Apple iPhone 5s Review
Interface and Functionality
Frankly, the most impressive thing to us on the iPhone 5s beyond everything else, is the new iOS 7 interface it’s running. Indeed, it’s available on other past iPhones too, but the folks over in Apple’s headquarters mainly sought to have people experience its vastness most with its latest smartphone. And why shouldn’t they, as the new software experience is a long time coming. We won’t go into too much detail regarding every minute thing we love and hate about the experience, since you can read more about it in our comprehensive review of iOS 7, but we’ll quickly graze over a few noteworthy things.
Visually it’s different, but it continues to maintain Apple’s core foundation of simplicity. For those out there that have grown fondly of using iOS, there isn’t anything entirely new to learn here with iOS 7, seeing that all of the features and functions of the experience are intact – albeit, the execution might vary with some things (multi-tasking view). And there’s a lot of attention to detail found throughout the new interface, like the translucent look of panels that are layered on top of one another, that show off the visual evolution of the platform. Can we also talk about the fonts? The addition of it helps to complement the overall minimalist look and feel of the experience.
Contrasting the spiffy new looks is iOS 7’s continued support of keeping it simple, to the point that newbies will have no issue navigating through the platform. Heck, even first timers will have a breeze understanding the intricacies of the platforms’ various functions. However, if we’re to nit-pick something, it has to be the new implementation Apple has decided to go with the multi-tasking aspect of the platform. Before, double tapping the home button enabled us to view all opened apps, which would allow us to “close” them down by long pressing on one of the icons – thus, causing the icons to jiggle in place with an “x” placed on top of them. With iOS 7, however, we’re now given webOS-like mini windows that require us to swipe up to close them down. Now, it’s still a practical function, but a tedious one at that.
Other things worth mentioning are iOS 7’s new Control Center and Notification Center. With the former, it’s wonderful we have access to common connectivity features of the iPhone, which beats having to go into the Settings just to enable thing like Airplane mode or Wi-Fi. On top of that, we have the ability to adjust the screen brightness, have access to the music player, and access to the flashlight function. And then there’s the new Notification Center, which aggregates all of our notifications. Although it’s broken down to different categories, it doesn’t seem as intertwined with some of the handsets apps – similar to how Android’s notification panel enables us to quickly archive emails. And then there’s Siri, who now talks in a more human-like voice, whereas before, Siri sounded too robotic.
Aside from all that, Apple has incorporated some cool effects like animated wallpapers (as in Android), which look pretty cool and can be interacted with using the accelerometer. Static wallpapers also move around as you tilt your device in various directions, creating a pleasing sense of depth.
Processor and Memory
Like we said, iOS 7 is what makes the iPhone 5s so darn enjoyable, seeing that it’s a refreshing sight for sore eyes. However, the iPhone 5s bears something that’s regarded as a first of its kind – a 64-bit based mobile processor! Generally speaking, most people gauge raw power by the amount of cores in the processor, and its clocked speed. For the everyday Joe, the notion of a 64-bit processor might not cause them to jump with joy, but nevertheless, it’s something that needs to be applauded.
Armed with Apple’s new A7 processor, which relies on 64-bit architecture, Apple claims that it doubles the performance of the iPhone 5’s CPU and GPU. In all seriousness, we can talk about how this new piece of silicone smokes its predecessor in all objective benchmarking categories, but we’ll simply say this – it’s fast. Did we really expect anything else? Not really, seeing that the iPhone in general is known to exude a consistent amount of fluidity and responsiveness with all functions – whether it’s basic stuff like opening apps, to more complex thing like playing graphically intensive titles.
Honestly though, we’re hard pressed to realize the most miniscule of differences between its performance against the iPhone 5, but it’s obvious that it’s similar in many aspects. Right now, the 64-bit processor’s potential can’t be seen or felt, but as developers optimize apps/games to it, we’re most certainly going to visualize the iPhone 5s’ performance superiority. In the greater scheme of things, it continues to be one of the snappiest smartphones around.
Asides the new 64-bit based Apple A7 processor, the iPhone 5s also so happens to package an accompanying M7 motion processor. Call it the companion processor or something else, but the M7 is dedicated to monitoring the iPhone 5s’ motion from data compiled by its accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass – so that battery life is extended, thus in turn, alleviating some of the slack from the A7. Although it’s something that’s not necessarily seen by us as we’re interacting with the phone, it helps to optimize the handset’s battery. For example, if they iPhone 5s is left alone for a long period of time, the A7 is able to realize that and adapts to the situation by disabling certain functions (like receiving data).
At one point, Apple was known to push storage capacities to the limit. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the introduction of the iPhone 5s, since it’s available in the same capacities as the iPhone 5 before it – 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB options. When everyone is snapping photos and 1080p videos, the 16GB base option seems oh-so insufficient, especially when some of its competition has made 32GB their minimum tally.
It’s not the most spacious thing, but the iPhone 5s’ on-screen keyboard still proves itself as one of the best out there. Visually, the keyboard boasts white colored buttons that are surrounded by a grayish background color, but the layout is the same as before – so there’s nothing new to learn here. As always, the responsiveness and killer auto-correct feature of the keyboard aids us to type at a fanatical rate without worry. Better yet, we can also speak what we want to write down by tapping the microphone button on the keyboard. For the most part, it does a fantastic job transcribing what we speak.
Like what we mentioned about the overall platform experience, we can say the same thing about its various organizer functions. All of the visuals have been updated with all the corresponding apps, but their functionalities have remained unchanged for the most part. So whether you’re using the Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, Weather, Clock, Calculator, or Notes apps, there’s nothing really new to learn with them.
Using the default email client on the iPhone 5s, the visual presentation has changed, naturally, but we’re able to navigate through things relatively easily. There’s nothing to learn honestly, as all the functions from before are here.
Internet and Connectivity
The beloved Safari browser has made some good progress, as it now has a full-screen option in portrait mode, a unified search bar and a new tab view, which tends to be more convenient than the old one. You can still share webpages (now with AirDrop as well), bookmark, or add them to your reading list. Throwing in the usual 4G LTE connectivity with its new found snappy Apple A7 processor, the iPhone 5s delivers the goods with the experience – namely speedy page loads, buttery smooth navigational controls, and instant page rendering. So what’s there not to like about this one?
Interestingly, the iPhone 5s bears one feature that might be overlooked by the general population – its support for global LTE. In the US, the handset is available in GSM and CDMA flavors to play nicely with each of the four major wireless players’ different networks. Dissecting it even further, Apple manufactures four different versions of the iPhone 5s that operate under the various regions and mobile networks littered throughout the world. Beyond that, it lays claim to all the usual suspect of connectivity features we commonly expect to find – like aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. Despite its lack of NFC, which enables competing handsets to quickly share files amongst each other, the iPhone 5s employs something similar with its own feature called AirDrop, which is iOS 7’s version of file transfer via Wi-Fi local connectivity.