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Apple iPhone 5s Review

Apple iPhone 5s

Posted: , posted by John V.




Apple’s lion share in the smartphone space has been slowly receding in the last couple of years, as competition from Android smartphones has been whittling away at the iPhone – to the point of not only matching its level of prestige and superiority, but even surpassing it. Frankly, the iPhone 4 was arguably the last smartphone in the company’s storied history to prove itself as a specs beast, seeing that the Retina display’s resolution was something that was thought of as being so ahead of its time. Despite the lessening gap between it and the rest of the competition in the field, its most recent flagship smartphone, the iPhone 5, has been able to retain its position in the industry as the most popular smartphone in the last year.

As history has shown us, we’re in one of those years where Apple decides to retain the styling and design of its previous iPhone, and simply spices things up in the specs department, as well as throwing in some other new goodies into the mix. In this particular case, the iPhone 5s brings forth a fancy schmancy new fingerprint scanner called Touch ID, a first of a kind 64-bit based Apple A7 mobile processor, and an updated iSight camera with larger sized pixels. Beyond the hardware goodness in tow with the iPhone 5s, it’s also sporting Apple’s biggest undertaking yet, iOS 7, which has been a long time coming.

With so much on the line, it’s still amazing to know that the iPhone 5s is going to be Apple’s flagship smartphone for the next one year. Knowing that, we bet you’re all curious to know how this latest endeavor will pan out – even more when there are a host of Android smartphones that push the boundary in the specs department. Is this going to be able to fend off the competition for the next year? Will it continue to stay at the head of the class? Does it even have the staying power anymore? Prepare yourself ladies and gentlemen! Let’s all find out, shall we?

The package contains:


No surprises here whatsoever, even more knowing that there’s that “s” letter attached to its name. Much like the other “s” attached iPhones, namely the 3GS and 4S, the iPhone 5s maintains its predecessor’s design to the teeth – with no noticeable nuances between the two. From its size, overall dimensions (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches), profile thickness (0.3”), and weight (112 gr), it’s identical to the iPhone 5 before it. Whereas big phones seem to be the trend in the smartphone space, the iPhone 5s remains to be quaint in size when it’s compared to some of the other big named Android smartphones. Obviously, some will appreciate the more compact in-the-hand feel of the iPhone 5s.

Heck, even the overall styling and design hasn’t changed too, which can be seen as both a good or bad thing, depending on who you talk to of course. Employing the same iconic design as before, everything that made the previous handset is here again – like its chamfered beveled edges, uniform flat front & rear surfaces, button placements, and premium brushed aluminum rear casing. There's a slight change in the color scheme, as the black version now has “Space Gray” metal body, which is slightly lighter than the dark gray on the iPhone 5. And now, a new, third color is added – Gold.

No doubt, there’s still that premium attachment with the phone, which few smartphones in the space can match. Needless to say, the iPhone 5s’ construction is expectedly solid, with no creaks or hollowness found with its build quality. It’s able to withstand the usual wear and tear that smartphones are accustomed to experiencing, however, we find it unlikely to endure something more serious – such as lengthy drops.

Visually speaking, we’re not enamored by the iPhone 5s, rightfully so, seeing that it’s a recycled design. Despite that, though, it remains to be one of the more premium looking and feeling smartphones on the market.

Checking out the same metal banding that's hugging the iPhone 5s, all the same ports and buttons from before are once again here. On the left side, we have the silent switch and separated volume controls, while on the right, the slot for the handset's nanoSIM slot. Up top, the same power button sticks out ever so much from the surrounding area, and right on cue, it’s springy as we've come to expect. And lastly, the iPhone 5s' proprietary Lightning docking port, microphone, and internal speaker are lined in unison on the bottom edge.

In a landscape dominated by behemoth sized cameras, like the 41-megaixel beast in the Nokia Lumia 1020, the iPhone 5s is still packing the same 8-megapixel snapper from before, but it’s simply stuffed with even juicier internals. Everyone seems to think they have the correct recipe with their respective fancy termed camera technology, like HTC’s “Ultrapixel” or Motorola’s “Clear Pixel” cameras, but who says that Apple has is correct with the iPhone 5s? Right? Maybe they do, but one thing’s certain – the 8-megapixel iSight camera here benefits from a larger pixel size and aperture.

Specifically, pixel size this time around jumps up to 1.5µm, up from the iPhone 5’s previous 1.4µm size, which is supposed to improve with low lighting situations. Combined with an f2.2 aperture lens, it is said to see an increase of 33% with light sensitivity. Other neat features include a backside illuminated sensor, digital image stabilization, dual-LED flash (white & amber colors), HDR, panoramic, 1080p video recording, and slow-motion recording. Oh yeah, there’s also a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, which also employs a backside illuminated sensor, larger 1.9µm pixels, and 720p video recording. We’ll talk more about quality a bit later, seeing all of this mumbo-jumbo won’t matter if it can’t snap GOOD looking photos.

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.

Touch ID fingerprint scanner

In part of keeping its iconic design, the iPhone 5s continues to flaunt a circular sized, recessed home button beneath its display. Indeed, the springiness is here yet again, however, as we closely inspect it with our eyes, there’s an apparent difference this time around. Low and behold folks, the home button that we all know and love now incorporates a biometric fingerprint sensor, which is protected soundly by sapphire crystal glass. It’s not the first time we’ve seen fingerprint scanner on phones, as the Motorola ATRIX 4G and older Windows Mobile phones like the LG eXpo featured fingerprint scanners of their own.

Unlike them, Apple’s take with its Touch ID fingerprint scanner relies on capacitive technology – whereas with the aforementioned devices, we were required to swipe our finger multiple times over their scanners to register. Setting it up is a breeze on the iPhone 5s, since it requires us to tap various regions of our finger over the sensor until it’s able to map out a good portion of it. Once completed, we’re able to unlock the iPhone 5s from the lock screen by merely placing our finger over the sensor. And it works flawlessly! Besides unlocking the phone, it’s used to confirm purchases, which helps to minimize the step of inputting our password. Concerned about privacy? Well, Apple specifically mentions that fingerprints are stored locally in the iPhone 5’s new A7 processor – as opposed to being stored in the clouds. So there’s no cause for alarm just yet, right?

Apple loves to think differently, but seriously, Touch ID isn’t necessarily an innovative thing. At the end of the day, its purpose is mainly reserved for unlocking the iPhone 5s – a neat gesture no doubt, but hardly something we’d consider profound. Just like other unlocking alternatives, such as Android’s face unlock, some people might view it as a novelty feature.


Who knows if Apple will ever reclaim the bragging rights to having the most detailed smartphone display, but one thing is for sure – it’s certainly not the iPhone 5s. Donning the same screen as before, the iPhone 5s sports a 4-inch Retina Display that keeps its resolution of 640 x 1136 pixels – a figure that may not look so impressive on paper, but still delivers the pretty reasonable 326 ppi pixel density. Because of this, image clarity may not be as superb as on those 1080 x 1920 pixel displays out there, but in most cases, you'll never have an issue reading the new iPhone's screen.

The iPhone 5s' IPS-LCD based display continues to produce colors that are incredibly accurate in tone. It's probably the most accurate display on a smartphone, with nicely saturated, yet realistic colors, along with eye-catching, contrasting look and gamma that is close to perfect. Thankfully, its brightness output is also excellent, allowing for easy and comfortable viewing when outdoors. Oh, and did we mention that viewing angles are also superb? Yep, they certainly are.

Apple iPhone 5s 360-Degrees View:


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PhoneArena rating:
Display4.0 inches, 640 x 1136 pixels (326 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera8 megapixels
Apple A7, Dual-core, 1300 MHz, Cyclone processor
Size4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches
(123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm)
3.95 oz  (112 g)

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