Apple iPhone 5s Two-Month Review and Test Drive

By Jonathan Spira on 14 November 2013
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Apple’s newest flagship smartphone, the 5s, is going to be turning two very soon; two months that is.  DSC_0250Introduced at the same time as the 5c, essentially the existing 5 with colorful new case options, Apple sold nine million in the first three days the phones were on sale.  Apple simultaneously introduced a completely redesigned mobile operating system, iOS 7, and reported over 200 million downloads of the OS in the same period, a record for iOS upgrades.

The iPhone 5s is more than an incremental upgrade of the 5 but Apple apparently didn’t deem it worthy of an entirely new name (i.e. iPhone 6).  It features an improved camera, a unique camera flash system, a fingerprint sensor, a new CPU, and a motion-tracking chip.  Apple also includes the iWork app suite with the device.

IOS 7 includes some welcome improvements including AirDrop file transfers and a Control Center reminiscent of Android phones.

The innovative feature that everyone’s talking about on the 5s is, of course, the fingerprint reader.  The early reviews referred to it as “reliable” and I, too, found it great to use.  However, that was before I stepped on a plane.  Once I had spent 10 hours on a plane, the phone no longer thought my fingers were actually mine (see the “In Need of Improvement” section in this article for details).


The first thing I noticed about the 5s was an improved battery life.  On the 5, battery charge was usually down to 5% by the end of a typical day. On the 5s – without any meaningful change in my usage patterns or habits – the battery consistently reported at 20% or higher at the end of the day.

The second thing is improved signal sensitivity reception.  I now get reception in areas where it didn’t exist with the 5 before, such as my sub-cellar garage.  Granted, the reception isn’t great, but it was non-existent with the 5.

Siri, which is said to derive its name from Speech Interpretation and Recognition System, has new capabilities, many of them useful, though some just irritating in their execution.

One of my favorite questions to ask Siri is what planes are above me (try it, the answer may surprise you).  Other favorites are “sunset today,” “current temperature in Celsius,” and converting units of measure.

For the calorie conscious, Siri will disclose how many calories are in a particular food (and display the food item’s percentage in terms of recommended daily allowance) although the question “how many calories are in a slice of pizza” may be beyond Siri’s capabilities and led it to find several pizzerias instead.

Click here to continue to Page 2Control Center, Touch ID, Megapixels, and True Tone Flash

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