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

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Apple’s(s aapl) 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(s goog) 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.”

11 Responses to “iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s reviews: Pretty, powerful and still leading the pack”

  1. What’s missing from this article and all the other ones that cover the new iPhone 5S is a comparison of its fingerprint reader with the Motorola Atrix. I had that phone for 2.5 years and the fingerprint reader was fantastic. In the case of me having dirty or wet fingers or if I had to give the phone to a trusted person, I could resort to PIN. How hard could it have been to port its functionality to authenticate purchases on the Play Store? My guess is that it would have been relatively trivial.

    That was the last phone, as far as I know, that had a fingerprint scanner before the iPhone 5S. I heard that the reason phones stopped shipping with fingerprint scanners was COGS, Wonder why they’re back.

    I know in this world of gadgets, people tend to have very short-term memories, but I look to people like Kevin for a bit of a historical perspective. How does this fingerprint scanner compare with the Atrix’s?

  2. Who cares who shipped 64bit chip first? Apple is great at copying and improving on other companies’s innovations. Now they make the 64 bit crappy chip which is useless at the moment and they claim they’re the first. Ok so now Apple will switch roles with Samsung: they are the first, and Samsung will make a better phone than them, right?
    Until Apple really come out with something great, they will lag behind. They should listen to the market which is asking for bigger screen, expandable memory, more power, better camera, better MAPS!!! and so on.

  3. brainf00d

    Disclaimer: I am writing this on an iPad mini, and I have owned an iPhone so this is experience and common sense i am sharing. Anyhow, I am looking forward to the day that people snap out of the United States of Apple mentality and realize (as Popular Science wisely pointed out) that they are just cell phones. Small screens that have been outperformed in many ways on other devices, a 64-bit chip under 2GB RAM that has little value (aside from Apples own built in apps), a camera that is certainly not class leading but instead very good, build quality that has been at least equalled (the popular media and myself agree that the HTC One is of similar or better physical build quality) and can no longer be said to be just plain better than every other cell phone on the market. I keep current with this stuff because I have to and here are some actual innovations I’ve seen recently, not to be confused with this evolutionary iPhone: waterproof devices becoming mainstream (that actually matters to nearly every person with a smartphone) , wearable technology appearing more often and cheaper (a 15″ flat panel computer monitor, “upgraded” from a 19″ CRT cost $999 a little over 10 years ago, in 1999 to be specific) is a great sign and is truly revolutionary even if it is limited at this time, the NFC standard that Apple users are denied, which could save time and increase efficiency but is not included because Apple can’t lay claim to its creation (I don’t want to hear a single security based argument when this new iPhone carries a biometric device and Apple has already been known to store location data without clear consent and has admitted to participation with NSA/PRISM; NFC can be disabled and I assume so can the finger print reader so none of that silliness please), and so on. I could write a book about this. It’s just a phone. It has a small screen, a chip that will barely benefit anyone, build quality that is no longer so superior, a good-but-not-great camera, etc. Snap out of it and buy what you like, not what someone tells you to buy. The Galaxy series has an easy mode that makes advanced devices accessible to people who can’t read the little icons and text on the iPhone, and yes, those people can benefit from having a map, web browser, and phone book in their pocket as much as anyone else can so again, none of that “they’re-too-old” or “dumb” for a smart phone stuff either. I’ve never been less excited about a new iPhone and I really hope Apple has something up its sleeve. Besides, isn’t it about time that the US of Apple learns what it doesn’t yet have but has always needed? I’m not sure what it is, but I’m sure I need it, Apple will “think” of it, and will be glad to sell it to me for lots of money.

    • Unfortunate you mentioning NFC today. It’s dead as of Beacon chipping from Apple and PayPal (BTW, the next Android is including it.)

      So, NFC. Pffft! (Remember Mobile Flash from Adobe.)

      Also, watch that Finger Print Thingee. It will be copied by Samsung/Android within the year.

      Oh yes. The NSA. The only way out of that is to stick to smoke signals.

      And when Samsung ships its 64 bit, just remember who shipped it 1st. Also, professional testers with global reputations are reporting the A7 has huge power and speed gains. Should we take your word for its lack of awesomeness?

    • H. Murchison

      Wow that was a lot of rambling. Though trying to curry favor by stating you are writing this on an iPad mini and that you’ve owned an iPhone before does nothing for the accuracy or inaccuracy of your post. Simply owning a device doesn’t mean you understand it any more than the person standing next to you.

      People are told every day what to purchase. Android itself is largely a “carrier creation” where reps “steer” people to the phone paying the biggest spiff of the month.

      It’s always harder to get people to pay more money and Apple excels at delivering a product that warrants the expenditure for many people.

      Regardless of whether it’s Android or Windows Mobile or iOS consumers have choices and many will continue to elect staying within the iOS ecosystem.

  4. First of all i dont see any wow factor in these iphones. Tell me there is no new features which impress the user. The 64 bit chip is of no use to the end users. No one is going to do development of software or high end photo processing on a tiny screen. The Camera s bust mode and slow motion videos are there in other devices for a long time and and apple is very slow in bringing these features to its phone. There is no reason where a iphone 5 user has to change his phone to 5 s. The 4 inch size screen is too small to read or watch movies.

    • are you blind? it’s certainly not big, but it’s more than enough to read on. if you can’t read on that, you didn’t own a smartphone prior to a few years back? sorry to hear that.

    • H. Murchison

      You conveniently forgot to put in what features (that are missing) that would cause a wow moment and subsequently wasted our time with a content free post.

      If something is missing let us know. It’s really easy to trivialize solid steps forward in computing.

  5. I’m on the 3GS/4S upgrade cycle. When I bought the 3GS, it was the best smartphone by far. When the 4S came out, I waited for a couple of months for the Galaxy Nexus to be released on AT&T and when it didn’t, bought the 4S. This year I’ll wait for a couple of months for Google to come up with a Nexus 5. If it’s superior to the 5S, I’ll probably switch to Android. It seems to me that even though innovation has slowed down in the smartphone world, Apple and Samsung are the only two companies that manage to launch their products at somewhat predictable intervals. I’ll only buy a phone with the pure Android experience and one that gets timely upgrades for the next two years, which rules out Samsung.