Apple (AAPL) had a lot riding on the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S when they were unveiled in September. See, Samsung (SSNLF) had released the Galaxy S4 earlier in the year. And between strong sales of the new Galaxy and slowing Apple iPhone 5 demand, Samsung finally eclipsed AAPL as the world’s most profitable phone maker.
In fact, the original Apple iPhone 5 took much of the blame for the APPL stock free-fall of late 2012, as Apple cut orders and sales failed to meet expectations. Now, the question is whether the iPhone 5S can help Apple stock regain lost ground.
This year’s iPhone reveal offered multiple devices as expected: a cheaper iPhone to address concerns that Apple was failing to compete in emerging markets and a bigger Apple iPhone 5S to take on the super-sized Android competitors running Google’s (GOOG) mobile operating system. The new Apple iPhone 5S was also rumored to incorporate biometric security, thanks to Apple’s purchase of Authentec, a fingerprint sensor manufacturer.
Apple indeed unveiled the iPhone 5C, but the “cheaper” iPhone has been considered a bit of a flop. The iPhone 5S, on the other hand, has been a hit, with long wait times for some models and manufacturing partner Foxconn boosting production to meet demand. It’s now making 500,000 Apple iPhone 5S units a day.
Is the latest flagship smartphone from AAPL worth the hype, though? Read our Apple iPhone 5S review to find out.
Apple iPhone 5S Review – The Most Powerful Smartphone?
The Apple iPhone 5S shows the usual attention to detail for AAPL, and is a very attractive smartphone. It has available finishes of space gray, silver and gold. In fact, the iPhone 5S review model was gold — requiring an extra month of wait time due to high demand. The new iPhone is also impressively thin, yet the glass and aluminum body feels both lightweight and solid.
The Touch ID fingerprint sensor is one of the showcase new features of the Apple iPhone 5S and it works as advertised. Train it to recognize your fingerprint (this only takes a minute or so) and after that, unlocking the iPhone takes a single touch instead of having to enter a pin code.
The iSight camera is also significantly improved. It’s still 8MP, but the iPhone 5S camera uses a larger sensor with bigger pixels, improving low-light performance. AAPL also uses a pair of LED flashes (white and amber) for more natural lighting, adds slow-motion video capability and a DSLR-like 10 shot burst mode. It’s not the best smartphone camera out there — Nokia’s (NOK) Lumia 1020 is a no-contest winner of that crown — but the new iPhone 5S is a pretty decent replacement for a compact digital camera.
The gold case option and the Touch ID sensor may be the big visual aspects to note in an Apple iPhone 5S review, but the real star of the show is Apple’s new 64-bit A7 processor (and accompanying M7 motion coprocessor). On paper, the new iPhone with a dual core CPU running at 1.3GHz and just 1GB of RAM seems at a distinct disadvantage against competitors like the Galaxy S4. But we’ve already seen that specs can be misleading and in its iPhone 5S review, AnandTech found Apple’s new smartphone was over twice as fast as last year’s version and left the Galaxy S4 in the dust on speed tests.
Of course speed tests can be misleading too (compared to real life use). But in reality, the iPhone 5S was easily one of the snappiest mobile devices I’ve used … whether it comes to web browsing, switching between apps or playing games.
Apple iPhone 5S Review – What’s Missing
As usual, there were a lot of rumors and speculation flying around Apple’s latest iPhone release … and not everything came to pass. The gold case option and Touch ID sensor were outed early, but other features that were expected failed to materialize on the final Apple iPhone 5S.
Near-field communication (NFC) support was one technology that many people were hoping for — both consumers and those in the mobile payment space. Most new Android smartphones include a NFC chip, but AAPL has been a holdout on the technology. And the Apple iPhone 5S arrived without that NFC chip many were hoping for.
By far the biggest missing piece in the Apple iPhone 5S is the display. It’s the same 4-inch “Retina” display introduced in the iPhone 5. That screen seemed small last year, and this year’s crop of Android smartphones are boasting displays in the 5-inch range.
The AAPL flagship smartphone is one of the smallest available in a market where consumers have been demanding size. And any Apple iPhone 5S review will point out that at 326 PPI (pixels per inch), its display is also falling behind in sharpness. While keeping a 4-inch model in the lineup next year would be smart (not everyone finds the current iPhone too small), AAPL needs a bigger option for next year or it risks people jumping ship to Android.
That being said, the iPhone 5S display still looks very crisp. And on the plus side, if you’re upgrading from an iPhone 5, your accessories and cases will still fit the new iPhone.
Apple iPhone 5S Review – Specs
- 64-bit A7 processor at 1.3GHz with M7 co processor
- 4-inch multitouch 326 PPI Retina display (1136 x 640 pixels)
- 8 megapixel iSight camera with 5-element lens f/2.2 aperture and True Tone dual LED flash
- 16/32/64GB storage
- 720p FaceTime Camera
- 1560 mAh lithium-ion battery rated for 10 hours 3G talk time
- Lightning connector
- 3.96 ounces, 03-inches thick
- Available in Space Gray, Silver, Gold
- Runs iOS 7
- iPhone 5S starts at $199 on contract, $639 unlocked
Note: Apple iPhone 5S review model was Gold, 32GB
Apple iPhone 5S Review – Conclusion
All in all, Apple has put together its best iPhone yet. That makes the new Apple iPhone 5S the hands-down choice for an upgrade or a new iPhone owner.
The iPhone 5C, which was released at the same time, is essentially last year’s hardware in colorful plastic shell. That AAPL option lacks key upgrades like the A7 processor, camera improvements and Touch ID sensor.
As a result, at just $100 more (on contract or to buy outright), the iPhone 5S is by far the better choice. If you want the bright colors of the iPhone 5C, drop 20 bucks on a funky case instead.
However, if you were looking for Apple to release an iPhone with a bigger display, you’re going to have to wait until next year (hopefully).
Count me among that group. My time using the device during my Apple iPhone 5S review confirms the need, especially when moving between the iPhone and a 5-inch device from HTC I had on hand at the time. My wife got the iPhone 5S (in gold, naturally) and finds it the perfect size. But I’m sticking with my iPhone 4S until Apple releases a smartphone with at least a 4.5-inch display.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.