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Review: Should You Buy The iPhone 5s?

Review: Should You Buy The iPhone 5s?

October 9, 2013
What can I say about the iPhone 5s that you haven't already heard? Well, the truth is, nothing. In all honestly, the iPhone 5s is just another incremental upgrade with a few noteworthy features that, thanks to the rumor mill, most of us already knew about before it launched. It's faster, has slightly improved battery life, a better camera with a dual-LED flash, Touch ID (the new fingerprint scanning system), and has a 64-bit processor, but do most "non-techies" even care about that last feature? Probably not. Check out our video review below:

If you can't see the above video, please click this link.

New Colors

First, if you were getting tired or the black/slate or white/silver color options, Apple has introduced two new colors with the iPhone 5s. The black/slate model has been replaced with a new Space Gray color. Say goodbye to black/slate iPhone scuffgate issues. Along with that, there's a new gold color option in the mix and I'm actually a fan of it. So now you have three colors to choose from with the iPhone 5s.

Configuration And Specifications

The iPhone 5s comes in 16, 32, and 64GB flavors. The A7 chip clocked at 1.29 GHz gives the iPhone 5s a hefty boost in performance, but like the iPhone 5, it only has a measly 1GB of RAM. In tests, the iPhone 5s performs comparably with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG G2, and many other high end Android devices, while running at twice the speed of its predecessor. I think it's safe to say that Apple is excellent with implementing software/hardware optimization. Along with the A7 chip, the iPhone 5s also introduces the new M7 motion coprocessor. With the help of compatible apps, it can track your movement and daily activity. This coprocessor also uses compass, gyroscope, and accelerometer data to help improve location based services.

Battery Life

The iPhone 5s packs an improved 1,560 mAh battery. The battery in the iPhone 5s is slightly improved over the iPhone 5, but it also uses some new and power-hungry technology. In my testing, I've definitely noticed an improvement. Though, it's hard to tell if that improvement is because I have a fresh battery in my device, or Apple's optimizations are working. My iPhone 5 had way more than average daily usage. Most of the time I required a battery case to make it through the day. With the iPhone 5s, these problems aren't present. I can make it a full day easily, but again, that could be because the battery is new. Only months of usage will determine the real value in battery life on the iPhone 5s. Aside from the internal components, what makes the iPhone 5s a worthy purchase? Well, if you set aside the novel Touch ID fingerprint scanner that we'll get to later on, hopefully you're a fan of taking pictures and shooting video.


Technically, the camera on the iPhone 5s is better, but that's really going to depend on a lot of conditions. Lighting is a big one. Outdoors, the iPhone 5s takes beautiful pictures on a sunny day, but once you step into low light, it's decent, but not much better than anything else I've seen. I would have liked to see some manual adjustment this time around, but maybe that's too much to ask for from Apple, I'm not sure. The camera has an ƒ2.2 aperture lens and its sensor has 1.5µ pixels, but that alone isn't enough to warrant an upgrade. The dual-LED flash is a nice addition. In my opinion, side by side, the iPhone 5s takes better pictures with its flash enabled than its predecessor in the same lighting conditions. Apple calls this new feature True Tone. The camera evaluates lighting conditions in real time, then decides on a fair balance between the orange-tone LED and the white-tone LED. The results speak for themselves, but I wouldn't lose sleep over only having a single LED flash. Testing out Apple's new slo-mo video feature:

If you can't see the above video, please click this link.

Another feature of the iPhone 5s camera is slo-mo video. This allows you to shoot 720p video at 120fps. It's definitely a fun addition to the camera and it works great. You can adjust a specific portion of your video to use the slo-mo effect, but I've literally used the feature three times since I purchased the iPhone 5s. Other people may use it more, but this feature isn't enough to run to an Apple Store and upgrade.

Touch ID

Probably one of the more notable features of the iPhone 5s is Touch ID. Apple has managed to fit a fingerprint scanner underneath the home button. Normally, I'd write this off as being a gimmick, but Apple has done a great job implementing this technology. Here's how Touch ID works:

If you can't see the above video, please click this link.

Setting up a new fingerprint is simple and it definitely provides a secure way to unlock your device. It's also a quicker way to purchase apps or music instead of typing in a password each time. Unfortunately, that's all it does at the moment. I think this technology is amazing and has a lot of future potential, but that's just it, Touch ID has future potential. It's very possible that we'll see a few features added over the next year, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Touch ID is most certainly a hardware beta test. Much like Siri was a software beta that began its journey on the iPhone 4s, we may not see Apple's Touch ID end-game for another one to two years. The iPhone 6 or maybe even 6s will be a better example of Touch ID's full potential.

Let’s Recap

What are you really getting by upgrading to the iPhone 5s?
  • New color options.
  • Improved battery life.
  • A faster processor with a co-processor to track motion and movement.
  • A marginally better camera with a dual-LED "True Tone" flash and 120fps video recording capabilities.
  • Touch ID fingerprint scanner.

Should You Upgrade?

If you're currently using an Android device, the new experience combined with these new features is definitely worth the upgrade. The only downside is, you're losing connection with your current app ecosystem. The App Store is definitely an upgrade from Google Play in my opinion, but jumping to iOS may not be worth it to those with any reasonable amount of money invested into music and apps with Google. Then again, if you're contemplating upgrading to an iOS device, specifically the iPhone 5s, you've already cut your Play Store losses. At this point, it just comes down to whether or not you’re willing to spend the money.

Upgrading From Another iPhone

Just like other “s” models, your upgrade would be more valuable if you have the patience to wait until the release of another “solid” number device like the iPhone 6. Those who upgraded to an iPhone 3GS may have greatly benefited by waiting for the iPhone 4. The same goes with those who purchased an iPhone 4s. Guess what? The same goes with the iPhone 5s. If you're currently on a previous "s" model, I think you'll love the iPhone 5s. If you like keeping up on the latest technology from Apple, the iPhone 5s is a wonderful phone. There may only be a few notable features, but once again, Apple has created a device that is desired by many and outdone by very few. If money is tight or you aren't eligible for an upgrade, I'd hold off until the iPhone 6 is released. Spending $649 on a few new features isn't worth it. Don't get me wrong, I love my iPhone 5s, but I'm a huge geek with a passion for this kind of stuff. If you're like me, I think you'll be impressed with what the iPhone 5s has to offer, but aside from staying up to date on Apple's technology trends, there's really no reason to buy this off-contract.

Should You Wait?

It's very likely that in September 2014, Apple will unveil the iPhone 6 and I'm very confident that it will be a better upgrade if you're coming from an iPhone 5. If you're coming from a 4/4s, the iPhone 5s is going to be a worthy upgrade, but remember, the first sentence in this paragraph is probably true. The bottom line is, find a phone that you are happy with. Technology evolves way too fast for anyone to upgrade to each device that Apple or any other manufacturer releases. Find a few features in a phone that you're willing to put up with for a couple of years and go for it. Hopefully this review has provided you with enough detail and opinion to help you make an informed decision.

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