The folks from Cupertino pulled a typical Apple yesterday, when they outed the bi-annual iPhone 5s upgrade that keeps the same chassis as its predecessor, but adds a carefully crafted new feature or two to make the handset stand out for the next few quarters.
This year the big thunder comes in the form of a 64-bit A7 chipset, which seems to be ahead of its app development times, but is a first for a smartphone nonetheless. Same goes for the fingerprint sensor embedded right into a brand new sapphire home button, which, however, won't be doing anything more useful than unlocking the phone and authorizing iTunes payments, as Apple won't store your fingerprint readings on its servers, and 3rd party developers won't be allowed to use it as authentication method - there goes that vast mobile payment network we were jonessing about.
Apple threw in a few other notable upgrades, mainly in the camera and connectivity departments, so check out the full laundry list of new features that are coming our way with the iPhone 5s in the slideshow below, starting off with the exterior design novelties, and moving to the changes under the hood.
The iPhone 5S comes in three aluminum backplate colors - Silver, Space Gray and even Gold - which is a radical departure from the traditional two color options that have always been.
The glass parts of the chassis are still painted in white or black, as usual, depending on the color scheme you choose - black on grey, white on silver and white on gold.
2. New dual LED True Tone flash on the back
The dual LED flash Apple is using with the iPhone 5S for the first time is not just for bragging rights. We've been hearing for a while that the so-called True Tone flash will be able to produce light in different color combinations, and yesterday this turned out to be true - Apple will utilize a white and an amber tone in over a 1000 intensity combinations, depending on the scene, in order to make skins look more natural than what you get with the typical LED flash.
3. Touch ID fingerprint sensor
This is not your clumsy hit-or-miss physical fingerprint scanner that has been present on phones like the Motorola ATRIX 4G. With the new Touch ID tech Apple has baked the sensor right into a brand new home key made of sapphire crystal. For now you can use it to unlock the handset and do iTunes purchases just by placing your thumb naturally on the home button, without the cumbersome password entrance each time.
Moreover, Apple doesn't store your prints anywhere on its servers - they will be sandboxed inside the phone, and no 3rd party developers will be allowed access, which is good and bad at the same time. The scanner, which is part of the home button, uses a sensor that is just 170 microns and scans sub-epidermal skin layers with a 500ppi resolution sensor.
4. A7 chipset sports the first 64-bit mobile device processor
Off to the changes under the hood - perhaps the grandest and most underutilized new feature of the iPhone 5s will be the new A7 chipset. It's the first mobile device processor with 64-bit architecture, and Apple promised two times the performance of the previous A6, both from the CPU and GPU. Core count, clock frequencies and the amount of RAM Apple uses in the iPhone 5s are awaiting dissection and confirmation.
With iOS 7 you also get a 64-bit mobile OS to match the 64-bit processor, alongside the updated native apps, and we've read here and there that this next-gen architecture was needed to make the fingerprint sensing tech as fast and seamless as Apple has managed to make it on the iPhone 5s. As for apps that will make a full use of the 64-bit A7, don't hold your breath yet, though with the increase in graphics prowess and OpenGL ES 3.0 support, even the most elaborate 3D games will be a go.
5. Dedicated M7 co-processor for motion sensing
Just like Motorola's new X8 chip uses dedicated low-power processor for speech recognition, Apple has paired the A7 chips with a separate frugal M7 co-processor, used entirely for motion sensing calculations.
This allows much more precise input processing from the accelerometer, milti-axis gyro and the compass, which should lead to a slew of new options for motion tracking and command, for an all-day sensing without draining the battery.
6. New iSight camera
While the resolution stays 8 MP and the lens keeps its 5-elements design plus sapphire glass coating, the new iSight camera in the iPhone 5s jumps on the larger sensor pixels and aperture bandwagon, with 1.5 micron pixels and f/2.2 aperture. This means 33% increase in light sensitivity compared to the already well-balanced unit in the iPhone 5.
Moreover, with the new A7 processor you get twice faster autofocus and shot-to-shot times, allowing the phone to take a couple of photos in rapid succession or with different short exposures, including HDR Panorama mode, combining them automatically for the best blur-free, correctly exposed shot. Judging from the unretouched samples Apple posted, the iPhone 5s will stay in the League of Extraordinary Camera Gentlemen for the foreseeable future.
7. New FaceTime HD front camera
The so-called FaceTime HD front camera also got significantly upgraded, with 1.9 microns sensor - even larger than the sensor pixels of the rear camera - and backside illumination, for less noise and blur plus much better low-light performance.
8. Record support of up to 13 LTE bands
Apple said its new iPhones carry the most LTE bands out of all smartpones out there, and that is indeed the case - multiband LTE performance has never been so versatile - the Sprint models of the iPhone 5s and 5c, for instance, sport the jaw-dropping 13 LTE bands, while the AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile ones feature the no less impressive 11 bands.
This is much more than the current octaband LTE champion - the Sony Xperia Z Ultra - and ensures that if you buy the iPhone 5s unlocked, you can pop in a carrier SIM from the majority of LTE networks worldwide, and enjoy 100 Mbps download speeds with your own trusted device.
9. Free iWorks, iMovie and iPhoto
Apple's office suite iWorks, as well as the iMovie and iPhoto video and image editors now come free with the iPhone 5s, saving you a few tens. Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iBooks and Podcasts are all part of the freebie package.
10. New accesories
The iPhone 5s is arriving with brand new $39 wrappers made of premium leather with soft microfiber lining. The multiple case colors are infused in the material, so the texture is not only skin deep, even if you scratch the soft-feeling leather. The handset also sports a brand new $29 dock for charging on your desk or night stand.