Every new iPhone is faster than the last. Even though there are often only subtle changes in the aesthetics, everything within the iPhone 5s has recieved a complete overhaul. The iPhone 5s is powered by a 64-bit dual-core A7 processor, which Apple claims to be 2X faster than the A6 chip from the iPhone 5.
The iPhone 5s’ performance increases are immediately noticeable when it comes to booting apps, but actually using those apps doesn’t feel all that different than it did on the iPhone 5. Same goes for navigating through iOS in general. The 64-bit A7 chip is heftier, but most apps and games just haven’t been optimized for it yet. It’s similar to how the iPhone 4S’s performance compared to the iPhone 4.
That said, games like Infinity Blade III, which are updated for the new chip, feel great. It loads in a matter of seconds, whereas it takes over a minute loading on the iPhone 5.
In addition to the A7 chip, Apple added another new chip called the M7 co-processor, which handles motion data from the pheon’s gyroscope, compass, and accelerometer. Fitness-based apps will be utilizing the M7, and that should save some battery life and processing power when those apps are running in the background. That said, it might be a while befor more apps take advantage of this.
Communications and 4G LTE
Like the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5s supports a broad spectrum of networks, ranging from GSM/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA , DC-HSDPA on the GSM version. On the CDMA side, you have all the above, plus CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B. There’s also the usual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 A2DP capability as well. Best of all, both the GSM and CDMA versions support LTE. What’s new this year is that the iPhone 5s will support global LTE.
iOS 7 is the largest revision of Apple’s mobile OS to date, with a heavy facelift in design and new features. With Jony Ive involved with the production of iOS7, it provides a much flatter and colorful interface.
iOS 7 more or less runs very similar to iOS 6, particularly in terms of navigating through the device. Apple’s taken a “new but familiar” approach that makes it easy for long-time iOS veterans to get used to the new software, while new users will be able to figure it out just as quickly.
The pull-down notification screen has received a very welcome facelift — it now displays the weather, traffic info, and your calendar, as well as all user notifications and missed calls, in three separate tabs. Just as they can with Android, users can now access Bluetooth, network, flashlight and some common settings by simply swiping up on the Home Screen, and no longer have to go through an ordeal of navigating through the settings menu. Unfortunately, there is still no option to use a third-party on-screen keyboard like Swype and SwiftKey.
All of Apple’s core apps have also received a nice redesign, including modernized versions of Messages, Calculator and Weather. They all look great. iOS7 does miss the mark with an overly-confusing Calendar app, though, turning it into an over-cluttered mess.
The Camera and Photo apps have also been redesigned. There are now filters and a Square mode similar to Instagram, and the albums can now be viewed by time and place.
iOS7 also includes a new feature called AirDrop, which is similar to the OSX feature where users can share documents and files from one device to another. Another nice addition is iTunes Radio, which is Apple’s entry to the streaming audio market, similar to services such as Pandora and Slacker. Users can listen to featured preset stations, or create new ones based on songs or artists. Unfortunately, users can only skip up to six songs per hour.
Finally, Apple’s throwing in the entire iWorks productivity suite of software with the purchase of any new iOS device. That includes Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Garage Band, and iPhoto, making it a very nice bargain for any prospective iPhone 5s buyers.
Since the iPhone 4, the iPhone’s camera has been one of the best on the market, generally improving with each new model. While other competitors push megapixel counts upward, the iPhone has stuck with an 8-megapixel shooter for three years now. That lower number don’t seem to matter as much to the 5s’ picture quality, though, as it’s still great.
The 5s’ camera has some new improvements and additions, which remedy some old shortcomings. Previous iPhones did not do well with low-light photos, for instance. The 5s has increased its pixel and aperture size, which increases light sensitivity by 33%, according to Apple. There is a definite improvement in low-light performance because of this.
Daytime and well-lit photos look also as good as they did on the iPhone 5.
The new front facing, FaceTime, 1.2MP camera is improved in capturing photos and videos too. Low-light selfies look better than before.
The camera also takes advantage of the new A7 chip, allowing users to take real burst-mode shots by simply holding down the shutter button. The longer the press, the more shots taken. The phone then selects what it think is the best shot, instead of cluttering up the photos library.
Another exclusive 5s camera feature is slow-motion, 720p video. That records at 120fps, and then reduces it to 30fps during playback. It works well.
Thanks to iOS7, photos and 1080p video now feature image stabilization, which is helpful for those with shaky hands or in situations or bumpy situations.
Finally, Apple improves the camera flash by bringing True Tone Flash to the 5s, which is a dual flash system consisting of a white LED and an amber LED working together to create a much more natural color balance. It also works as advertised.
Even with an upgrade in specs, the iPhone 5s’ battery life is very similar to last year’s iPhone 5. It’s not bad, but it’s still somewhat of a letdown. The iPhone 5s features a 1580mAh battery, which is a slight boost over 1440mAh from last year.
From my own personal testing through a full workday, I managed 10 hours and 21 minutes with daily use. That includes making calls, text, emails, and social networking with Bluetooth and WiFi on. This was about 21 minutes longer than what I got out of the iPhone 5. Apple doesn’t hold up against its own high standard in this area, but it is still competitive against other rival smartphones.