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Apple’s best yet: iPhone 5S reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 4:01 pm 26/09/2013

The new iPhone is here, and while it doesn’t come with a brand new number, it does manage to sneak in a few new features that aim to make it the best iPhone yet.

Features

You can expect the new iPhone to be better than the old iPhone, but if you look at both of them — the 5 and the 5S — you might be confused that you were looking at the same phone.

There are a few subtle differences in design, but none of them in the casing, as Apple has kept the same chassis in this instance, now available in three colours: space grey, gold, and silver.

The button on the front has changed, however, and no longer features the friendly squircle (yes, it’s a thing) which told everyone that this was the home button. Instead, it’s now void of markings, and is made of laser cut sapphire crystal with stainless steel detection ring and a fingerprint scanning sensor underneath.

At the back of the iPhone 5S, there’s another thing to help differentiate it from the iPhone 5, and that’s the flash, which now includes two LEDs for the flash, as part of Apple’s True Tone flash technology.

The camera has also changed to support this, with an increased aperture, bigger sensor, and better support for low light due to the new technology.

Everything else has changed on the inside of the phone, though, and includes a new processor, called the A7 and designed for 64-bit operations that can also run the older 32-bit applications.

An extra motion processor (M7) has been thrown inside this new phone, with the idea being that it will specifically capture motion and movement based activities and store them, alleviating some of the stress put on the processor which in turn takes some of the load off the battery.

Connectivity options haven’t really changed from the prior phone, and include 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and support for 4G LTE.

Storage is the same, too, with choices of either 16, 32, or 64GB, while the ports and buttons (outside of the front button design) remain identical too, including the availability of Lightning and 3.5mm ports at the bottom, a power button up top, and the volume buttons and mute/rotation switch on the very left side.

Other features don’t seem so different, including the weight at 112 grams, the thickness at 7.6mm, the 1GB RAM, Gorilla Glass screen protection, 4 inch 640×1136 screen (326ppi), and 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera.

Oh, there’s one other thing that’s new, and that’s Apple’s update to its iOS operating system. Preinstalled to the iPhone 5S is iOS 7, the very latest edition of the operating system with less emphasis on making the phone look like an older piece of hardware, and larger fonts, a more vibrant and flatter design, and more places to drag your fingers with gestures aplenty that do all manner of things.

Performance

It’s hard to believe we’re at the seventh iteration of the iPhone, but even with the name “5S,” here we are.

And in this generation, Apple has decided to forgo jumping ahead to the new number and upgrade last year’s 5, a move that hasn’t impressed everyone, especially those keen to see where Apple would go interpreting the bigger smartphones in a way only Apple knows how.

For now, though, we have this year’s iPhone, and it’s an example of not judging a book by its cover.

If you did, you’d mistake the 5S for last year’s member of the family, which can no longer be found and isn’t actually part of Apple’s lineup.

But once you start using the new iPhone, the differences would be noticeable, with the smooth new iOS 7 appearing the moment you switch it on.

We’ll get to what’s changed later in the review, but most of what you’ll notice about the iPhone 5S comes from some of the changes under the hood, and how Apple has brought all of these together.

One of these changes comes in the form of a new type of processor, which Apple calls the A7.

Since we’re technically in the seventh generation of the iPhones, this numbering system makes sense, but the A7 chip is more than just a new model chip that increases performance and provides more speed. Rather, this is Apple’s first mobile processor that provides 64-bit operations, and is just as important as the shift from the days when Apple ran RISC-based PowerPC chips and decided to jump forward to the Intel x86 based processors it uses today.

This change in chip architecture won’t really present benefits for another few months, at least, as developers put their heads together and come up with ways to make the 64-bit A7 chip do more than any mobile before it.

Right now, the only program that seems like it was designed to really give the iPhone 5S a flogging is the game “Infinity Blade III,” which looks amazing (above), with solid graphics that look as good as what you see on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 today.

The gameplay isn’t as amazing, as it’s really just a simple gesture-based brawler, but it looks the part, and with a little time, you can see the processing prowess of the 5S being used for a whole lot more.

Past the sheer capabilities of the new chip being used, the iPhone 5S doesn’t struggle at all, and pretty much flies with everything you throw at it.

The iPhone 5S in the official leather case.

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Price (RRP)

$869 for 16GB, $999 for 32GB, $1129 for 64GB; Also available on contract from Telstra, Optus, Virgin, and Vodafone

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Still the same lovely design as before; Performs very well; Fingerprint scanner is great for unlocking the phone and buying apps; 4G connection is very fast; Feels great in the hand;

Product Cons

No NFC; No 802.11ac; True Tone flash is versatile, but doesn't dampen flash colour as much you expect;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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