iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s reviews: Pretty, powerful and still leading the pack

iPhone 5s M7 processor

Apple’s new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s aren’t available until Friday, however, in typical fashion, Apple has provided review units to a few outlets. On Tuesday night, the reviews went public and the overall sentiment is that Apple has a pair of winning hits on its hands.

After reading multiple reviews, I saw little in the way of negatives and plenty of positives, ranging from performance, battery life, camera use and the general consistency of the new Touch ID fingerprint security system.

Apple iPhone 5S 3 colors

Here are a few key excerpts and observations worth noting, but I recommend reading the full reviews if you’re interested in the new phones.

Engadget thinks most iOS users will be happy with the iPhone 5s, but there’s not enough there for those content with Android:

“For anyone who needs copious amounts of screen space, a 4-inch display likely won’t cut it, but to be fair, the 5s is the best small phone you can get — we can’t think of any other device with a display smaller than 4.5 inches that even comes close. The 64-bit support on the A7 may convince a few power users to make the transition from Android to iOS, but otherwise, the SoC is on par with what you’ll find in some of the best competing smartphones. Because of this, there’s not much incentive for Google faithful to make the switch, especially if they are already invested in the Android ecosystem.”

Engadget doesn’t suggest anyone with an iPhone 5 consider upgrading to the iPhone 5c — it is essentially the same phone — but likes the change in case materials for the phone:

“We’re not going to lie. The iPhone 5c is gorgeous — we’d even argue that it’s the most beautiful iPhone since the 4 and 4s. It instantly makes the iPhone 5 and 5s look staid in comparison.”

In what’s likely the best technical review of the new iPhone 5s and its 64-bit A7 chip, Anandtech’s numerous benchmark tests show why the new chip architecture is important. You won’t likely find any other review with more details of the A7; clearly it’s a performance powerhouse and not just because of Moore’s Law:

“The A7 SoC is seriously impressive. Apple calls it a desktop-class SoC, but I’d rather refer to it as something capable of competing with the best Intel has to offer in this market. In many cases the A7’s dual cores were competitive with Intel’s recently announced Bay Trail SoC. Web browsing is ultimately where I noticed the A7’s performance the most. As long as I was on a good internet connection, web pages just appeared after resolving DNS. “

iPhone 5C

Although the lower-priced iPhone 5c doesn’t have a next-gen chip inside, Anandtech says it’s still a solid choice for some:

“The iPhone 5c is a well built device. For all intents and purposes it is a perfect replacement for the iPhone 5. If you were planning on buying a cost reduced iPhone 5 once the 5s came out, the iPhone 5c should have no problems filling that role. Its performance, battery life and camera quality are all on par with the 5.”

David Pogue of the New York Times includes both phones in his review and suggests that iOS 7 is the real star of this launch. Yes, the new iPhone 5s is innovative, but there are diminishing returns in hardware now, he said. Software, and Apple’s content ecosystem, are still Apple’s best defense against Android’s maturity. Regardless, he thinks the iPhone is still a winner:

“Apple still believes in superb design and tremendous polish. The iPhone is no longer the only smartphone that will keep you delighted for the length of your two-year contract — but it’s still among the few that will.

Over at USA Today, Ed Baig agreed with the early consensus and praised Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s.

iPhone touch ID

Baig said he used it to unlock a phone with one hand while it was raining and holding an umbrella with the other hand, claiming it to be a time-saver. Like Pogue, Baig says iOS 7 is a welcome improvement to both new iPhones:

“Taken in totality, the features new to the iPhone 5s make what I consider to be the best smartphone on the market even better, helped enormously by Apple owning the entire end-to-end experience. In my view, iOS is still simpler to use than Android, and made even simpler in iOS 7.”

Baig does hit up on one interesting point that I agree with: He’s disappointed that Apple kept the 4-inch display size.

Walt Mossberg shared a brief review of the iPhone 5s only at the Wall Street Journal and didn’t see much of a performance boost, saying most apps aren’t yet written to take advantage of the 64-bit chip. That varies from the Anandtech review, which suggested a major performance boost and that all of Apple’s native apps are written for the 64-bit chip. Still, the overall verdict is good with few minor nits, with Mossberg saying:

“After a week of testing the iPhone 5S, I like it and can recommend it for anyone looking for a premium, advanced smartphone. If you are an iPhone fan with any model older than the iPhone 5, the new 5S will be a big step up. If you own an iPhone 5, there’s less of a case for upgrading, unless you want the fingerprint reader and improved camera. You can get the new OS free of charge.”

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