• Apple Polishing: Our Apple iPhone 5s review

    Itís that time of year again. Apple just introduced their new 5s (and 5c), which is supposed to be twice as fast as last yearís 5. Theyíve upgraded the camera and added a new fingerprint reader. Oh, and now you can get it in gold. How good is the new 5s? Why should you buy that instead of an Android phone? Read on!

    Comparing Android and iPhone is always really difficult because theyíre so different. If they were restaurants, Android would be an all you can eat buffet (a really good one) while iOS is more of a fancy restaurant with small portions. Both appeal to two different sets of people. Heck, many iOS users will view the fancy restaurant comment as a compliment while Android would view that comment as an insult if it were said about Android and vice-versa.

    Iím generalizing here but iPhoneís strength is how well everything is integrated into one package. Thereís no custom launchers or anything, you do things Appleís way or else youíll have to wait forever for a new jailbreak. You get Appleís core apps and then you go download more at the App Store.

    Generally speaking, I think the good apps on iOS are higher quality than the good apps on Android. I could write a whole article about this but Iíll just leave it at that

    With Android, itís more about choice. Since thereís so much choice, things arenít quite as polished as they are on iOS (generally speaking). However, since thereís so much choice, there are many more types of apps - this will appeal to who like to tweak and mod their phone.

    Now letís talk hardware:

    vs Galaxy S4:

    Without a doubt the GS4 is Androidís poster child. When it comes to smartphone, theyíre like yin and yang, 2 sides of a coin.

    The Galaxy S4ís strength is that itís a Samsung Galaxy S phone. Before you call me a Samsung fan-boy, let me explain. The fact that itís a Samsung Galaxy S means that it will have the most accessories available for it out of any Android phone. It also means that should you sell it later it will probably retain more of itís value than if you bought a non Samsung Galaxy S phone.

    Other android phones can have high specifications with bigger screens, batteries, more megapixels or megahertz but they wonít be a Galaxy S.

    Of course, these 2 strengths are applicable to the 5s. The 5s will probably have even more third party accessories for it plus it will also do a better job of holding itís value.

    The GS4 has a bigger screen with nearly 3x the resolution. You get 2 to 4 times as many processor cores which double the RAM, the camera has 50% more megapixels, the battery is about 50% bigger, you get a memory card slot so you donít have to pay Apple if you need more storage.

    Indeed, if you look at it from that point of view the GS4 does give you more stuff.

    The problem with the GS4 is that it has some usability issues. Itís the whole 2 hands vs 1 hand usage. If that doesnít apply to you, you may like the GS4ís extra screen space.

    Comparing the screens is difficult. The GS4 with itís 400PPI+ screen is sharper. It has has very deep blacks so its colours really pop. While the GS4 has relatively accurate colour at maximum brightness, the display changes completely when itís not at max brightness. The GS4 has good viewing angles but itís colours shift a lot more off-angle. Itís also a step behind outdoors in bright sunlight.

    The 5sí colours are even better (more accurate) and they donít change much when you lower the brightness. Itís also outstanding outdoors. Personally, I think the GS4 screen looks outstanding but the fact that it doesnít like to dim along with its outdoor performance makeís the 5s a better all-around display.

    Performance is hard to compare. I benchmarked both phones but Iím a firm believer in real-world performance over benchmarks. I thought about it and did this. I was going to take a video of each phone launching programs side-by-side to see which is faster but to be honest, there are differences between each platform which prevented me from doing this.

    When I launch Angry Birds on iOS, thereís a game center login thatís not present on Android. When I launch Plants vs Zombies on Android, there appears to be some sort of check to see if its legit or not, that slows things down.

    Next I tried comparing how quickly browsers on each device launched but to be honest it happens so fast thereís no point comparing.

    The only thing I could think of that worked is how quickly each device can launch the camera app from their lock screen. In this case, the iPhone 5s is actually quite a bit faster.

    I guess my point is that for both devices, performance really isnít an issue.

    While weíre talking about cameras, the GS4 has a 13 megapixel unit while the 5s has 8 megapixels. However, the 5sí is a much more versatile camera. It does better in low light, focuses a little faster and has cleaner pictures. I guess when youíre outdoors and the weatherís nice and bright, the GS4 may hold a resolution advantage but thatís about itís only advantage.

    I will say that battery life on the GS4 is quite a bit better than the 5s. The GS4 has enough battery life to make it through most peopleís day - barely. The 5s on the other hand needs a bit of help.

    The GS4 comes with a bunch of extra features - some useful and many of them not. To me, the best features on the GS4 are pop-up video (letís float videos stored on the GS4 above your other apps - doesnít work with YouTube or other video apps), multi-window (use 2 multi-window compatible programs side-side). Android in general also has a big advantage when it comes with sharing content with other programs.

    The 5s has its fingerprint reader. Itís a simple feature, but it does make using the phone a lot easier since you donít have to mess around with a passcode.

    I hate to say it, but judging by all the groans I heard when the Apple store informed us that the gold iPhone was all sold, the available of a gold model is another differentiator. I guess you could say I pity the foo - I mean competition for not having a gold model available.

    I hate to play it safe but both are great phones and you canít go wrong either way.

    vs LG G2:

    The problem is that if you do want to consider the GS4 you should take a long hard look at the LG G2. As of right now, the real choice is whether you want the G2 or the 5s.

    The G2ís screen lacks the deep blacks of the GS4ís but it has better outdoor performance. The G2 is also easier to use.. Other than that, most of the GS4ís strengths apply to the G2. That means itís still a matter of personal preference, both are excellent choices.

    vs Apple iPhone 5/5c:

    Arguably, the 5sí real competition are the iPhone 5 and the 5c. The 16GB 5s costs $229. The 5c and 5 are both $179 plus Iíve seen the 5 as low as $129. They all run iOS so the software experience is the same on all 3 devices. The 5sí big advantage is that it has Appleís new A7 processor which is supposed to be twice as fast, a new camera sensor with improved low light performance, new camera features like 120fps video recording, a new flash and the new fingerprint reader.

    As for right now, the extra processor performance isnít going to make a big difference. I do expect it to make more of a difference as time passes. If you donít take a ton of pictures then the 5s still has a pretty good camera. As for the fingerprint sensor itís a great feature but not a must have.

    What really makes things difficult, is that for $229 you can get a 32GB iPhone 5/5c or even $50 bucks more you can get a 64GB iPhone 5 (5c doesnít come in 64GB).

    Apple has a lot of apps which take up a ton of space plus the camera on the 5/5c is already pretty good so the pictures can really fill up your phone. If youíre a heavy user and plan on downloading a lot of apps (specifically games) Iíd strongly advise you to steer clear of the 16GB model. Thereís no MicroSD card so once youíre full youíll have to make a lot of hard decisions to clear space. Iím sure a lot of people had the same dilemma with the 4s when the 5 came out.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Apple Polishing: Our Apple iPhone 5s review started by howard View original post
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. HC - NO "i"'s Avatar
      HC - NO "i" -
      Fellow HC,

      Thanks for your sharing.

      I think the lack of LTE Band 7 (2600) in "our" model may not be likely a technical challenge but more likely a statistical one. We will have more network operators in North America capable of deploying LTE in the 1900MHz, 850MHz and a bunch of 700MHz bands (12, 13, 17) than 2600MHz in the near future. And also, knowing Apple has always been pushing the limits or leading the trend for others to follow, I am surprised it does not bring LTE Category 4 support to iPhone 5s along with its A7 processor... which both are considered with some merits of future-proof.

      BTW, I wonder if 5c is relatively better than 5 (or even 5s) in terms of RF performance with its polycarbonate casing...
    1. Furry Atom's Avatar
      Furry Atom -
      I know you've probably heard it before but that email could use a cleaning :P
    1. Eluder's Avatar
      Eluder -
      I'm surprised you said you prefer the control center implementation here vs Android.
      I personally hate what Apple did with it, swiping from the bottom is the dumbest thing IMHO.
      When I tried it with the betas, I often found myself swiping the control center up while browsing in landscape mode while trying to scroll down a page. I found it to be a piss poor implementation of a useful feature, glad they allow you to disable it in the later betas when in apps, cause it drove me nuts when browsing. Nice copy of an Android feature, but a bad implementation IMHO.

      Personally, I say the screen is still way too small for anything media oriented, or browsing. If all you want to do is check email and text, it's perfect for that, but if you plan on watching videos on your phone, or browse a lot, there just isn't enough real estate...
    1. Eug's Avatar
      Eug -
      For performance, I agree that for UI navigation the iPhone 5 or 5C should be just fine, but even aside from gaming the performance boost of the 5S could make a noticeable difference. For example new iOS 7 devices now get iMovie, and rendering of HD video on the 5S reportedly takes half the time of the iPhone 5. Also, the new camera modes and the high fps shooting of the 5S are dependent on the new image processor in the A7.

      So, while I don't think most people with the 5 should necessarily upgrade to the 5S, I do think the 5S's performance advantage can mean real life significant benefits even outside of gaming.

      After nine months with my 4.7" Android phone, I've found it's OK, but I've also come to the conclusion I just don't like the lack of polish on the Android side, and I don't like the fact that the big Android phone manufacturers generally refuse to make flagship 4" or 4.3" phones. Even after 9 months I still really dislike big phones like my 4.7" model, and to me the 5" phones are just ridiculous. YMMV.

      BTW, I don't care if someone knows if I have the latest iPhone or not, but I do think the gold looks the best. Again, YMMV. My gold iPhone 5S is on order. Hopefully it will arrive sooner than later. I would have considered getting the silver if it was in stock in-store, but it wasn't when I checked, and I didn't bother to line up for one either. The grey was in stock in the store I went to, and I do think it does look pretty good and better than the previous black 5, but I don't think it looks quite as good as either the silver or the gold. The white front makes all the difference, esp. with the new colour scheme of iOS 7.
    1. arthlete's Avatar
      arthlete -
      That's a great review, thank you for taking the time to write it down. I enjoyed reading it. Is it possible to post more photos in comparison to the cameras between 5 and 5s?
    1. howard's Avatar
      howard -
      I just compared both the 5s and the 5c, both on Rogers at the same time in my cold room and both have identical HSPA performance.

      Quote Originally Posted by HC - NO "i" View Post
      Fellow HC,

      Thanks for your sharing.

      I think the lack of LTE Band 7 (2600) in "our" model may not be likely a technical challenge but more likely a statistical one. We will have more network operators in North America capable of deploying LTE in the 1900MHz, 850MHz and a bunch of 700MHz bands (12, 13, 17) than 2600MHz in the near future. And also, knowing Apple has always been pushing the limits or leading the trend for others to follow, I am surprised it does not bring LTE Category 4 support to iPhone 5s along with its A7 processor... which both are considered with some merits of future-proof.

      BTW, I wonder if 5c is relatively better than 5 (or even 5s) in terms of RF performance with its polycarbonate casing...
    1. big1's Avatar
      big1 -
      does anyone no if you can buy a virgin moble nano sim card from Canada and active it in the usa?
    1. greg30127's Avatar
      greg30127 -
      I had an iPhone 4s a while back and was overall disappointed with the phone, but it was due more to the fact that Verizon's 3G service in my area stunk than anything else. But I found the battery life to be pretty poor on that model, so between those two issues, I sold it to a friend and switched to a Droid Razr until recently.

      Picked up a 5s here, and I do notice a difference in battery life (for the better). Not huge, but noticeable. Overall I'm a light user, so if I start out at 100%, at the end of the day I'm still hovering in the 75-80% range on the battery, but I have had a couple of what I'd call "moderate" days so far due to work calls and texts, and still wound up give or take, around the 50% range in late evening. I know someone else who got a 5s who uses it about as much as I do and their battery however, is around 20% lower at the end of their days. Who knows, maybe somehow I lucked out and got one that was extra-juiced or something put in mine. . I did make a point of going in and turning off all of the background fluff that runs, though.

      Overall I'm fine with iOS7 though I wish a little more customization would have been added (the ability to change the SMS background to black, would be great, etc). I think the updated panoramic mode in the camera is actually really nice - it does as advertised and does a really good job of adjusting the brightness as you pan from one side to the other, and the dynamic range is a little better as well. Siri, while still somewhat of a gimmick, has improved in what it can do, and with 4G you get fewer server errors now. The fingerprint reader really does work and saves time just as you say, too.

      Overall I'm glad I switched back with the 5s. Yeah, we all say it - a larger screen and better battery would still be nice - maybe next time.