Friday's lines were long, but they came with a substantial payoff. The new iPhone 5s might look superficially like an iPhone 5, so Apple customers looking for something with a wider screen, the obvious look of a new, new thing or a cure for the common cold will be left wanting. But like any worthwhile piece of technology, the real value is inside the case.
As most people in the market for a new iPhone already know, the iPhone 5s comes in three colors: white, space gray and gold. The gold, which is actually a champagne color, is in artificially short supply — only 24 were shipped to Oklahoma. But inside its exoskeleton, this phone contains a significantly improved camera, processor, security settings and battery life. These are tools that will make a substantial difference for true “power users” — people who utilize their smartphones not just for play, but for work.
Straight out of the box, the iPhone 5s asks the user if he or she wants to use fingerprint security. Setting fingerprint recognition is done by tapping the control button, which now also acts as a fingerprint reader, about 10 times so that it can recognize your scrolling finger from all angles. After that, a fingerprint can be used to securely purchase apps, as well. Multiple users can have their fingerprints recorded, so family members can have their prints recorded, as well.
Better flash function
While the camera is still an 8 megapixel component, Apple has increased the size of the pixels and the sensor as well as flash function, so the image quality is markedly improved. What gives the camera a serious “wow” factor are three new functions: a “burst” mode that allows 10 shots per second (perfect for concerts and track events); a panorama mode for extreme widescreen shots, and a 120 frames-per-second slow motion option. Live sports fans will love that one.
Coupled with the aesthetic advances of iOS 7, which includes a streamlined graphic user interface, iPhone 5s moves fast. Like most users, I update phones once every two years when my commitment to my carrier is up for renewal, which means this iPhone 5s replaced a two-generations-old 4s. The speed difference on demanding functions like Netflix, Facebook and Spotify was definitely felt — everything opens fast and runs smoothly whether it is on Wi-Fi or LTE network. The new A7 processor is doing the heavy lifting on that front, moving roughly twice as fast as its predecessor, an improvement that will make a measurable difference for gaming apps.
But because iOS 7 and the iPhone 5s are just days old at this point, most apps are not yet optimized for the new phone, which means that users will likely see considerable improvements once software developers begin creating versions that take advantage of iOS 7's architecture and the A7's quick thinking. This is, of course, the great unknown, but app developers are usually fast to respond to new operating systems.
Lacking ‘sexy' appeal?
Now, the great discussion since the announcement of both the 5s and its candy-colored, less-expensive cousin, the 5c, has surrounded whether the iPhone 5s is worth it and whether Apple is still innovating and creating exciting new products. Improved performance across the board is what matters, but many people wanted something “sexy” — a bigger screen and/or a totally new design are the things that make industry analysts get excited. Plus, the absence of such physical changes can make a lot of people defer their new phone purchase until 2014, when Apple will likely make those expected changed with the iPhone 6.
Still, if it is time to upgrade, iPhone 5s plays hard and works hard. The speed limit has just been raised.