Smartphones are getting bigger. But Apple, the company that pioneered the age of smartphones, has steadfastly stuck to its guns with the 4-inch iPhone 5s. Apple has made changes to the phone’s body every two years. The iPhone 3GS’s plastic case gave way to the metal iPhone 4 and 4s. These were followed by the iPhone 5, which increased screen size from 3.5 to 4 inches. The latest iteration is supposed to be about refinement, hence the latest iPhone bears the ‘S’ tag instead of a numerical increment. It may be a near-identical twin of the iPhone 5, but the 5s is a major upgrade. The reason — a fingerprint sensor and double the power.
The iPhone 5s is as elegant as its discontinued predecessor (iPhone 5). There are two noticeable changes on the body. The home button is now convex and is encircled by a silver ring, measures taken to accommodate the fingerprint sensor dubbed Touch ID. The flash has two LEDs instead of one.
All four buttons (lock, home, volume and ringer) feel solid and are responsive. Available in three colours (space grey, silver and gold), and weighing 112 grams, the 5S is one of the lightest smartphones in the market. The metal casing lends it a premium feel. The good thing about the screen size is that the iPhone feels good to hold and will easily fit in small palms. However, a little more width would greatly improve typing experience. Those who have typed long emails on bigger smartphones will have some trouble adapting to the 5s.
Fingerprint scanners have been around for a few years. Many laptops have had these, although most of them were difficult to configure and did not work well. Those days are now gone. Apple’s implementation of the fingerprint is almost perfect. It takes less than a minute to let the device store the print of each finger, up to a total of five. Touch ID recognises the fingerprint almost instantly and once I got used to it, unlocking other phones felt cumbersome. Touch ID makes passwords, codes and patterns feel outdated. There were two instances when Touch ID failed to activate, but entering the passcode unlocked the phone and I didn’t face the issue again.
For those worried about fingerprint data being stolen, Apple says the data is stored on the device and not online. It can only be used to unlock the phone and while installing apps. The technology is exciting and would be even more useful if the fingerprint could be used to lock apps such as WhatsApp or Dropbox, where users store private data.
The iPhone 5s houses Apple’s A7 processor, which is twice as powerful as its predecessor (A6). The phone also has a motion co-processor called M7. This chip can collate data from the compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, and other sensors. M7 helps iPhone 5s check movement, speed and direction without draining battery life. A simple use is illustrated by a fitness app called Nike+Move, which tracks movement and speed during workouts. More advanced use could involve integration with navigation apps, where users are warned if they exceed speed limits, etc.
The iPhone 5s feels just as fast as the 5c and 5, but the true power of the processor can only be judged after more apps are designed for the A7.
All these improvements are like buds — they will bloom in the future. But if the iPhone 5s has one flower in full bloom, it has to be the camera. Although it retains the same megapixel count (8), the iPhone 5s camera marks a major improvement over its predecessor. The pictures are sharp and there is no time lag between shots. What it lacks in resolution, it more than makes up for in terms of quality and speed. Low-light performance is very good and colours were reproduced accurately most of the time. Many users will find the burst mode useful. It lets you capture 10 pictures, select the best frame and delete the rest in just three clicks.
The phone ran out of charge after a day’s use (30-odd calls, 200+ messages, five hours of reading ebooks, browsing, social networks and an hour of streaming music over wi-fi).
Should You Buy It?
Yes, if you have Rs 53,500 to spare. Some may not like its size, but the iPhone 5s is a powerful phone, thanks to flawless performance, an amazing fingerprint sensor and a really good camera.