Apple iPhone 5s review
An outstanding smartphone, but with a 4in screen and wallet-damaging price, it’s no longer the best of the lot
We've updated this review with our experiences of using Touch ID and the camera. Scroll to the end of the review to read more
Apple may have stepped outside its comfort zone with the colourful 5c, but with the iPhone 5s it’s firmly back in its smoking jacket and slippers. In the absence of a major redesign, the company has taken the body of the iPhone 5 and given it a welcome boost in features and core power. See also: the 11 best smartphones of 2014.
Thus the iPhone 5s has a chassis that’s all but identical to its predecessor, right down to the positioning of the speaker grilles and the metal bands running around the phone’s edge. The only differences surround the colours – the black iPhone this time has a slightly lighter “space gray” rear panel, and there’s a new gold colour, which is more tasteful than it sounds.
Suffice it to say, if you’re familiar with the iPhone, you’ll know precisely what this latest iPhone looks and feels like: it’s sleek, one of the lightest smartphones around at a mere 112g, and a highly desirable object in its own right.
Make sure, though, you take care how you treat it. The aluminium rear might look tough and hard-wearing, but as we’ve found with the iPhone 5, it picks up dings and scratches rather easily if dropped or put in a pocket with other metal objects.
Aside from the colours, the only physical difference between the 5s and its predecessor is the home button, where the new Touch ID fingerprint reader resides. It’s no longer decorated with the familiar square motif, and it’s a little flatter, but the interest lies not in the way it looks, but the way Touch ID can make your life a whole lot easier.
After registering a fingerprint during set up, you can use that digit to both unlock the phone and authorise iTunes purchases. It’s highly convenient, and works reliably, but not always instantaneously – a pause of three or four seconds before recognition is common.
However, before you go off and change your easily remembered iTunes password to a super-secure, randomised string of characters, stuffed with numbers and other symbols, be aware that the 5s will occasionally ask you to verify your fingerprint by re-entering the password. It isn’t a completely set-and-forget option.
Flip the 5s over and you may notice the other physical difference: there’s now a dual-LED flash, replacing the single LED of old. Dubbed True Tone, each LED flashes at a different colour temperature. The aim is to avoid the horrid washed-out, ghostly look that traditional flashes can give skin tones – and it’s a success. It’s a real asset for pub and party snaps.
|Price ex VAT||£458|
|Price inc VAT||£550|
|Cheapest price on contract||Free|
|Contract monthly charge||£38.00|
|Contract period||24 months|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||4|
|Dimensions||58.6 x 7.6 x 123.8mm (WDH)|
|Camera megapixel rating||8.0mp|
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