Unlike every year since the iPhone made it’s debut, Apple announced not one but two iPhones in 2013. The iPhone 5c was touted as the colorful, friendly iPhone while the iPhone 5s was shown as the arrogant, powerful and stylish beast.
iPhone 5s was released in India on November 1st and here we are, a month later, all set to give the verdict on what is without a doubt, the hottest smartphone on the planet currently. We will try to keep our review short, to the point and cover things that actually matter to users instead of getting into technicalities which do not concern an everyday user.
The Look and Feel of the Device
The iPhone 5s looks, well, like the iPhone 5. There is literally no difference in terms of dimensions or the physical look of the device apart from the fact that the legendary Home button has now been replaced by a Finger Print Scanner or Touch ID as Apple are calling it. We picked the Silver version of the phone since Gold was sold out within few minutes.
Make no mistake about it, the iPhone 5s even in Silver feels perhaps the most premium smartphone in the world. Even more so than the HTC One that we have so appreciated for it’s build quality. Even though, the design language is an year old, it’s still fantastic and very few things beat the feeling of unboxing a brand new iPhone. The feel of cold Aluminum on the iPhone especially in the cold mornings of Delhi is a unique experience.
The phone feels solid and dare we say, better that the old iPhone 5. We say that primarily, because the iPhone 5 we had picked up several scratches on the sides which are chamfered, but the iPhone 5s so far looks to be holding up much better in that department. A couple of meetings with the car keys in the pocket has not done much damage to the device and it looks to be holding well against the forces.
iPhone 5s as a Phone
As good and as premium the iPhone 5s is, at the end of the day, it is a phone. It is expected to make phone calls, send text messages and connect you to the web via data. How does iPhone 5s do these basic thing?
To cut the long story short, very well! The call quality on the iPhone 5s is just as good as any iPhones or any phone for that matter. The 3G coverage is pretty sketchy in India and we there is no real proper parameter to judge this. However, in good areas, we did get a down of about 6 mbps which is decent enough given the state of 3G. However, it is worth noting that the device did drain a lot of battery on 3G and once again this may well be down to the network issues.
In low signal areas too, the phone did try to catch upon the signal and served it’s purpose as a phone very well. We did do a grip your phone in 200 ways test, and thankfully we could not really discover any so called weak spots on the device.
The Display is still as good as any!
Yes, there have been several devices with true 1080 P displays which are gorgeous. But with the iPhone 5s, you are not going to miss that. The screen is every bit as clear, crisp and vibrant. The colors are true and the Retina display still holds well even though it is aged. The screen size is still pretty much perfect for one handed operations. And despite the trustee HTC One on the desk, it always was the iPhone that we reached for when we had to quickly get something done.
So unless, you really like big smartphones and like to read a lot on the move, there is nothing you miss out when you use the iPhone 5s. The screen has good viewing angles and still does a great job outdoors. In fact, we do feel the ambient sensor has received some update and has done a better job generally since the iOS 7 released.
iOS 7 is the Heart Beat of the iPhone 5s
Plenty has been written and said about the iOS 7. It is the biggest leap for iOS since it first came into existence. And with more and more apps now taking advantage of the new UI, the OS is looking more promising as days go by. For example, one of our favorite apps on iOS, Tweetbot recently was updated to the new iOS 7 design and the app looks fabulous. No doubt, there are things that Android does better for example the notification panel, and it still takes a moment to remember there is Launch Center for all those shortcuts.
The app collection is fantastic and if apps are your thing, there is nowhere else you’d rather be. There are barely any apps that take full advantage of the all new 64 Bit A7 chip, but the games are visibly smoother and faster on the iPhone 5s. Games such as Assasin’s Creed and Infinity Blade which did stutter a little on the older iPhone 5 if you had multiple apps open, do a lot better. The motion sensing too is fantastic thanks to the secondary M7 chip and apps such as Pedometer take all the advantage of it and help you keep your health in check.
The only thing we still have a bit of complain about iOS 7 is the fact that Siri doesn’t do just enough. Yes, Siri has been upgraded but coming from a device which is on Android 4.4 where Google Now is your absolute companion and listening to your instructions without even interacting with the device, we did miss the feature. Apart from that, the translucent glass overlay features, overall appeal and animations of iOS 7 go very well with the iPhone 5s.
The Battery is Still Average
We were huge fans of how Apple utilized it’s battery with iOS 6 on the iPhone 5. However, with iOS 7 being more resource hungry, things havent been that pleasant. The iPhone 5s despite a larger battery performs exactly like the iPhone 5 when it comes to battery performance. yes, you can easily go through a day with the device on 3G, but beyond that you will be on the lookout for your lightening connector.
The device still manages to outlast several other devices in the category but with a bigger battery you definitely thought the iPhone 5s would do better than the iPhone 5 in this department, but that is certainly not the case.
Speakers are loud but you are better off with your Headphones
The speakers on the iPhone 5s are as loud as those on the iPhone 5. There is literally no change so will not even try and get into that for the sake of it. They are adequately loud for the odd call on speakerphone or watching Youtube video, however that is where the story ends.
If you like listening to good music, or are subscribed to podcasts you are better off picking up a good set of headphones. And yes, the earpods are not what we recommend, they simply do not have strong bass and mids for our liking. Get a good quality headphone and you will love your iPhone 5s like no other device.
You will love this Camera
Since this review is for everyday users and not tech nerds, we will focus on their needs when we talk about the camera. As an everyday officer goer, you will find the camera on the iPhone 5s is the best camera on any mobile device. Yes, the likes of Nokia Lumia 1020 or even the Z1 take better pictures and beat the iPhone 5s, but if all you bother about when taking pictures is framing a shot and clicking the shutter button without playing around with things much, then the iPhone 5s is as good as it will be.
The iPhone 5s outperformed the iPhone 5 in low light condition and the two tone flash light is indeed useful to keep the skin tones warmer in night shots. The HDR mode is really good and fast and we absolutely loved the Slo-Mo video recording capability in 120 FPS even though these videos are 720 P. The general video quality is good too with good audio.
The front facing camera is adequate when it comes to skyping or using with hangouts. You can check out the camera samples of few shots we had taken with the iPhone 5s right here:
Touch ID is beyond a marketing fad
We had kept the most prominent feature of the iPhone 5s for the last. The reason being? Simple, we wanted you to read so far knowing you would want to know about touch ID. The Touch ID on iPhone 5s takes some time getting used to. Once you are familiar, it is a good addition. You can easily purchase apps without having to type your passwords in and the login time is also faster thanks to it.
However, with using the device over a period of time, we did see the Touch ID started degrading in the response. Deleting and re enabling the finger prints solved this issue and this is a well known problem with the iPhone 5s. Maybe, it simply is unable to register vast number of finger print database or we simply need to wash our hands more often.
Whatever the case, Touch ID works very well and you can pretty much unlock your phone immediately thanks to it. Beyond that, there is nothing much to it. Not at least now.
No doubt the iPhone 5s is the best iPhone ever made. It’s not even worth debating. Is it the best phone over all though? Not very sure about that. If you are an Apple enthusiast you will love the device.
The next question is should you upgrade to an iPhone 5s? If you have an iPhone 5, you should pass the chance, but anything else, go ahead. We did upgrade from the 5 and still feel, we wouldn’t have missed much had we not. But, the lure of a new iPhone was too much to pass. It’s a solid phone, and like any other Apple product, immaculately built. If you value good design, great software and amazing customer service, the iPhone 5s is your perfect smartphone.