The iPhone 5S has been out for a while now and it’s testament to just how good it is that it’s still in the conversation when the likes of the HTC One (M8) and the Samsung Galaxy S5 are hitting the shelves.
It’s no surprise though, because the iPhone 5S was clearly a labour of love for Apple, combining a sleek, premium build with powerful specs and a bunch of innovative features. Apple fans really couldn’t ask for more, but is it enough to tempt everyone else?
Apple iPhone 5S Review Scoring Summary
| Style & Handling
|Touch ID fingerprint scanner,
||No microSD support
|M7 motion co-processor
||No NFC support.
|Verdict: The iPhone 5S is the best iPhone yet and one of the best phones full stop. It’s feature packed, innovative and looks great but a few niggles keep it from getting full marks.
Apple iPhone 5S Full Review
If there’s one disappointing thing about the design of the iPhone 5S it’s that it’s essentially the same as the design of the iPhone 5. But then Apple was clearly on to a good thing with that, as it really is a great looking phone, so we can forgive the company for rolling the design out again.
The iPhone 5S is 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm and 112g, which is to say it’s remarkably compact and light for a flagship phone. That’s partly down to the small 4 inch screen size, but it’s also very slim.
Given that it’s clad in metal and glass it’s all the more surprising that it’s so lightweight, but it feels good in the hand.
Speaking of that metal and glass, it has a two-tone design with aluminium covering most of the back and glass strips at the top and bottom. It’s an attractive and distinctive look. Sure, you can’t easily tell the iPhone 5S from the iPhone 5, but you can certainly tell that they’re both iPhones.
The iPhone 5S is more than just a pretty face, it also has some seriously powerful innards. Its 1.3 GHz dual-core Apple A7 processor is the star of the show. It’s 64-bit, which no other phones can claim to be as yet and despite only being dual-core it’s tremendously powerful, leading the iPhone 5S to breeze through any task. It also has 1GB of RAM and all in all while it’s probably not quite got as much grunt as say the Samsung Galaxy S5, it’s certainly worthy of being mentioned in the same breath.
The iPhone 5S is an oddity in the world of flagship phones in that it only has a 4 inch screen. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as there are still loads of people who want flagship specs at a smaller size, but anyone who wants a bigger screen will have to look elsewhere as no iPhone currently offers one.
The display is a 640 x 1136 IPS LCD one with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch, which isn’t the sharpest around but it’s still pretty crisp. It’s also very high quality, with rich, natural colours and great contrast. There was a time when Apple was making the best smartphone screens around and while that’s arguably not the case any more they’re definitely still up there.
iPhone cameras rarely disappoint and the iPhone 5S is no exception. It has an 8 megapixel snapper with fairly large pixels, making it an ideal middle ground between the 4 Ultrapixel HTC One (M8) and the 20.7 megapixel Sony Xperia Z2. It can take detailed photos and fares well under poor light conditions too.
It also has in impressive dual-LED ‘True Tone’ flash, which ensures that colours are replicated naturally when using the flash. It works well too, meaning that this is a rare phone where the flash is actually quite useful.
The iPhone 5S also has a 1.2 megapixel front facing camera and can shoot 1080p video at 30fps. More uniquely it’s also capable of shooting slow motion 720p video at 120fps. It’s not a feature you’re likely to use much but it’s something not many other phones can do.
Fingerprints and Motion
Two of the most exciting things about the iPhone 5S are its fingerprint scanner and its M7 motion co-processor. The scanner is dubbed ‘Touch ID’ and it allows you both to unlock the phone and authorise iTunes purchases just by resting your finger on the home button.
Several other phones such as the HTC One Max and Samsung Galaxy S5 now have fingerprint scanners, but none work quite as well as the iPhone 5S. It’s quick, accurate and importantly it actually works. So it’s a speedy and high tech alternative to a password.
The M7 motion co-processor is just as impressive and arguably even more inspired. It’s a separate processor that runs all the time at a very low speed, so it consumes almost no battery and its sole job is to monitor motion on the phone, so it can tell for example how far you’ve moved.
That makes it an ideal companion to fitness apps and pedometers, which on any other phone would have to use the main processor to track these things and would drain the battery rapidly in doing so. It means the iPhone 5S can use fitness tracking apps 24/7 with minimal battery life impact, so it’s a true alternative to a fitness band.
The iPhone 5S runs iOS 7 which is the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system and while opinions on it have been slightly mixed we wouldn’t hesitate to say that it’s the best version of iOS yet.
First of all it’s given the OS a much needed design refresh, with new flatter icons, for a cleaner, more modern look.
More importantly though it’s also added some new features such as ‘Control Centre’, which brings up a menu of quick settings and options any time you swipe up from the bottom of the screen. These settings include Wi-Fi, brightness, music controls and more.
It’s a lot like the notifications screen on Android and it’s something that iOS users have been crying out for over the last few years so it’s great that Apple has finally listened.
Other new features include ‘Air Drop’ which lets you seamlessly send files to other Apple devices and ‘iRadio’ which is a streaming music service.
All in all it’s the biggest update yet to iOS and while the iPhone 5S isn’t the only Apple handset that runs iOS 7 it’s the best one to enjoy it on.
Battery Life, Memory and Connectivity
If there’s one area where the iPhone 5S slightly disappoints it’s in battery life. It’s not bad by any means but it’s hardly the best around either. Its 1560 mAh juice pack can keep it going for up to 250 hours on standby, 10 hours of talk time or 40 hours of music, which in real terms means it will see out a day of moderate use but not much more.
Battery life on phones isn’t great in general but it’s an area which Samsung, Sony, LG and HTC are starting to put a real focus on while the iPhone 5S doesn’t, which is a shame.
In terms of storage it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand there are three different sizes to choose from- 16, 32 or 64GB, but on the other hand picking a large size leads to an unreasonable price tag and there’s no microSD card slot so you’re stuck with whatever you pick.
For connectivity options the iPhone 5S has 3G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 but sadly there’s no NFC, leaving it more limited than many of its competitors.
The Apple iPhone 5S is an incredible phone and while everyone is now looking towards the iPhone 6, which is expected later this year, it’s still well worth buying. It’s powerful, one of the best looking phones around, has a good screen, a great camera and some innovative features, such as Touch ID and the M7 motion co-processor.
It’s not quite perfect. The battery life could be better and the absence of a microSD card slot or NFC support were expected but still disappoint, but they’re minor niggles in what is otherwise close to being a masterpiece. The iPhone 5S is the best iPhone yet and for many people we’d wager that’s all that matters.
For everyone else it’s also one of the best phones around full stop, but the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8) arguably better it.
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