My impressions on the iPhone 5s
On September 25, 2013, I was giddy with joy as I found out that my Silver 64GB iPhone 5s unlocked for T-Mobile had arrived at my house. I rushed home to get it, and then took it to the T-Mobile store to get my number ported over from Sprint to T-Mobile, and now that I’ve had the phone for a while, I decided to share my thoughts with the rest of you.
The Port from Sprint to T-Mobile
The first thing I want to mention is how much happier I am off of Sprint’s crap-tacular network. Two years of the slowest speeds ever imaginable, though their still-expanding LTE network was good when you had it, the coverage was still very spotty as of the end of September 2013. The employee at the T-Mobile store ported my number over and it has been smooth sailing for me since.
While T-Mobile may not be considered in one of the top wireless providers, so far the coverage has proven to be excellent for me in my home and work area. Coming from Sprint, it’s a huge improvement, and I’m having no real issues with streaming content while I’m in my car or on my Metro commute to the office.
The rates are reasonable (I’m on the $70/mo Simple Choice with unlimited data) and the coverage is great so far. I don’t expect to get coverage everywhere in the country, but I’m not much of a traveler yet and I can easily just grab an AT&T SIM if necessary (the T-Mobile unlocked iPhones work with other GSM carriers, as far as I know).
The iPhone 5s
I picked up the Silver color, even though I did debate about the Gold version when rumors began circulating. However, I ended up not really liking how the gold ring looked with the white front, so I decided to go with Silver.
When I unboxed it, I couldn’t help but notice how good the silver model looks. And with all of the whitespace in iOS 7, I only feel that this is the natural color choice to go with.
As I picked it up, I noticed something right away: the iPhone 5s didn’t feel as light to me as the iPhone 5 did. From what I understand, the 5s seems to be a bit thicker than the 5 (or at least the white paint, maybe?), so I was rather surprised by the heft of it. It is still a fairly light device, but I wasn’t as amazed as I was with the original 5. Still, the iPhone 5s itself is solid, and has the look and feel of a luxury device.
The fingerprint scanner (a.k.a. Touch ID) was something that I didn’t think much about when the phone was announced, but it has quickly became one of my most favorite things about my iPhone 5s. In fact, it is hard for me to go back to previous generations of the iPhone and iPad, where you still have to “slide to unlock” the device. As other techies have stated, we end up thinking that our old iDevice is broken because we place our finger (or whatever body part you chose to use for Touch ID) on the home button, and nothing happens.
It feels natural once you get used to it — of course, it’s always Apple that seems to make things actually work, and not be just another gimmick, as they weren’t the first to do a fingerprint scanner, but the first to do it right.
The iPhone 5s supports up to 5 fingerprint profiles, and the process was relatively simple. All you need to do is gently rest your finger on the home button and lift it repeatedly for Touch ID to capture your print. Then it will ask you to move your finger around the edges for the full capture, and it’s rather neat to watch your print getting captured the entire time.
With five profiles available, it’s a smart idea to use four of them for your thumb and index finger on both hands. The fifth slot is nice for your significant other to take in case they need to use your phone (this is what I have done). This way, you are able to unlock your iPhone whether it is in your hand or on a flat surface.
Touch ID works flawlessly for unlocking the device — just place your finger on the home button for a second and lift it off, or wait for it to unlock. Either way, it’s quite fast and works well. While the iTunes and App Store on iOS 7 is still a bit buggy for me, having the ability to use my fingerprint for purchases is rather awesome and convenient (when it works).
I wish that Touch ID had an API that developers could use for their apps, such as 1Password, or at least had other functions, such as returning to the home screen from an active app. Hopefully this can change in the future, but at the moment it is just limited to unlocking the device and making purchases in the App Store.
Even though the iPhone 5s still retains the 8MP camera, there have been other improvements made that make it a fantastic replacement for your everyday photos.
I’m not a pro photographer in any way, so I don’t know the finer details about the 5s camera specs, but I have noticed that the images I’ve taken are much more visible in the light, thanks to the larger sensor and aperture. And unlike other smartphone cameras, the colors in the photos have appeared natural, detailed, and clear.
The Continuous Burst Mode is one of my favorite things about the 5s and iOS 7. Just keep your finger down on the capture button, and the 5s will snap 10 photos per second. This is blazingly fast, and the analysis feature in the 5s (iPhone 5 has burst as well, but you don’t get the analysis) is incredibly handy to have. The analyzer will find the best photo of the shots taken, and showcase it. You can also go through the rest of the shots in that session and pick more Favorites.
I’m not a huge proponent of flash photography, but the 5s features a dual action LED flash that actually works. This dual flash consists of one white and one amber LED that work together to take photos that appear more natural, rather than washed out. It’s really nice to have a flash that doesn’t make your dark photos turn out crappy.
The Slow-Motion feature is pretty awesome, despite the fact that I’m not a huge video taker. I tested it out a bit, and it’s very fun and a great way to impress friends. The 5s will capture video at 120 fps, and during playback, you can select any section of the clip to play in quarter speed. This is a great feature, although it may not be new to the industry (along with burst mode), but it’s great to have it finally available on the iPhone. In addition, there is now live video zoom (finally!) and automatic image stabilization that really works, so your images are as crisp as ever.
The 64-bit A7 Chip
Even though the iPhone 5 was pretty fast with iOS 7 already, I have been blown away at the speed of the iPhone 5s. I’ve pretty much experienced no lag whatsoever while I have multiple apps running, and everything is incredibly fast and just as responsive.
From a consumer standpoint, the 64-bit processor may not seem like much (what Average Joe person will understand what this really means?), and so far, there are not a lot of apps out there that make use of it. However, it really does shine with iPhone 5s optimized apps and games, such as Infinity Blade III. I hope that the App Store begins filling up with more apps and games that are perfected to take advantage of the latest that Apple has to offer. After all, this is the first 64-bit smartphone that is available to the masses.
To sum up this section: 64-bit mobile phones are the future, Apple did it first, and it’s pretty sweet (once you have apps that utilize it).
The M7 is the separate chip that Apple made and included in the iPhone 5s to keep track of your motion activity with your iPhone, essentially turning it into a very accurate pedometer. Personally, I’ve still been using my Fitbit Flex for my activity and health tracking (combined with MyFitnessPal for calorie counting), but the M7 is incredibly convenient for those who do not want to invest $100 or so into wearable tech (the Jawbone UP, Nike FuelBand, and Fitbit trackers).
Once you get your iPhone 5s, the M7 will automatically begin tracking the amount of steps that you take (given the fact that you are carrying your iPhone 5s, of course). When you find apps that take advantage of the data that is stored on the M7, such as Argus and Pedometer++, they will pull all of the data from even before you installed the apps, which is very convenient. This will give you an idea of how active you are, without worrying about actively tracking anything.
Previously, with the iPhone 5, apps like Moves and Argus would take a significant toll on the battery, since this information was being stored on the A6 chip. Now that the M7 is separate from the core A7 chip, the strain is taken off of the main processor, there is no need for the app to be left active in the background, and battery life is much improved.
If you’ve been meaning to take a second look at your own motion activity, but didn’t want to invest in a separate fitness tracker, then the iPhone 5s M7 is definitely worth getting, for sake of convenience and a more active lifestyle.
The most impressive thing about the iPhone 5s, at least in my opinion, is the battery life. Pretty much every day that I’ve been using the phone, I can last a good chunk of my day without being plugged in. With my iPhone 5, it would begin reaching about 50 percent by lunch time after I put it through the ringer for app reviews (I believe that it actually had a hardware problem, but I never took it in before I sold it for cash).
However, with my iPhone 5s, even by the time I was done testing out apps, including some pretty graphically intense games, it would be at about 70 percent or around that point. I also stream content fairly often now that I have better data speeds, check social networks and email throughout the day, use navigation, play some other games, and it will still last a fairly long time.
Of course, another thing that helps with battery life is having only what I need on all the time. This includes turning Background App Refresh off, most notifications, and closing a lot of apps in the background that I do not necessarily need running.
Is It Worth Getting?
The biggest reason I got the 5s was to get off of Sprint and on to T-Mobile. I had the iPhone 5 previously, but I actually do believe if you are able to get the 5s, you definitely should. The battery is tons better than the 5, and I am absolutely in love with Touch ID, as well as the improved camera. While the M7 is a very neat addition, it isn’t affecting me as much as others, as I still prefer my Fitbit.
In short: if you can get an upgrade, or afford it for an unsubsidized price, then I highly recommend getting it when you can.
However, if you aren’t a person who needs to have the latest-and-greatest, but didn’t have an iPhone 5, then the iPhone 5c (rather than the 5s) would be a good choice as well. I don’t own one personally, but it’s basically the iPhone 5 with a slightly improved battery and quite a solid build.
Seriously, I played around a bit with one in the Apple Store, and even though it’s plastic, it’s definitely not cheap feeling plastic, as you would expect from a plastic phone. Instead, it feels like a ceramic material, incredibly solid and has a good feel in the hand.
The iPhone 5s is for the techies or those who want the most powerful offering to suit their needs, and the 5c is for your everyday, average person. Either way, both of these new phones are worth upgrading to if you have the chance.