To Apple faithful, iPhone day is as much a holiday as Thanksgiving (and much more so than, say, Columbus Day), and it typically only comes once a year. This time, however, was a little different, since we received even more presents than usual — both the iPhone 5s and the 5c. We headed to the demo tables after this morning’s announcement and had a chance to get our hands on both smartphones. First, we’ll begin with the 5s, which is the new flagship iPhone that will start at $199 for a 16GB model (32 and 64GB versions will be $299 and $399, respectively) on September 20th.
As you may have already heard, the 5s is rather similar in overall hardware to the iPhone 5, though there are a few changes in key places. As you can see in the above image, it’s available in three colors: space grey (which has black highlights on top and bottom), white and — as rumored so many times — gold.
While the 5c may stay closer to the iPhone 5 when it comes to components, the 5s is closer to it terms of looks and feel. Consisting of the same aluminum build, chamfered edges and overall industrial design, there isn’t much to the 5s that haven’t already seen on its predecessor. Of course, this is to be expected on the odd-year version of the flagship, as current trends go, but there were a couple new elements to this particular model; it offers a dual-LED flash, and the home button swaps out the square etching for a more fancy ring around the outside.
But what is that ring there for? The iPhone 5s’ defining feature, frankly, is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The device is now capable of detecting the unique ridges in your fingertips, allowing you to bypass the passcode completely, not to mention downloading and purchasing apps and iTunes content. It’s able to store up to five individual fingerprints, which is helpful if you have multiple people in your family who want to use the same device. Once everything is set up, the unit we played with worked flawlessly, as all we had to do was place our finger on the button to unlock the screen. It made for a much faster and enjoyable experience, one that will likely appease plenty of users who aren’t happy with the idea of putting passcodes on their phone.
The only tedious part of the whole process was actually getting it set up in the first place. Since the contours of your finger are three-dimensional, the phone asked us to place our fingers on the button several times and in several angles — sometimes we could lay our finger flat on it, while other times we were prompted to roll the finger to the left or right. Even then, it only took about a minute to get everything set.
Also, the gold 5s color is actually pretty nice. It’s lined with white on the top and bottom, and the gold itself is a rather subtle color; it’s not going to blind anybody when you take it out of your pocket. It has a little bit of a shine to it as well, depending on which angle you hold the phone at. The white version is basically the same as we’ve enjoyed on the iPhone 5, and the space grey is more of a gunpowder look, with black highlights on the top and bottom.
In terms of performance, the A7 promises twice the CPU and GPU speeds as the A6, so we’re definitely looking forward to giving this a solid go in our full review — especially since a brief amount of time is never sufficient to judge a phone’s performance. It was definitely quite fast when we used it, and it didn’t sputter or give us any reason to believe it can’t handle most if not all possible tasks.
All told, the iPhone 5s is essentially what we expected it to be. It’s mostly an iterative improvement over the iPhone 5, but Touch ID is a great addition and some of the new camera features are clever; not to mention the fact that iOS 7 is a huge change over previous versions of the OS.
Myriam Joire contributed to this post.