for an iPhone 5s now, and then upgrade to the iPhone 6 before the contract is up, it may not be the case that buying an iPhone 5s now means you are trapped without that phone for the next two years. An alternative view is that you can always sell the iPhone 5s on eBay and buy an iPhone 6 when that phone launches.Of course, we have no idea what to expect from the iPhone 6 and it may well be that the iPhone 5s will suit your needs better. As we explained above, the 64-bit operating system and other features of the phone will stand it in good stead for the future, so you can be sure that if you buy an iPhone 5s it will still be an excellent phone in a few years from now.
Price When Reviewed
Best Prices Today: iPhone 5s
Adding an S to the previous year’s new-shape iPhone is a pattern we’ve seen before, ever since the iPhone 3G turned 3GS in 2009. And once again in 2013 Apple evolved its existing iPhone platform, only this time the iPhone 5 split into two – a new flagship 5s and a more playful iPhone 5c in a range of bold colours.
In this in-depth iPhone 5s review we assess Apple’s most popular smartphone model, offering detailed information and addressing the key areas and important questions that need answering as part of the purchase decision.
Watch our iPhone 5s video review below for more information about the iPhone 5s
iPhone 5s review: Camera
Both cameras on the iPhone 5s offer improvements on those on the iPhone 5, and when compared to the iPhone 5c.
The changes that make the biggest impact are to the camera on the back, which gains bigger pixels, a bigger sensor, a new True Tone Flash, and various other hardware and software features.
iPhone 5s review: camera megapixels
The megapixels of the iPhone camera remain at eight but this is sufficient – don’t let anyone tell you that competing smartphones with more megapixels take better pictures on the basis of how many megapixels they offer, because a load of pixels crammed onto a sensor will not create a better image. You can read more about the smartphone megapixel myth here but the crux is that more than 8MP is unnecessary (unless you are planning to blow up the image to a billboard). The more megapixels you have the bigger the file, and the more space it will take up on your phone.
What Apple has done instead is enlarge those pixels and enlarge the sensor they are on. Larger pixels yield greater electrical output, leading to clearer images in low-light conditions without resorting to messy noise-reduction techniques.
When Apple announced the iPhone 5s it was the first time a smartphone manufacturer had opted to increase pixel size, rather than increase pixels. Since the iPhone 5s launch HTC has bought out the HTC One M8 offering only 4MP, but these pixels are even bigger than Apple’s. It seems the idea is catching on.
The larger sensor and a bigger lens serve to let in more light, as does the faster aperture of f/2.2 instead of f/2.4. This faster aperture of f/2.2 really helps with indoor and dusky shooting. When the iPhone 5s launched it was the only smartphone to offer a f/2.2 aperture, since the launch HTC has introduced the HTC One M8 with an even bigger f/2.0 aperture.
iPhone 5s review: camera features
Apple has also updated the Camera app in iOS 7 to take advantage of the new iPhone 5s camera hardware and the A7 chip’s imaging capabilities. The A7 processor allows the iPhone 5s to focus and capture photos faster than any previous iPhone.
Before you take a picture, the iPhone 5s will perform auto white balance and auto exposure, and will create a dynamic local tone map around the image to get better highlights and shadows. The camera actually takes multiple images and analyses them in real time to see which is the sharpest.
The iPhone 5s also benefits from a clever two-part LED flash. Called True Tone flash, it mixes two light bright LED sources of different temperature to more naturally light your subject, and hopefully avoid the washed-out glare of most simple flash units. One of these lights is a bluish-white, while the other is more yellow. The iPhone’s software analyzes the colour temperature of the shot you are about to take – is the room’s light warm, cold, or somewhere in between? – and adjusts the intensity of the two LED flashes to match the ambient light as closely as possible.
Apple didn’t stop there. The iPhone 5s also has auto image stabilization, which aims to give users a much sharper image.
There’s also a new Burst mode, which will take photographs at 10 frames per second until you let go of the shutter. You enable this mode when you hold your finger down on the shutter, images are taken at full-quality and the iPhone picks the best image, although if you disagree you can look through the stack of photos and pick your favourites. Just tap Favorites at the bottom of the screen and select the shots you like. Burst Mode shooting is a nice idea – perfect for photographing children and animals, or to get the perfect group shot, but you could quickly fill up your iPhone with duplicate shots – which isn’t ideal if you have the 16GB model. Luckily Apple has made it easy to delete the excess shots – once you have selected your favourite shot, or shots, from those taken you can choose to Keep Everything or Keep Only 1 Favorite.
You’ll find a similar burst mode on older iPhones – allowing you to leave your finger on the trigger and keep shooting (although not at 10 fps), but those phones will not choose the best image for you, nor is there an easy way to delete the excess images.
Apple’s been offering an HDR (high dynamic range) option on the iPhone camera app since iOS 4.1. A high dynamic range image combines a series of photographs, each shot at a different exposure: underexposed where everything is darker, overexposed where it’s lighter, and properly exposed in the middle. The best parts of these images are put together into one shot that brings out details in both the shadows and the highlights. The iOS 7.1 update bought a new HDR option to the iPhone 5s. You can now choose from HDR On, HDR Off, or the new option: HDR Auto. When HDR Auto is selected the iPhone will determine whether the image you are taking would benefit from HDR, turning the feature on automatically if it would.
iPhone 5s review: photo quality
In our photo tests we found picture noise to be dramatically reduced in night-time shots. It almost negates the dual-flash upgrade; as to date we’ve achieved better results by switching off the flash entirely and relying on natural light, giving great natural, evening shots.
We find that we tend away from using the flash normally when taking low-light photographs for a more natural look, however we found that the new Two Tone Flash on the iPhone 5s remarkably good in these types of settings. Our friends no longer look pale and washed out – it’s a revelation.
We pitted the camera of the iPhone 5s against the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5c to see how the cameras compared. We ran photo comparisons between photos taken with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s in various scenarios. For example, to assess the effect of the various hardware improvements in the iPhone 5s, along with the jump from f/2.4 of/2.2 aperture, we took some low-light photographs. We also took a closer look at the difference between images taken by the three cameras when zoomed into the maximum to see how much of a difference the bigger pixels of the iPhone 5s made and to inspect the detail and colour reproduction. We then examined the photos ‘blind’ without knowing which phone produced the image we were looking at.
As you would probably expect, the iPhone 5s produced images that were a lot clearer; skin tones were more naturally reproduced; low-light images taken without flash were significantly better; colour reproduction was more accurate; and there was less noise.
We have an HTC One M8 and a Samsung Galaxy S5 in the office and will be running similar photo comparison with the iPhone 5s, so stay tuned for more photo quality assessment.
View the iPhone 5s, 5c, and iPhone 5 photos here on our Macworld Facebook page.
How to delete photos from your iPhone
iPhone 5s review: video recording
On the video side, faster processing allows the iPhone 5s camera to capture more frames every second when filming. Switch to Slo Mo in the camera app and the iPhone 5s shoots 720p HD video at 120 frames per second – then replays at a more familiar 30 fps. This gives you the option of slowing all or parts of the video down to a quarter of the speed for an entertaining slow motion effect. It really is as fluid as regular footage. People are going to have a lot of fun with this feature, although we must sacrifice a little resolution. Where normal video is shot in full-HD, Slo Mo captures 1280 x 720-pixel video.
Shooting and creating your slow-motion video is simple. Start by selecting the Slo-Mo mode in the Camera app (swipe across through the options for Pano, Photo, Video to Slow-Mo) and start to shoot video as you would normally. When you’ve shot the video, the Camera app gives you a set of sliders that let you select the portion of the video you want to play in slow motion. Once you’ve selected that portion, you have a shareable video that can start in regular speed, shift suddenly to fluid quarter-speed, and then flip back to regular.
The iPhone 5s wasn’t the first phone to offer a slow-motion mode, but we’ve never seen anyone with those Android phones that provide it using the feature (we’re guessing because it’s not as simple or effective to use).
iPhone 5s review: iPhone Selfie camera
It’s not only the camera on the back of the iPhone 5s that has had an update. The front FaceTime webcam and selfie camera maintains its 1.2-megapixel resolution but gains better low-light sensitivity through larger sensor pixels. We tested the affect of this improvement by making a FaceTime call from a cupboard, and compared to the same set up on an iPhone 5. We were visible when using the iPhone 5s but just a black screen when we did the same with the iPhone 5.
iPhone 5s review: security and the Touch ID fingerprint scanner
If you are looking for a new phone the security features should be an important part of the decision. Your phone is one of the most valuable products you will have in your possession at all times. Consider what would happen if it fell into the wrong hands. Would someone be able to access your email, Facebook, your bank account? Apple has endeavored to improve security of the iPhone in a number of ways over the years.
For example, back in June 2010 the company introduced Find my iPhone, a tool that enables you to look up the location of your iPhone on the web or in an app and wipe it so that your personal information can’t fall into the hands of criminals.
Apple has gone one step further to secure your iPhone with the iPhone 5s. When it comes to technical innovations, the iPhone 5s can boast two major breakthroughs and one of these breakthroughs is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
For convenience and simplicity, securing your phone by that most familiar of unique identifiers – the fingerprint – would seem to be a logical next step in smartphone technology. And yet, when Apple added the technology no other company had successfully staked fingerprint recognition on its phones – attempts by Motorola and LG were pretty poor, hindered by such poorly thought out ideas as placing the reader on the back of the phone.
In the months that followed the iPhone 5s launch some smartphones have gained similar fingerprint recognition such as the Samsung Galaxy S5’s fingerprint-based authentication system for which PayPal already has an accompanying app.
The surprise was that Apple didn’t add Touch ID to the iPads that launched in October 2013.
The Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5s is the result of Apple’s purchase of biometric specialist AuthenTec back in 2012.
iPhone 5s review: How Touch ID works
Unlike the awkward print readers beloved of Windows laptops, which might unlock one time in three attempts, and require you to carefully stroke your fingertip along a narrow scanner, the Apple reader is a capacitive touch sensor which is defined as: “A touch screen technology that uses a uniform electric field across a transparent conductive layer. When a user’s finger touches the layer, the measured amount of current drawn from each corner is used to calculate the location of the touch.”
This sensor is only 170 microns thin (thinner than a strand of hair), and takes a high-resolution (500ppi) picture of the sub-epidermal layers of your skin and then compares it to the fingerprint it has on file for you. In essence Apple has turned the home button into a very high-resolution camera.
The Touch ID sensor is covered by a sapphire crystal lens that Apple claims protects the sensor and acts as a lens to focus it on your finger. Apple describes sapphire as “one of the clearest and hardest materials available.” This acts as the lens and home button.
This is surrounded by a steel ring that detects your finger. On the gold and silver iPhone 5s the ring matches the device’s colour. On the Space Gray iPhone the ring is black so it doesn’t really show up.
Read more about How Touch ID works here.
iPhone 5s review: How to use Touch ID
Thanks to Touch ID when you touch your finger to the Home Button on the iPhone 5s your phone unlocks. This means the four-digit PIN number is no longer necessary to unlock the iPhone thereby speeding up access to a locked phone, or at least making access simpler. We think this is a feature targeted at those people who don’t have a passcode because they are too lazy to use one. Before the iPhone 5s launched Apple estimated that only half of all iPhone users used a passcode. Apple’s webpage on Touch ID security indicates that the introduction of Touch ID was designed to encourage more people to secure their iPhone.
Actually the passcode is still required after you have turned the phone on and off and in various other circumstances that we will detail below.
You need to spend some time setting up the iPhone 5s to recognize your fingerprint. When doing so you should bear in mind that some people have had issues using Touch ID on their iPhone 5s, although the iOS 7.1 is said to have improved accuracy. While the scanner may be to blame, we think it’s more likely to be user error. The best way to ensure that you don’t have issues with Touch ID is to be careful when you set it up.
To set up Touch ID go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode, then enter your Passcode if you have on set up, and tap Add a Fingerprint… Now the iPhone will take you through the set up process. There’s a lot of dabbing – if you dab too quickly you will get told to slow down. It will also tell you not to move your finger too much between scans. It’s best to wait for the phone to vibrate before moving your finger again. Then the phone will ask you to adjust your grip so it can scan the edges of your print. After a couple of minutes of this you will be ready.
Follow these tips to get the most out of Touch ID.
1) Take time to get a good scan: it takes a while to set up scans for fingers, so don’t try and cut corners because you are busy. You need to move your finger around multiple times and as you do so you will see an image of a fingerprint with the various lines being filled in. When you think you are done Apple asks you to scan the edges of your finger, to make absolutely sure the Touch ID sensor has as much data as possible. If you rush things it’s likely that you will find that sometimes your fingerprint doesn’t unlock your phone.
2) Scan your finger in the way you would hold your phone – it stands to reason that the fingerprint ‘seen’ by Touch ID when you are holding the phone will be different to the fingerprint ‘seen’ when you have the phone in front of you on your desk. So don’t scan your fingerprint in a way that you would never use it. For example, if you tend to use the tip of your finger when you press the home button make sure you scan that part of your finger.
3) Scan more than one finger – one reason it’s worth setting Touch ID to recognize more than one finger is that you might cut or burn your finger. If you have more than one finger set up you can switch fingers.
4) Touch the ring – when you are scanning you should make sure that you are touching the metal ring around the edge of the Home Button because that ring helps the scanner to recognize the print. It’s not there for looks.
5) Don’t use wet fingers – whether setting up Touch ID or using it later on make sure your fingers are dry. Similarly don’t expect Touch ID to work when you are just out of the bath and your finger is all wrinkled.
Once Touch ID is configured you need only lay your finger on the opaque glass window momentarily, and the Touch ID sensor does the rest for you. The iPhone 5s will only respond to the print of the owner (or someone else if you wish to give up one of your allocated five fingers to a partner).
When we say momentarily, it’s not completely instantaneous. We sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be quicker to enter our four-digit passcode.
If Touch ID does not recognise your finger it’ll give up after a couple of tries and flip over to reveal the passcode. You can use this to unlock the phone instead.
Once you have set up Touch ID you can use any of the fingerprints stored on your iPhone to unlock it. It doesn’t have to be fingerprints either. We’ve heard of people using a toe, or even a cat’s paw. Now, rather than enter your four-digit PIN code, you can touch and hold the home button and after a few seconds the phone will unlock. When we first started using Touch ID we kept pressing and holding the home button, which, of course, called up Siri. We eventually trained ourselves out of that habit.
If Touch ID doesn’t work after three attempts it will switch to your Passcode screen.
Read our article about how to set up Touch ID on your iPhone 5s.
iPhone 5s review: For what can you use Touch ID?
Once it’s set up you use the sensor to unlock your iPhone, and you can also use it to authorise purchases from iTunes Store, the App Store and the Apple BookStore.
In our time with the iPhone 5s we have found this feature one of the most useful. The first time we made a purchase from iTunes we had to enter our password, but after that one time we were able to use Touch ID every time we wanted to make a purchase – no more tapping in of complicated passwords. Hooray!
Touch ID can’t currently be used by third party apps. It is likely that Apple decided not to give third-party access to your fingerprint information for security reasons, but it is a shame that, at least for now, we cannot use our fingerprint to unlock the ability to pay for something on Amazon or eBay in the same way as we can on the App Store.
Nor can you use Touch ID to access iCloud Keychain, which is a key feature of iOS 7. This may concern you because, presuming that your finger print is harder to guess than your passcode, this in effect leaves all your passwords, and even your credit card details vulnerable should someone be able to hack your passcode. This is essentially the problem with Touch ID – if you get it wrong you can still unlock the iPhone using the passcode, so keep that away from prying eyes.
Nor can you use both a fingerprint and a PIN to create a two-factor authentication system, which might be the next step for the particularly paranoid.
iPhone 5s review: Is Touch ID secure?
Like most security systems, Apple’s Touch ID can be defeated by some long-winded and careful preparation, as demonstrated by a German computer club days after launch. The resources and skill to do so are not trivial.
If you are wondering whether someone could cut off your finger and use that to unlock your phone, fear not. Apparently the finger needs to be live in order for Touch ID to work, we’re not sure how this was tested though…
As for whether someone else might have the same fingerprint as you – the probability of this happening would be 1 in 50,000 according to Apple. And the probability of that person actually having access to your phone: You’d need an infinite improbability drive for such an occurrence.
As for whether your fingerprints are secure – Apple says it doesn’t store images of your fingerprints. It stores only a mathematical representation of your fingerprint. So, don’t worry, NSA won’t be able to get their hands on it. For reassurance, Apple notes: “All fingerprint information is encrypted and stored securely inside the Secure Enclave inside the A7 chip on the iPhone 5s: it’s never stored on Apple’s servers or backed up to iCloud.”
So, we can safely say, for most daily use the Touch ID system should prove a useful and effective way of locking down your phone. (Read more about how secure Touch ID.)
iPhone 5s review: The A7 processor
Apple has turned its hand to processor design for several generations of iPhone chips now, starting with the Apple A4 chip that premiered in the iPhone 4. Some people will point to the fact that Samsung currently manufacturers the chips, but all that company does is construct them to Apple’s pattern. In recent years Apple has invested in chip building expertise, acquiring no less than three chipmakers: Passif Semiconductor, Intrinsity and PA Semi. Apple is also said to be looking away from Samsung for the fabrication of the chips – most likely to avoid a situation where Samsung might be able to steal Apple’s secrets. And secrets worth stealing Apple has.
The iPhone 5s, along with the iPad Air and new iPad mini all share Apple’s A7 chip. The A7 processor runs at 1.3GHz, it’s a dual-core processor paired with 1GB of RAM. While Apple has revealed little about the chip, iFixIt has taken the iPhone apart and can confirm that, like its predecessors, the A7 is based on the ARMv8 architecture.
Those numbers might not sound as impressive as some of the processors offered by competing smartphones, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S5 offers a 2.5GHz quad core processor with 2GB RAM, while the HTC One M8 offers a 2.3GHz quad core processor and 2GB RAM. However, there are various reasons why the speed of the processor and the amount of RAM doesn’t necessarily add up to a better phone, not least the fact that your smartphone’s performance boils down to more than the number of cores it has.
Here are a few: A quad-core processor is faster than a single- or dual-core processor only when it’s running an application that’s been developed to take advantage of its abilities (usually iPhone games) so this extra processing power is going unused; it’s better to use a chip that’s been designed to use less power as that preserves battery life; speaking of which, extra RAM will also draw more power and shortens battery life; finally and most crucially, Apple’s iOS doesn’t need a faster processor or more RAM to run smoothly. We sometimes suspect that the race to faster processors and more RAM is a marketing game, just like the unnecessary increases in megapixels you see in competing smartphones.
So, despite the fact that some may consider that processor speed of the A7 chip is slower than the competition, this latest design is undoubtedly a major advance in processor engineering.
The move to 64-bit sets Apple – and iPhone 5s users – up for the future. Among other things, 64-bit processors can address 4GB of memory, which will help with processor heavy apps like Photoshop, and perhaps enable the iPhone to play 4K video. It should also be able to handle higher-end hardware, such as high-definition screens, and should allow the iPhone 5s to make light work of running multiple tasks concurrently. However, the iPhone 5s has only 1GB RAM so it won’t be able to take advantage of this greater memory addressability.
Apple was the first to bring 64-bit desktop-class architecture to a smartphone. For another indication of how important it is, note that, following the announcement, Samsung was quick to claim that it’s developing devices with 64-bit chips, too. Although it’s still not launched a 64-bit product months later…
64-bit accomplishments aside, Apple claimed the new chip would provide twice the CPU and graphics performance of its predecessor while still delivering long battery life. Apple said it has: “Engineered iOS 7 and all the built-in apps to maximize the performance of the A7 chip.”
The real boon for Apple’s new A7 chip and its architecture is what it will do in other, future Apple devices. Even while it matters little to this phone here and right now, followers of computing technology will recognise this as a significant advance which heralds some interesting developments, and sooner rather than later.
At launch Apple boasted an “up to 2x” speed increases when measured against the already fast Apple A6 found in the iPhone 5. However, nobody was complaining that the iPhone 5 is slow – indeed, the iPhone 5 remains plenty fast, at least for now. While competing Google Android phones suffer perceptible lag issues in the interface, making users chase the rainbow of faster phones, the latest iOS 7 runs relatively slick and smooth on recent iPhones.
iPhone 5s review: iPhone 5s benchmarks
We advise that anyone looking for a new smartphone takes any benchmarking results with a liberal pinch of salt. Benchmark testing of a phone’s performance became entirely moot when Samsung and Google’s other hardware partners were caught cheating by fiddling with the processor when benchmark apps were running. Until these phone manufacturers were found cheating the system these benchmarks were used to judge progress in chip design between phones. Now we have no meaningful numbers to compare – at least not against Android-based phones. Research from AnandTech confirms that at least Apple is not using these dirty tricks to artificially inflate its numbers so when comparing Apple phones you will get a realistic illustration of processor accomplishments.
With all that in mind, let’s look at some numbers from Geekbench.
Version 2 of the popular benchmark application rated our iPhone 5 with around 1660 points. The same app puts the iPhone 5s at an average of around 2240 points – so that’s about a 35 percent increase in point score at least.
Version 3 of Geekbench includes separate single- and multi-core processor measurements. We saw 724 points from the iPhone 5 in single mode, and 1409 points for the 5s – nearly double, actually a 95 percent increase.
In the Geekbench 3 multi-core test, the point scores rose from 1298 to 2556, similarly almost two-fold; a 97 percent score boost.
In the GFXBench 2.7 test, running EgyptHD, the iPhone 5s averaged 53 frames per second, which is pretty nippy. In practice any game or graphic-intensive task on the phone should look exceptionally fluid.
Following these tests we are able to say that the iPhone 5s is twice as fast as the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5. Upgraders from the iPhone 4s will be even more impressed, as the iPhone 5s is about six times faster that that phone.
Such benchmark numbers are really only kicking the tyres, though: what really matters is how the phone feels, particularly now benchmark tests’ usefulness have been invalidated by desperate Android pedlars.
In use we found the iPhone 5s to be slick and responsive, if not as quick in screen animations as an iPhone 5 running iOS 6 (but this is a result of the new interface changes in iOS rather than a criticism of the iPhone itself). While most of the time the whooshing perspective effect of opening and closing an app appeared seamless, at other times we could see some of the intermediate frames of the animation in a more stilted way.
We have experienced some app crashes – Safari and Settings to name but two – the phone recovered instantly and seamlessly each time with barely any delay as it re-launched them. We suspect that some of these issues are due to memory management; we often find the phone slows down as the 1GB of RAM reaches its capacity. During the months that we have been using the phone the various updates to iOS 7 have improved this.
When the iPhone 5s launched in September 2013 very few iOS apps had been tuned to that device. A number of Apple’s apps utilize this 64-bit processor and over the months that followed the launch more developers have begun to channel the extra processing power of the iPhone 5s into their apps, for example, Infinity Blade III, Sky Gamblers, 123D Creature and SketchBook Mobile (both from Autodesk), and djay 2. If you want to gage the difference the processor makes to apps look to the Camera app, which gains extra features on the iPhone 5s compared to other iPhones.
iPhone 5s review: the M7 chip
In addition to the A7 chip, the iPhone 5S has a brand new part called the M7. This motion compressor takes advantage of all of the sensors in the iPhone – accelerometer, gyroscope and compass – and continuously measures the data coming from them. It does all this without having to wake up the A7 processor, which is good news for battery life.
Thus the key function of the M7 is to process the large amounts of data people can generate while carrying a sensor-laden device (and perhaps, one day, an Apple iWatch). Triangulating this data takes processing power, but not a huge amount of it. By offloading these basic processors to a secondary chip, Apple is able to improve power efficiency in the iPhone 5s. As a result you see two big advantages: increased battery life and a reduction in the heat generated by the main processor. By preventing the iPhone 5s from getting hot Apple may even have achieved a longer lifespan for the device.
The second advantage of the M7 is that it boosts the performance of the main A7 processor. The supplementary chip frees up the A7 processor so that processing cycles are available for other jobs.
Apple hasn’t publicly detailed just how the M7 works, though it has added a new set of APIs, dubbed CoreMotion, which developers can access when writing iOS 7 apps. At launch Apple pitched the M7 as an advantage for fitness and activity-tracking apps, saying that, thanks to the M7, the iPhone 5s “continuously measures your motion data, even when the device is asleep, and saves battery life for pedometer or other fitness apps that use the accelerometer all day.” Since launch a number of app developers have begun tapping this chip, for example a number of pedometer apps that use the M7 to measure daily steps, and Fitbit is using the M7 for its MobileTrack feature in its personal activity tracker app.
The M7 is a pretty convincing indicator that Apple is working on the rumoured iWatch, with reports suggesting that Apple will include health-monitoring sensors in that device.
When Apple launched the iPhone 5s with the motion coprocessor it was the first time such a processor had appeared in a phone. Now, months later HTC has adopted similar technology in the One M8, which is used for its Motion Launch Gestures and to track activity via its pre-loaded Fitbit app.
iPhone 5s review: iPhone 5s specs
At a glance the iPhone 5s specs are as follows:
- A7 chip with 64-bit architecture
- M7 motion coprocessor
- UK 4G: LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)
- Touch ID fingerprint scanner
- 4in Retina display with 1136×640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi, and 800:1 contrast ratio
- 8MP camera with 1.5µ pixels and f/2.2 aperture
- 1080p HD video recording at 30fps, plus Slo-mo video
- 1.2MP FaceTime camera, 720p video recording
Read on for more in-depth information about battery life, storage capacity, and screen size.
iPhone 5s review: Battery life
More power typically demands more power from the battery pack. Apple has several strategies to deal with this most fundamental of issues for today’s mobile devices.
To offload some of the low-level background duties, which nonetheless would keep the main CPU busy enough to deny it power nap moments, an additional coprocessor has been added to the iPhone 5s. The M7 chip’s given role is to process incoming sensor data from the accelerometer, compass and gyroscope, some of the components that give the phone its orientation.
So iOS 7’s wallpaper parallax effect, where the background image seems to slide behind as you wiggle the phone, is driven by the M7 chip. And with the current fad in fitness and health monitoring apps built for the iPhone, Apple has spotted a new usage area that can be improved, without impinging so much on the phone’s essential battery longevity.
There’s also been a tiny swell in battery capacity, from 5.45 to 5.92 Wh. How does this 8.6 percent increase relate to real-world battery life? Apple says it’s added two hours on its runtime when browsing over 4G.
That promised improvement is probably as much due to the change of cellular RF chipset, which should now enable an iPhone 5s to work across any upcoming 4G LTE service in the UK. As well as roam across more next-gen networks when you’re travelling beyond these shores.
In our battery tests the iPhone 5s clocked in over 11 hours in our looping-video test, which is 90 minutes longer than the iPhone 5 running iOS 7. The iPhone 5c lasted slightly less than the 5s, at 10 hours, 19 minutes.
Comparing these results to those of some of the Android competition at the time the iPhone 5s launched, the Samsung Galaxy S4 made it to 7 hours in the same tests, while the HTC One lasted just 6 hours, 44 minutes. (We will update this when we have the battery test results for the Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8).
It should be noted that anyone who feels that their iPhone battery life is poor should follow the advice in this article, which condenses into the following: close apps that are running in the background (especially Facebook, which has been identified as particularly battery guzzling); turn off location services; turn down brightness; and turn off Bluetooth.
iPhone 5s review: Storage
Colour aside, there are three options when it comes to choosing your iPhone 5s. The 16GB model, the 32GB model or the 64GB model? Apple is unusual in that it doesn’t offer the option of adding extra storage – many alternative smartphones offer users the opportunity to pop an SD card into a slot and thereby increase storage. For this reason many alternative smartphones are only available in 16GB versions. At this 16GB level there is a crucial difference between the iPhone and other smartphones – namely the amount of storage that is actually available to the user. After the operating system has been installed, the iPhone 5s with 16GB will actually offer 12.20GB of space, while the iPhone 5c offers slightly more at 12.6GB. In comparison the Samsung Galaxy S4 offers only 8.56GB thanks to the size of the Android operating system and all the irremovable bloatware that Samsung installs.
The jump in price between each capacity of iPhone 5s is £80 if you are purchasing the model off contract, from Apple (as opposed to getting the phone on contract from your network provider). The 16GB model costs £549, the 32GB is £629, and the 64GB model is £709.
There are a number of factors to consider when making the decision of how much storage to go for, and price is only one of these, although we would advise paying the extra £80 to get the 32GB model as opposed to the 16GB version, because with only 16GB available a number of measures are necessary to ensure that you don’t frequently fill your storage up with apps and photos.
That said, it is possible to survive with just 16GB of storage on an iPhone because Apple has made it possible not to have everything you might need actually stored on your iPhone.
For example, on our 16GB iPhone 5s we have 339 songs, 120 photos, and 104 applications and 2.8GB still available. We get by because we have signed up for iTunes in the Cloud, which means that if there is a song in our collection that we want to play on our phone we can download it from iCloud. We delete apps that we don’t use, knowing that we will be able to download them again for free should we ever want them back. We use Photo Stream to automatically make the photos and we take on our iPhone available in iPhoto on our Macs and if we choose to, we can easily back the photos up on the Mac just by right clicking on the images. To find out what the true storage capacity of your iPhone is, read this article.
It is also possible to link an iPhone up to an external storage device that connects to your device via Wi-Fi, such as the Kingston Wi-Drive (RRP: 64GB, £89.99; 32GB, £59.99 – prices are currently discounted on Amazon though). These types of device are ideal if you are heading off on holiday and wish to take a collection of movies with you to watch. Install the media on the device and you will be able to stream it to your iPhone. It may to buy the 16GB iPhone and add the extra storage in the form of one of these external storage devices, rather than pay £160 more to get the 64GB iPhone.
The price you pay will entirely depend on the contract you sign up for. Some people buy an iPhone upfront because they already have a good contract that they don’t wish to part with. Others prefer to hunt around for the best deal from the various phone networks and spread the cost over a year or two. You may find that there is little difference in the amount you will be paying each month if you choose a higher capacity model. We’ll look more closely at the price of the iPhone later in this review.
iPhone 5s review: Display
The display is the same as that used on the iPhone 5: 4in (diagonal), 1136 x 640 pixel at 326 ppi Retina resolution. It’s sharp and colour-rich, bright and beautiful
However, while the screen on the iPhone 5s is great, we still find ourselves looking at the larger screens on the phones of competitors with growing envy. The HTC One M8 has a 5in-diagonal, 1080 x 1920 pixel display at 441ppi, for example. While the Samsung Galaxy S5 offers a 5.1in, 1080 x 1920 at 432ppi screen.
Screen-size is a purely personal preference, you may find a bigger display better if you are attempting to watch movies or edit Word documents on the screen, but note that Apple had a couple of reasons to stick with 4.7in display. At launch Apple claimed that the 4.7in display was the best size for one handed use – it is quite comfortable to hold it in one hand and reach all parts of the screen, this is ideal if you are a commuter hanging onto a handrail. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook also said that there were too many trade offs in using a bigger screen, these tradeoffs likely to be screen quality and battery demand. Perhaps by the time the iPhone 6 launches Apple will have been able to address these issues in a way that it feels meets its exacting standards but in the meantime, we think that the 4.7in screen on the iPhone is much less of a trade off than switching to any Android or Windows phone would be.
And if you are upgrading from an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s the bigger screen on the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c is a great reason to update. (And to be honest, it’s about time!)
iPhone 5s review: Design & build quality
One benefit of a smaller screen is that the iPhone itself is smaller and lighter. At 112g and 7.6mm thick, it’s lighter and thinner than any other leading smartphone including the HTC One M8 (9.35mm, 160g), and Samsung Galaxy S5 (8.1mm/145g). The dimensions are so similar to the iPhone 5 that you can use most iPhone 5 cases on the iPhone 5s. The iPhone 5s is slimmer and lighter than the iPhone 5c (132g/8.97mm) and the iPhone 4s (140g/9.3mm).
Other than storage (discussed above), the other factor to consider when purchasing a new iPhone is colour. For the iPhone 5s Apple introduced a new gilt-free option it’s calling Gold – gold-effect back and edges with white glass trim. There’s the Silver option resembling last year’s white/silver iPhone 5. And the most sober of three is the black and grey model, dubbed Space Grey. It’s like the original black iPhone 5, only with a lighter shade of graphite to its back and edges. Front on, that’s two white models, and one black model. The main difference between the white models is the ring of steel around the TouchID button (which is gold or silver accordingly).
Before the launch of the iPhone 5s there were jokes a-plenty about this rumoured gold iPhone, with many fearing it would be too bling and make Apple the laughing stock. But the gold has proven to be a popular choice. As you would expect from Apple’s design guru, UK-born (Sir) Jonathan Ive, the gold iPhone is gorgeous.
The Silver and Space Grey versions are also popular, indeed, according to reports, the iPhone 5s has proven more popular than the slightly less expensive iPhone 5c (probably because there is only £80 difference between the 16GB and 32GB models).
Of course, most people will put their iPhone in a case, which does rather hide the design, but such a high price product does deserve to be treated carefully (and keeping it free of scratches might help you sell it on eBay one day if you wanted to upgrade to a newer iPhone). The same external design means that you’ll be able to use the same cases that fit the iPhone 5. Apple did unveil some new iPhone 5s leather cases if you fancy something new, though. Macworld managed to get a closer look at the leather cases during the Apple event, but found that they didn’t look or feel very leathery at all. They do, however, fit super snugly (which can be a pain if you want to remove it).
Construction is the same as the iPhone 5 with the same aluminium body with the aluminosilicate glass front (Gorilla Glass), and glass inset top-and-bottom behind. This toughened glass is supposed to be better able to resist deep scratches and hard enough that a thin sheet to be used without risking breakage.
However, as many an iPhone owner knows, Gorilla Glass is not unbreakable. Drop the iPhone on the floor without any form of protection and you may be unlucky enough to break it. So many smashed iPhones are bought into Apple Stores around the world that Apple has equipped some stores with machinery that allows them to mount a new screen and give the iPhone a new lease of life. Knowing this it is not surprising that Apple is said to be looking to a new form of glass for the iPhone 6, with rumours suggesting that the company is investing heavily in Sapphire Glass for that product.
Note that iPhones are by no means the only smartphones that suffer from broken screens, but Apple is the only company that offers to fix the phone for you in its high street stores (at least in the US). If you are in the UK you will probably have to send the phone off for repair, and either way it will cost you money, but Apple has a lot of procedures in place that are designed to repair or replace broken iPhones so it is worth bearing that in mind if you are particularly clumsy (as is signing up for AppleCare+ – which will let you break your phone twice during the duration of the AppleCare+ plan). Read more about Apple’s policies for replacing smashed and damaged iPhones here.
iPhone 5s review: Operating system
If you already own an iPhone, and have invested a lot in the iOS App Store and in iTunes, then staying within the iPhone ecosystem is a no brainer. You may feel tempted by the smartphones on offer from the likes of HTC and Samsung, but remember that you will not be able to run iOS versions of apps on them. Even if you are able to download the same app from the Google Play store or the Android Market you will lose any saved data within your version.
You may also want to bear in mind that more apps are written for iOS than any other platform. Even as Android becomes more popular as an operating system app developers are continuing to write apps first for iOS, and sometimes, only for iOS. This is because it’s been proven that iOS users spend more money on apps.
As an iPhone user you may already be using iOS 7. The way you feel about the new Apple operating system will, no doubt, depend on the iPhone you are running it on. Those with an iPhone 4 or 4s may be finding some aspects of the new iOS to cause their phones to slow down – if that is the case, expect iOS 7 to run much smoother on the iPhone 5s. If you are using iOS 7 on an iPhone 5 you will also see improvements, and additional features (such as those in the Camera app).
If you don’t currently have an iPhone, but do have an iPad it may make sense to remain with an operating system you are familiar with. We would recommend any iPad owner who has never owned a smartphone purchases an iPhone of any generation to avoid the confusion of multiple operating systems.
We’re not going to try and convince Android fans to buy an iPhone – no doubt they will fill the comments with claims of superiority. We know of many Android smartphone users who are frustrated by what they find to be a complicated operating system and additional ‘bloat-ware’ that is installed on the device and cannot be removed.
The battle between the Android and iPhone fan has almost reached the levels of the old PC Mac battle of the nineties and on either side there are loud voices. We’re obviously iPhone fans here at Macworld, but we work closely with our colleagues on PC Advisor and Tech Advisor, who keep us informed about the developments in the smartphone space.
iPhone 5s review: UK price
There are three flavours of iPhone 5s available directly from Apple. You can order online or walk into any Apple Store to buy one. You can choose any of the three colour at any of the following capacities.
– The 16GB version costs £549
– The 32GB version costs £629
– The 64GB version costs £709
Best iPhone 5S deals UK
To find out about the best iPhone 5S deals in the UK, visit our best iPhone 5S deals round-up.
When Apple unveiled the iPhone 5s it also launched the slightly cheaper iPhone 5c. Wondering which iPhone to buy? Watch our video where we look at the features of the five most recent iPhones.
You can also read our iPhone 5c review.
You can find comparison reviews where we pitch the iPhone 5s against competing smartphones here.
Watch us compare the iPhone 5s and HTC One M8…