What is it?
We often start our reviews with the What is it? section, and for once, there is absolutely no need to define what the iPhone is. Apple’s flagship phone, the iPhone 5s gives you the best Apple has to offer in a phone. But is it good enough? What is it like if you’re an Android user? How does it compare with the iPad? And, the touch sensor, is it just a gimmick, or does it actually work? We look at these and some of the other questions you may have about the iPhone 5s in our review.
Look and feel
Whether you’re an Apple fan or not, you have to admit that Apple have always managed to make their things look good. They may not be the best looking designs, and the iPhone design itself is becoming a bit boring as it goes from number to number, but overall the look and feel is definitely what you want. Beautiful, shiny, solid, and lovely finish. Add to that the fact that it is somehow very light to hold adds to it.
The front features the screen, and the magic touch sensor button which replaces your Home button now. The right side is smooth, while the left has the volume buttons and a rocker button to turn it silent. The top has the power button, while the bottom has the Lightening port, headphone socket and speakers output. The sides have a premium brushed finish.
The back has the Apple logo, the camera on top with the dual flash and microphone in the middle, and a the same finish as on the sides.
The first thing that hits you the moment you turn this on is the touch ID sensor. In simple words, you really should be setting this phone up yourself, or at least in your presence. As you boot the phone up, it asks you to set a passkey code (do not like how that is mandatory!), and after that you are asked to place your thumb (or whatever you fancy really!) on the touch ID sensor a few times. And then a few more. All this lets your phone read your fingerprint, and that then allows you to unlock your phone, or make purchases using just your thumb print.
So, how well does it work? Very. It worked 90% of the time, and the other 10% was when I was being extra creative with how I tried it. I did find that there were times I used my left thumb and expected it to work just as well as the right thumb. It, obviously, didn’t work, and if you ‘overdo’ it, you have to enter the passkey and the Touch ID is disabled.
Oh, and you do have to enter the passkey every time the phone is rebooted, so you can’t get away without the passkey totally.
Is it useful though?
I had my doubts, and I can happily say that yes it is. Almost a bit like Nokia’s glance, Blackberry’s swipe up and LG’s Knock, this helps you unlock your phone without having to make the annoying swipe. Press the Home button, and leave your thumb on the button to unlock it. The use in purchases is also useful, as Apple want you to enter your password every time when you download anything from the store, even if it is free! However, it does mean that it may make it too easy to make purchases. However, it is your own responsibility, so there you go!
iOS 7 (and now iOS 7.1)
The operating system was what was released with the iPhone 5S. Making a lot of changes from the last design, it threw in notifications, swipe up and down gestures to access your settings and the usual Apple gimmicks. Overall though, Apple promised changes that were deeper, making it smoother and cleaner.
iOS7.1 is an incremental update, which promises to clean up the OS even further, and also adds Car Play to the mix. While we weren’t able to try much, the little changes are noticeable, but not in a destructive way. It is a bit like getting your car serviced or having a slight overhaul. You notice slight improvements but not a major change.
The OS, however, is what makes this phone different from the likes of Android or Windows Phones. The difference is what we explore in the next section.
How the phone compares to Android or Windows Phones (or hey, Blackberry even!)
So, you’ve always had an Android. Or you go between Android or Windows Phone. Or you have a Blackberry and wondering how life would be like if you were thrown towards an iPhone.
Here are some of the major things you will have to get used to, or at least the ones that we noticed:
- No BACK button. This means that you are often looking for ways to get out of an app, but forget that the HOME button can do that. This also effects MENU access as well.
- Mail client picks up our email address without us having to put in the imap settings. Android can’t do that. Blackberry and Windows Phone can.
- You have to enter your password (or use Touch ID) every time you buy/purchase something from the store, even if it is free.
- You are stuck with the iPhone keyboard. Having said that, despite all the auto-correct jokes, it actually works very well. It isn’t SwiftKey, but pretty close.
- Apps. Lots more and lots less. Make of that what you will. And oh yes, some of the apps that are free on others are actually paid for here. For example, Angry Birds!
- Facetime gives you one universal place to have conversations, but isn’t any better than Skype or the likes.
Every time you see an iPhone advert, the camera is heavily featured. The iPhone 5s packs an 8MP camera, with f2.2 aperture, and a dual tone flash. The flash is supposed to give you a better colour balance in bad or darkness. To test this out, I took a picture of my kitchen with the light off.
Quite frankly, you can’t even notice that this picture has been taken with a flash. Very impressive. It looks just like if it was well lit.
So, the flash passes its test. What about the kind of detail you can get? Here is an image I captured as I was playing around.
This picture basically shows the roof on my light reflecting off of a Moto G. I quite like this, it is clean, and the focus has been handled well.
There are of course other photos too, but generally it didn’t quite look any different than what you usually get out of cameras.
So, will I rate this better? The flash definitely impresses, and it isn’t about MP any more, though I’d say the Lumia 925 is still probably the best camera I have tried on a phone. However, for a phone that sits in your pocket at all times, it is quite good.
How does it compare to an iPad?
I may have always owned Android phones, but to me the iPad is the best tablet out there. So if you’ve got one of those, you’re already on a head start as you’re already aware of the OS and its quirks. However, the iPad with its bigger screen size and specially designed apps just works so much better than the phone for productivity. And this is probably where the Android world differs the most from the Apple world. While most Android tablets are just bigger Android phones, the iPhone to me just a smaller iPad.
Will I miss this?
Probably not as much as I would miss the iPad if I gave that up. But if I woke up tomorrow with an iPhone, I wouldn’t miss Android.
Plenty of options exist of course, but you always have to pay a bit more when you’re going for an iPhone vs most of the other phones out there. Vodafone very kindly sent us this phone to try, and the buying options and more information can be found on their iPhone 5s page:
Packages start at £29 on contract, though you’ll have to sign up to £42 a month if you want the phone free. No options exist on PAYG from Vodafone for the iPhone 5s.
I took on this as an interesting challenge. What would someone who had just used Androids all his life would make of an iPhone, and I have to admit, I was impressed. What it is, is different. You can’t say it is better or worse.