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iPhone 5S problems and pitfalls

Andrew Williams by

iPhone 5S
iPhone 5S

The iPhone 5S is here, and we'd bet our last battery bar that it'll sell tens of millions of phones over the next year.

However, there are five problems with the iPhone 5S that could mean it's remembered as a bit of a dud in the iPhone's illustrious history. Read on to find out what they are.

6. Stock is very scarce

Initial stock of the iPhone 5S is very, very limited. O2 has confirmed that it had no in-store stock for the phone at launch, and although the phone was released on 20 September, the Apple website listed the phone as available in 'October' on day one of launch.

Has Apple made a boo-boo? It seems so. Our bet is that the fingerprint scanner is behind the serious stock shortages of the phone.

Not only is it a brand-new element of the phone, it's also one that could become a PR disaster if Apple isn't extremely stringent with its quality control. The capacitive sensor (it's not an optical one) isn't something we've seen before in a phone - it's not a tried and tested idea. However, Apple's QA process isn't going to be a particularly satisfying exuse for estate agent Dave who simply wants to get his hands on the new phone.

5. The camera isn’t as advanced as some might hope

The iPhone 5S has a redesigned camera array. It keeps the same resolution as the iPhone 5, but increases the sensor size by 15 per cent, bumps up the f-stop rating to f/2.2, and improves the flash.

However, most of them feel like half measures. Apple talked-up the 1.5 micron sensor pixels of the iPhone 5S – the larger, the better image quality per pixel – however in reality they’re not that large.

The HTC One has 2.1 micron sensor pixels, for example, and higher-res phones like the Lumia 1020 cleverly block together multiple small sensor pixels to act much like larger pixels.

Its aperture is not all that impressive either. The iPhone 5S has an f/2.2 lens, but several phones use f/2.0 apertures these days, and the Lumia 720 goes even further with an f/1.9 lens.

Other features are provided by software magic rather than real hardware improvements too. For example the ‘image stabilisation’ is actually a super-fast burst mode that takes a bunch of photos with each snap and picks the one it judges the be the sharpest.

It’s clever, but it’s far less impressive than the true optical stabilisation of a phone like the Lumia 925 – which is far closer to what you’d get in a ‘proper’ camera.

4. Proprietary approach in AirDrop is bad for the industry as a whole

One of the big hardware disappointments in the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C is that neither has NFC – Near-Field Communication. This is used in most high-end phones these days, and lets two NFC-capable devices talk to each other over short distances.

A common, but not very interesting, use is in transferring files between phones or tablets. Apple offers an alternative proprietary technology for this purpose. It’s called AirDrop, and has featured in Mac OS X gadgets like MacBooks since the Lion software update. It uses Wi-Fi, making it merely a specific implementation of Wi-Fi Direct.

However, it misses out on all the more exciting uses of NFC that won’t apple to AirDrop. There are loads of audio docks and headphones that use NFC to let you quickly pair a phone with the speaker – requiring little more than a swipe of the handset. These won’t work with AirDrop (most use Bluetooth, but without NFC the sync method is clunkier).

NFC was also once a bright hope for wireless payments on the high street. Several retailers trialled the technology too, but after a bright and hopeful start, the technology doesn’t seem to have spread much further. That it still isn’t used in the 2013/2014 iPhones more-or-less sinks NFC’s battleship in this respect.

3. It will take a long time for the iPhone 5S 64-bit system architecture to pay off

The iPhone 5S is the first phone ever to use a 64-bit processor. But will it really be of much use to the phone? Well the first good news is that iOS 7 already support optimisation for the new CPU. But have you ever really been disappointed with how slick a new iPhone’s interface is?

For the processor’s innovations to be at all worthwhile, other developers need to get hold of the tech. And there’s not an immediate need for them to do so, as Apple has sensibly made the iPhone 5S backwards compatible with 32-bit apps and games (i.e. every one made to date).

There’s a clear argument that the 64-bit processor is more of a marketing tool than something that’ll truly increase the performance of the iPhone 5S. The support for more RAM that’s a core part of the benefit of a 64-bit system in desktop PCs doesn’t apply here, and the need to support 32-bit systems for years and years to come severely limits the potential benefits of the iPhone 5S’s 64-bit nature – for the next year at least.

2. The screen size is starting to look out of date

The iPhone 5S has a great screen. However, put it next to any of its Android rivals in remotely the same price class and it looks tiny. It looks like a toy.

Apple has rigidly stuck to a screen that keeps the phone around 6cm wide. This helps ensure it’ll fit in just about anyone’s hand – anyone old enough to have learned to control their own bowels at any rate.

However, is Apple just playing stick in the mud? The success of phones like the HTC One and Galaxy S4 – they’re not only admired by tech heads – suggests enough people have gotten used to holding a larger phone.

We don’t doubt that Apple has considered a larger phone – if not dozens. There are almost certainly large-screen prototypes in an Apple lab somewhere. But the company seems scared to break free of its self-imposed constraints.

1. The Touch ID Sensor is very limited

The Touch ID Sensor – that’s the fingerprint scanner on the Home button – is perhaps the coolest single feature of the iPhone 5S. It uses a capacitive sensor to judge the exact properties of your fingerprint, and is much more secure than the relatively dumb optical sensor seen in other scanners.

However, it doesn’t do much. The way it works means you won’t be able to unlock the phone if you have gloves on, not without reverting to the old passcode system.

The Touch ID Sensor will also never be able to be used by third-party app developers either according to Apple, meaning that its uses are very limited. The reason why is pretty obvious – although a capacitive fingerprint sensor doesn’t store a copy of your fingerprint as such, it records its conductive ‘signature’. And the mere possibilities of national papers hooking onto the privacy and security issues probably means opening up the system simply isn’t worth it PR-wise for Apple.

Its uses, therefore, will be limited to Apple’s own software. For now that means helping out with passcodes and passwords, but it is likely to let multiple users open up their own iPhone profiles in iOS 7.x or iOS 8.

Think there’s another iPhone stumbling block looming in the future? Drop us your thoughts in the comments.

Next, read the 10 ways the iPhone 5C beats the iPhone 4S

Go to comments


September 16, 2013, 3:33 pm

<p>Trusted Reviews can be trusted to bash Apple products every chance it gets. there is not an intelligent or original idea in this. it takes everything that's actually new and innovative in the iPhone 5s and tries to explain why those are bad.</p><p>first, as to the camera, the old 5 camera almost always won photography blind tests, where photog blogs or magazines looked at photos taken buy different phones (without knowing which was taken with which phone. Apple overwhelmingly wins these contests, despite having fewer pixels. And what about hte two-tone flash? that sounds pretty cool to me. i hate flash because it's too bright and white Apple seeks to fix that with complex software that analyzes the color of flash the would be ideal. this and other cool and useful features are derided as "software magic", as if there's something wrong with a tech company improving an experience with better software.</p><p>How can screen size be out of date? it's new. you may call it small, but out of date?</p><p>and the fingerprint sensor does exactly what it says it does. iit's a SECURITY feature. Apple isn't going to give the information to the millions of app. developers, just like its not telling them your password. the point of it is to easily and securely unlock your device. the author pretends this is a shortfall by concocting some other potential uses, without saying what they are, that were never intended.</p><p>the 64-bit architecture is great. it's true that immediate benefits aren't coming on day one, but that's because programmers need to write the programs. this expands the limits of what can be done with a smartphone. it's like doubling IQ. some tasks it won't matter- a person with 200 IQ doesn't scramble eggs faster or better than someone with 100 IQ. but 200 IQ can do lots of other things better and faster, and this will happen with 64-bit. it's telling that not two days after Apple announced 64-bit, Samsung said that it too will come out with 64-bit phones.</p>


September 16, 2013, 6:25 pm

<p>And I'm sure if we recommend the iPhone 5S / 5C in our reviews next week, we'll be told how biased we are in favour of Apple.</p>


September 16, 2013, 6:55 pm

<p>that, no doubt, is true.</p><p>however, I have not seen a single article on this site rushed to trash new features of any other device maker, much less contriving to do so with ridiculous arguments about a security feature not being shared with millions of App developers.</p><p> and how does the fact that the HTC and Lumia's have good cameras mean that the significantly improved iPhone camera presents a "pitfall" or a "problem", as the headline says?</p><p>the author is comparing one phone to the features present in many other phones, for example the iPhone camera against the HTC and Lumia cameras.</p><p> your reviews should be asking which is the best overall phone, not making the iPhone compete feature for feature against the aggregate of the competition, as if someone is going to buy the HTC for the large pixels and also the Lumia for its aperture. what about the unique and innovative true tone flash in the 5S? that's not even mentioned.</p><p>he discusses the failure of NFC, but when Apple offers an alternative that could catch on, the author says this is bad because Apple should instead be supporting NFC.</p>


September 16, 2013, 8:55 pm

<p>Has Apple added a notification light indicator? </p>


September 16, 2013, 9:14 pm

<p>"the old 5 camera almost always won photography blind tests...Apple overwhelmingly wins these contests, despite having fewer pixels." - where the judges were also iphone fans? Because anyone who has seen photos from the nokia 1020 knows its the best camera on a smartphone across the board. 41 megapixels and dual LED flash is better than 'two-tone' flash.</p><p>"How can screen size be out of date? it's new. you may call it small, but out of date?"</p><p>Because many if not all consumers, friends, relatives, coworkers that I know do not like small phones. Tablets made a splash, but people still want up to date news and info from their phones. When I left my iphone behind, I stopped getting headaches from having to constantly read micro text on an already small screen.</p><p>"Apple isn't going to give the information to the millions of app. developers, just like its not telling them your password."</p><p>The government isn't listening to your phone conversations, either. right? oh, right...</p><p>"it's like doubling IQ."</p><p>You obviously know next to nothing about computers</p>


September 16, 2013, 9:28 pm

<p>The way it works means you won’t be able to unlock the phone if you have gloves on...WTF...it's a FINGERPRINT detector not a fabric detector.</p>

Damien Walsh

September 16, 2013, 10:28 pm

<p>One thing to note about the Touch ID feature is that it's *not* a security feature. It's a convenience feature. If anything, it creates another vector for attacking a locked iPhone.</p><p>Also, the statement that doubling the bit width of a CPU is the equivalent of "doubling IQ" is preposterous. Stop trying to make out that 64 Bit will magically make everything go faster. It won't. I'm not shunning Apple's decision to introduce 64 Bit smartphones, I'm shunning your poor explanation of it.</p>


September 16, 2013, 10:30 pm

<p>I can understand why apple don't want third parties accessing users fingerprints but why can't the 5s be used to "short cut" a specific finger to the opening of a specific app? Say for instance your fore finger opens your phone to the home screen but when you open the phone with your middle finger it shortcuts to opening your Facebook. I'm sure (I hope) other links and benefits of touch is wil surface as users begin to use their new devices. </p>


September 16, 2013, 11:49 pm

<p>Apple increased size of pixel and that is more important than the number of pixels. But it's something the reviewer does not understand</p>

funny bunny

September 17, 2013, 12:09 am

<p>So true. I agree 100 perc with the writer esp about the size. I have galaxy note II and wen I hold my frend's iphone in my hand, I feel like a toy fone literally. Thanks for bringin it up. This is the 1st post where sum1 has actually sed sumthn bout the size of the phone. Nomater how handy it is, without the big screen, to me its just another old fashioned small fone. U cant enjoy watchin movie on it. Compare it wid s4 or note2, u 'll feel lile throwing it in the trash.</p>


September 17, 2013, 12:25 am

<p>If you are biased against apple, then you shouldn't be doing apple reviews. You bashed every new aspect about the phone; good or not. Perhaps the new ideas aren't the most innovative, but your reasons to dislike then are uncreative. Maybe you like a gigantic phone that could pass as an iPad mini, but I most certainly don't. Take a look at every phone that isn't a smartphone. Heck, look at previous iPhone models. Looks like the screen is bigger than that, huh? Sorry to rain on your apple-bashing parade, but your "facts" are appearing to be a bit more like opinions. </p>


September 17, 2013, 12:34 am

<p>Not be able to use the fingerprint scanner with gloves on?!?! Revert to passcode?!!? OH THE HUMANITY</p>


September 17, 2013, 12:55 am

<p>That's a lame way to skirt the valid observations that this review is obstinately negative. The fingerprint sensor is a downside because you cant use it with gloves on?! Listen to yourselves.</p>


September 17, 2013, 12:58 am

<p>So write something neutral and based off of facts, rather then trying to interpret things at a biased point of view. And by the way, technologically, the iPhone 5S has a lot of innovation that the average tech-fan wouldn't realize. Innovation meaning intelligent unique original ideas as for how to do something, and in this case primarily within the software. In past years, not so much in software as hardware innovation. This year, to name some, the M7 coprocessor is intelligent for batter conservation, as well as making a lot more possible ( ie. health/fitness applications ), the first flash mechanism of its type on any camera, 64-bit is obvious, a capacitive fingerprint sensor and how it's integrated into the home button seamlessly... I could go on. And this isn't an Apple fan-boy. I love Samsung and think that they innovate and make great things too. But I acknowledge both positively from a non biased point of view. That's the key. Tech-articles these days are so sickning to read because everybody's so biased. You know very well that when you write biased articles, you are going to attract half and repel the other half of your readers. Why not write on a neutral base so that you garner the attention of as many people as possible for positive feed back.</p><p>PS: You're an idiot to bash the fingerprint scanner because you can't use it with a glove. Please let me know of the fingerprint sensor that accurately CAN gather fingerprint information with a glove on.</p>


September 17, 2013, 2:15 am

<p>only one way to find out hehehe</p>


September 17, 2013, 2:17 am

<p>imagine this &gt; sam and apple combined their hardware/software..... whoaaa nelly, that would be like ummm like peace in the middle east? or or ummm how about like democratic and republicans holding hands and skipping together through strawberry fields!</p>


September 17, 2013, 2:21 am

<p>Not everyone wants a phone the size of a small pizza. I want a phone I can slide in my back pocket. One that won't snap when I bend over to tie my shoe. </p>

Velmurugan T

September 17, 2013, 2:41 am

<p>Exactly peoples will definitely do..</p>

Jeramyeggs Eggers

September 17, 2013, 2:51 am

<p>1. Lumia 1020, nuff said<br>2. Having the same screen size as a Game Boy Advance from the 90's is out of date. Or it could be that a 5.7 inch 1080 screen with a higher ppi says the retina at what 540x900 is out of date. <br>3. The fingerprint sensor should be opened up to 3rd party apps such as banking, and other avenues. <br>4. 64 bit is pretty much useless without the ram. So a person with a 200 I.Q. without arms doesn't allow for faster, or better things, and may even slow down making eggs. <br>5. Arm, you know the company behind innovating mobile processors made the leap, and apple was the first to use the design. Please see #4</p>

Admin User

September 17, 2013, 3:41 am

<p>gee andrew ,and your contribution to the tech world (beyond blogging) has been...?</p><p>(crickets...)</p>


September 17, 2013, 4:49 am

<p>Great points Andrew, now I have something to show my daughter when she asks to upgrade her iPhone 5. My entire family has iPhones (two 5's, two 4s's, and a 4) but I refuse to spend another penny on something that's only marginally better than what we already have. It's time for someone else to support Apple's cash cow. Hopefully the lemmings will buy the iPhone 5S and 5C's and Apple will use that money to create a phone that belongs in this decade. And BTW, I have two new iMacs and several iPads in the house and love Apple products; I just won't buy another iPhone until they produce something that's worth buying. And it looks like Apple stockholders concur. Thank You for the write-up!</p>


September 17, 2013, 5:57 am

<p>Of all your negative comments on the phone, there were none that was "actually" bad. This whole thing were just comments. Anyone can say both good and bad about the exact same point. The thing is...the only feeling people would get from this is that these comments are just bias.</p>


September 17, 2013, 7:47 am

<p>I think someone doesn't like the new iphone. Can any touch screen smart phone can be unlocked wearing gloves?!</p>

monty gonty

September 17, 2013, 8:39 am

<p>All apple users are snobs, who think that they have something premium, but its just sheeple following other sheeple, its like £80 jeans, they are a pointless ripoff</p>


September 17, 2013, 8:54 am

<p>They are opinions. The iPhone 5S has a 4-inch screen. That is a fact. That the screen is, arguably, too small is an opinion. Simples.</p>

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