The iPhone 5s- S is for Superior

by Ben Bajarin   |   September 17th, 2013

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I want to share my experience with the iPhone 5s. The whole package, from the new hardware features to the iOS 7, has provided me with an experience I did not expect. As I started using the 5s I was brought back to that moment when I first started using an iPhone. It is the iPhone re-discovered. It started with iOS 7.

Re-discovering the iPhone

I predict iOS 7 is going to do something very interesting. It is going to cause consumers to discover their iPhones all over again.

Most consumers understand what a smartphone offers them. For many, I would assume, there is a bit of profound enlightenment they experience when they first switch from a feature phone to a smartphone.

I believe iOS 7 and the overall advancement of the software for mobile computing is going to cause many similar sentiments to those initial emotions from when we first discovered the world of smartphones. I expect those who purchase an iPhone for the first time or install iOS 7 on their current iPhones will be delighted and enamored.

As refreshing as iOS 7 is, there are also some significant hardware improvements that uniquely compliment the new OS.

Speed

The very first thing I noticed when I started using the 5s was how responsive it was. I test a lot of competitive phones, many which are very responsive running the latest and greatest processors. So I was shocked when the responsiveness of the iPhone was so much better that I noticed it instantly. My wife even noticed it and she is the most non-technical person I know. I handed it to her so she could send an email for me and she said “wow this thing is fast.”

Now when I say I observed that it is fast, what I mean is the manner of the experience feels fast. Everything is just snappier. Scrolling felt smoother, moving in and out of menus felt snappier. It was fast and responsive with the little things. Things I noticed and that made a huge difference visually with the overall experience.

Typing on the keyboard is exceptionally fast. I can type very fast on the iPhone keyboard (50 wpm) and previously my typing speed would outpace the keyboard and there would be a letter-string delay. With the 5s letters appear literally as fast as you can type them. This was again was an example of the little things that made the experience better.

I’ll let other reviewers do the deep dive benchmarks. I did do one however specifically for web browsing speed. I like this benchmark because browsing the web is one of the most common tasks with smartphones. Using the SunSpider Javascript Benchmark I compared the Galaxy S4 against the iPhone 5s.

Apple is inching ever closer to desktop speeds for loading web pages.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 8.14.09 PM

Seconds Saved A Day

The Touch ID fingerprint scanner has been knocked as being a gimmick. From my experience it is anything but a gimmick. Every device has some form of swipe to log in enabled. If you’re in the 50% you may have a password set up. Mary Meeker from Kleiner Perkins estimated that people look at their phones 150 times a day. Now while that may be high, I think if you counted how many times you take your phone out and check it the number would be quite high. This means a lot of logging in and in this case many times a day swiping or many times a day entering pass codes.

In business settings this is an even bigger deal. In most enterprise environments pass codes are required, sometimes long ones. Knowing how often the phone is used and pass codes entered in business settings, I predict this to be a highly sought after feature.

With the fingerprint sensor Apple has simultaneously made the device secure while also making the process to log-in that much easier and efficient.

Using the fingerprint sensor to log in has had a more profound effect on me than using it to make a purchase. It has delightfully eliminated what I now consider an archaic step–Swipe to log-in. Swipe to login may be a thing of the past.

In fact, this process has become so natural and an instant habit for me that when I pick up my iPad I forget it doesn’t have TouchID and try to use the home button to log-in forgetting that feature is not on my iPad.

You may think it is faster to swipe to log-in. I’ve found the opposite. The fingerprint sensor registers so quickly that the device unlocks nearly as fast as I can push the button to wake it up. Watch this video demo to see just how quick and easy it is to use TouchID. I created a video to show this point. (This is real time I did not speed it up)



 

Camera

The Camera is more than just a simple upgrade in my opinion. It is a significant upgrade. Particularly with how fast pictures are taken. One of the primary reasons I still use a DSLR is so I can take high quality pictures and have the image be taken the second I press the button as to not miss a moment. The iPhone 5s snaps pictures just as fast as any DSLR I’ve used. The result, helping to make sure you don’t miss a moment simply because your smartphone didn’t take a picture fast enough.

The other big upgrade I noticed regards blur. I noticed on the iPhone 5, and with many other competing smartphones for that matter, that image blur was often a problem. Getting the camera to focus then take the picture fast enough to catch a moment often resulted in some or part of the image being blurry. Apple has solved this by integrating a much more effective auto image stabilization process. With regards to this technique Apple states:

It works by taking four photos with a short exposure time. Then the best parts of those photos are combined into one image with as little noise, subject motion, and hand shake as possible.

With many smartphone cameras on the many phones I try I find it takes some effort to take a picture that is not blurry. With the 5s I found it hard to take a picture that was blurry.

With many smartphones I have used, I often take a picture, then go look at it to make sure it’s not blurry and everything that needed to be in focus was actually in focus. If this is a special moment you are trying to capture, having to go make sure the image is not blurry means you are spending less time appreciating the moment and more time messing with your smartphone. I was delighted when I realized I no longer had to do this. Snap the picture and get back to enjoying the moment.

Conclusion

I’m actually coming at this from an interesting perspective. For some odd reason prior to iPhone launches I end up using an Android phone for a month or two. Then when the iPhone comes out I go back.

This time the feeling was quite a bit different. I was not just going back to the iPhone but to a brand new experience. Because of this it didn’t feel like I was going back to the iPhone. It felt like I was using something entirely new.

There had always been some things I liked on Android over iOS 6. Some of them were geeky and some of them were not. There is no longer any question, I like iOS 7 better than any previous smartphone OS I’ve used. In fact, in my honest opinion, all other mobile operating systems now look dated to me.

I’ve stated before that my personal preference is iOS. I’ve vetted and tested every competing device and OS flavor out there and after all this experience I concluded that the iPhone continually helps me be more efficient and more productive day to day. What I have realized is that although Android does many of the same things, the iPhone simply does them better. And with the iPhone 5s and iOS 7 it now does them a lot better.

Honorable Mentions–

- I have experienced much better battery life on the iPhone 5s than my time with the iPhone 5
- Burst mode is an excellent addition and I found myself taking a lot of pictures using it just to make sure I got ‘the shot’
- Slo-mo was also a feature I used more than I thought I would. Quick and easy to do. Here is a video:



Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
  • Bill Smith

    Try compiling and running a 64-bit benchmark on it…impressive…

    • benbajarin

      Ok. Which benchmark would do that? GL Bench ? Mobile 3d mark?

      • steve_wildstrom

        I think Anand Lal Shimpi @Anandtech has done such a thorough job on this that the rest of us can just lean on his impressive work.

  • blairology

    iPhone 5s + iOS 7 = iPhone 2.0

  • Jean-Daniel

    The Sunspider test comparison is relevant only if all devices have the same JS engine.

    Was the iPhone 5 test performed with iOS 6 or 7 ?

    • benbajarin

      Yes that is where I think the speed performance came in that gave the 5c a slight speed advantage. I tested the 5 on iOS 6 for this reason. To see if they were the same or different based on the OS.

  • DarwinPhish

    Other than with Sun Spider, have you compared the speed and responsiveness of the 5S to the 5C?

    • benbajarin

      Yes but I didn’t do any hardcore benchmarks on it. Many things are very snappy overall as well. But I noticed some differences. I am going to do a separate review of the 5c.

      • DarwinPhish

        Looking forward to it. The more I read about the 5S the more I am convinced there is not enough price differentiation between it and the 5C. It sounds like you get quite a lot for the extra $100.

    • Dan Wilkos

      check out the anandtech review, it gets into all the technicals

      http://www.anandtech.com/show/7335/the-iphone-5s-review/6

      • DarwinPhish

        Thanks

  • Peter Buckton

    Is anyone else seeing an Intel like Tick-Tock here with Apple and iPhone.
    if they can get that to work for them, as well as it worked for Intel, then they are going to crush the competition over time. There will only be minor niche’s available for anyone else.

  • Chazy Ronnie

    Wow that A7 chip is no joke and the touch id is blazing fast

  • Mohammed Alk

    I wanted to share the finger-scanner video on twitter, but there is no sharing link. Maybe you should shift to using Youtube.

    • benbajarin

      I had to do it this way for initial reasons. Here is the youtube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x12t_wvq16g

      • Mohammed Alk

        Thanks , you seem like the kind of writer who cars about his readers. I did share the video…

  • Jurassic

    There are also some published Geekbench 3 benchmarks comparing the 2009 15″ MacBook Pro, with a 64-bit 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor, to the iPhone 5S:

    iPhone 5S single core = 1416

    Macbook Pro single core = 1395

    iPhone 5S multi core = 2557

    Macbook Pro multi core = 2601

    When Apple called the A7 a “desktop class” processor, they weren’t kidding.

  • gavin

    YES YES YES – all true!

  • Alfiejr

    OMG, the slo mo. our inboxes are all going to be overrun with 10 second slo mo clips of kids, dogs, kittens … and friends doing all kinds of stupid things.

    get ready.

    • Space Gorilla

      Think of the Vines!

  • StevenDrost

    Thanks Ben finally a review that provides what we all want to see, the finger print reader in action, still curious if it ever failed to read though. Great review.

    • benbajarin

      The only time it failed was when my hands were wet, like after a workout, or if I had something on them like after putting sun tan lotion on. It gives you three tries before going to passcode. I’d estimate though this happened less than 5% of the time. It’s incredibly efficient and consistent.

      • TheEternalEmperor

        Do you have to “press and hold” or is just placing your finger on the button, but not holding enough?

        • benbajarin

          You have to press the button to wake it up. I initially thought it would be better if it just woke up and logged me in just by placing the finger on the button, but it obviously needs power to use the sensor. Maybe in the future.

          So you can hear me click the button if you listen closely and then see how fast it logs in. So you do press the button but you don’t have to keep it pressed. You just press it and let it go as you would as normal. Sometimes you have to keep it there for just a split second after you pressed the button but its very fast.

  • complement police

    I’ll just give you a warning this time.

  • http://mavericks.no/ Mavericks Guerrilla Consulting

    I personally think every “S” release of the iPhone was a major step up for the line. Every one of them had newly developed technologies that may look low-key for the casual observer but helped advance smartphone technology a great deal. 3GS, 4S and especially the 5S. Also, the sales numbers of every “S” release jumped significantly, even compared to the “new new” iPhones.

    I cannot possibly understand how the technology of the 5s can still be understated, especially after the universally rave reviews.