- Touch ID works perfectly
- Excellent performance
- Great all-round camera
- Very light and comfortable in one hand
- Battery life could be better
- 4-inch screen too small for some
- Extra storage cost
iPhone 5S review
This is an update to the original iPhone 5S review based on observations made from using the phones day in-day out for several months.
Living with the iPhone 5SCutting straight to the chase the iPhone 5S is one of the best phones to be launched in the past year. Slick and fast, the iPhone 5S has a smart aluminium frame surrounding an excellent 4-inch screen. It’s a premium and solid, yet incredibly light, design.
I really enjoy holding it for long periods of time and have reverted back to reading books on my phone, something I haven’t done since using my diddy-screened iPhone 4 two years ago. Having a decent case helps matters and while I was initially dubious over Apple’s leather one I’ve grown accustomed to it. It does tend to patina quickly – something I like as I have a bit of a vintage leather fetish, but it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Watch the iPhone 5S video review
What has surprised me most about the iPhone 5S is that I have not missed 5-inch phones one jot. In fact it’s been a bit of a relief stepping down in screen size as I commute a fair deal and often use phones with one hand. If I want a bigger screen, and have the space to use it, I pop out a tablet.
There’s not much point talking about the iPhone 5S’s performance here other than to say it’s very, very fast and extremely reliable. I’ve not experienced any issues with apps misbehaving other than the Pages app, which has since been fixed. Apple’s iOS certainly has its limitations but the fact that it just keeps working well is a godsend to those too busy to learn every little foible of their phone. I’ve not experienced the slow-down effects that tend to occur on Androids after lots of apps and updates have been installed - the iPhone 5S is rock solid.
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iOS 7 is a wonderfully simple operating system and while quite a few complained about the new design I was delighted with it, as well as the added touches. While the ‘Today’ notification isn’t something I’ve taken to, the multitasking menu and the Control Centre are great and the lack of them was one of the reasons I picked Android over iOS in the past. The Control Centre is still missing a quick access button into settings which is particularly annoying when wanting to switch Wi-Fi networks. It’s the apps available on the app store that cinched it for me, though. As a mobile gamer the depth and breadth of titles is fantastic – Limbo, for example is a great little game that you can’t get anywhere else.
Cameras have become so important on mobiles that there are now some, like the Nokia Lumia 1020 and Samsung Galaxy Zoom, which are more camera than phone. I’ve found that the iPhone 5S’s camera to be very solid, but not as exceptional as some others. It is perfectly suited for snapping and reacts quickly, which is what I want from a phone camera, but there’s not as much detail as my 13 megapixel Galaxy S4 camera can muster. On the flip side the 5S’s camera works well in lower-lit conditions. The multi-tonal flash provides some far softer and more realistically lit shots in pubs and restaurants when compared to the harsh white light of most LED or Xenon flashes. The 120fps slo-mo video is also great. I wasn't that fussed when I first used it but it quickly makes videos looks more polished and special. Fantastic slow shots of my nephews and nieces jumping on a trampoline made me view it in a new light. The front camera also works well for video-chat as long as long as there's decent ambient light.
The iPhone 5S lacks a microSD card slot for memory expansion, but you can get it in 16/32/64GB versions. The catch is the extra storage is pricey – too pricey – each increment costs and extra £80 on the £549 base price. It all depends on your storage needs, but if you don’t carry a load of movies or music with you 16GB (of which 13.6GB is usable) should be adequate, but for many the 32GB model will be optimal and I haven’t managed to fill 32GB yet.
One of the most talked about features of the iPhone 5S, and my personal favourite, is Touch ID. This is a fingerprint scanner located in the home button of the phone that lets you unlock it without requiring a PIN or password. It works brilliantly and I already find it irritating to use any phone with a PIN or gesture lock now. It may be a luxury, but I’m in no doubt that this feature, or one very like it, will be in every phone will have in a few years. It just makes using your phone on the move so much easier.
After a few weeks of use I had a bit of an issue with call quality – essentially my voice appeared distant to the person on the other end. The issue resolved itself after a short while but it was irritating while it lasted. It was not isolated either, a quick hunt on the internet showed a few users had the same problem. As it's no longer a problem we can assume a software fix was applied.
In terms of stamina the iPhone 5S is good but not outstanding. If I use it sparingly I can get two full days of use without a charge, but when I play games for a few hours I need to recharge it overnight. The good thing about the battery is that it charges very quickly and is predictable – the 5S never suddenly drops a massive percentage of life while it’s been sitting in my pocket, something I’ve experienced with other phones in the past.
On a day to day basis the iPhone 5S does everything I want it to do, and does the things I do most, better than any other phone I’ve used. It’s not gimmicky and other than the lack of widgets and customisations there’s not much I miss from using bigger Android phones. If, as expected, Apple does up the screen size in the iPhone 6 I’ll be interested to see whether I’ll enjoy the experience quite as much.
If you want to find out more detail about every aspect of the iPhone 5S then continue to the next page to read the full review.
Scores In Detail
- Battery Life
- Call & Sound Quality
- Camera Quality
- Screen Quality
- Software & Apps
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