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Everything you need to know about the iPhone 5s

 gold-iphone-5s

Apple unveiled its hotly anticipated next generation iPhone at its media event on Tuesday.

As expected, Apple is calling its new flagship iPhone, iPhone 5s, which looks exactly like the iPhone 5 but comes with new features and improvements.

We briefly told you about the features of Apple’s new iPhone that were announced at the event. But the devil is in the details, so we take an in-depth look at iPhone 5s’ specifications and features.

Design

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There are no surprises here. As soon as Apple announced that it plans to call the next generation iPhone, the iPhone 5s, we knew it would exactly like the iPhone 5, but come with improved internals.

Just like the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s is made entirely of glass and aluminium. It comes with anodized aluminum backplate with inlays at the top and bottom made of ceramic glass (on the silver and gold model) or pigmented glass (on the Space grey model), which gives it the two-tone effect.  It also gets the chamfered aluminum antenna along the sides, which gets a matte finish.

Expect the build quality of the iPhone 5s to be top-notch, from the oleophobic glass face and the smooth aluminum backplate to the matte metal bezel with polished chamfered edges.

When Apple launched the iPhone 5, users had complained that the chamfered edges along the display were prone to scratches. It remains to be seen if Apple has made changes to prevent the scratches.

Display

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iPhone 5s features a 4-inch display (diagonal) – half an inch bigger than iPhone 4s and the same size as the iPhone 5. The 4-inch display is taller, but has the same width as iPhone 4S, so you will still be able to type with one hand; something Apple thought heavily about when designing the device. Apple believes that anything bigger would feel oversized, awkward, and hard to use.

The display comes with the same stunning Retina Display with pixel density of 326 dots per inch (dpi) and 1136X640 resolution.

iPhone 5s features a 16:9 aspect ratio which is great for watching videos as you will be able to play movies in full widescreen format without any black bars at the top and bottom.

Apple has used in-cell display technology in iPhone 5s(same as iPhone 5). The technology integrates touch sensors into the LCD, which eliminates the need of a separate touch screen layer. The absence of a separate touch screen layer not only helps make the screen thinner, but it also improves the quality of displayed images.

A7 Chip

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One of the major new features of iPhone 5s is Apple’s next generation A7 chip. The highlight of the new A7 chip is, of course, the 64-bit “desktop-class” architecture. The A7 chip is in fact the first 64-bit smartphone system-on-chip, showing that Apple is way ahead of other smartphone manufacturers when it comes to silicon chips. Apple says that A7 chip’s CPU is up to twice as fast as iPhone 5′s A6 chip.

a7 improvements

Apart from the CPU, the A7 also has a new GPU which supports OpenGL ES 3.0, a graphical library extensively used in games and photography apps. Earlier iOS devices supported OpenGL ES 2.0, but support for 3.0 means more detailed and complex graphics, previously seen only on PCs, Macs and consoles. To demo the new GPU’s capabilities, Epic Games gave us a preview of Infinity Blade 3 running on iPhone 5s.

Check out this post to find out more about Apple’s new 64-bit A7 chip.

M7 Coprocessor:

While the iPhone has had an accelerometer, compass and gyroscope since quite some time, all these sensors are packed into the M7 motion coprocessor in the iPhone 5s, which is a module independent of the CPU. This means that fitness apps can keep requesting motion related data without draining the battery or burdening the CPU. From Apple’s iPhone 5s product page:

M7 knows when you’re walking, running, or even driving. For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation if, say, you park and continue on foot. Since M7 can tell when you’re in a moving vehicle, iPhone 5s won’t ask you to join Wi-Fi networks you pass by. And if your phone hasn’t moved for a while, like when you’re asleep, M7 reduces network pinging to spare your battery.

The M7′s focus on fitness and health related apps makes it fit not just for a phone, but even for a wearable, always-tracking, fitness-focused device.

Camera

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The second major change in iPhone 5s, is the vastly improved camera system. Apple has upgraded the iSight camera lens with ”a new, five-element Apple-designed lens” that has a larger f/2.2 aperture, as compared to the iPhone 5′s f/2.4 aperture.

  • Larger Image sensor: Notably, the megapixel count remains the same at 8MP. Apple instead choose to make the active sensor area 15 percent larger than before to let each pixel become bigger at 1.5 microns, capturing more light, and resulting in a better photograph.
  • The larger f/2.2 aperture helps increase light sensitivity by 33 percent, which results in better, brighter images with even more accurate colors. The aperture upgrade and the larger sensor, collectively explain Apple’s cryptic “This should brighten everyone’s day” tagline.
  • Apple calls the dual LED flash that was leaked before the “True Tone flash” with the name being a reference to the camera system’s capabilities to intelligently figure out how much light a shot needs. Of the two LEDs, one is white and the other is amber, and the software on the iPhone 5s determines the color temperature of the scene and accordingly illuminates the two LEDs.
  • If you’ve ever used a camera flash on a phone before, you know that the resulting images are almost always of very bad quality. Photos taken using iPhone 5s’ new flash look quite impressive. Here’s an image from Apple’s site illustrating the difference:

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  • Auto Image Stabalization: iPhone 5s camera finally comes with auto image stabalization feature, which should help reduce noise and motion from shaky hands or moving subjects, and thus prevent blurry images.

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  • Burst Mode: Apple’s latest A7 chip has an all-new image signal processor on-board which can autofocus and shoot photos much faster. This new snappiness enables a “Burst mode” in the iPhone 5s camera, which lets you take up to 10 shots per second so that you don’t miss a moment. iOS will later analyse these photos to select ones with a good combination of sharpness and clarity, and where the subject doesn’t have his or her eyes closed.

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  • The new hardware on the iPhone 5s enables shooting panoramas at 30 frames-per-second, which means you won’t get that annoying alert telling you to rotate the phone slowly very often. The exposure level is also adjusted automatically as you’re panning the scene resulting in much better panoramic photos.
  • The new camera can shoot 720p videos at 120 fps, which means the video can be slowed down to quarter speed and still appear normal to the human eye. After shooting a video, you have the option of selecting a certain portion to play in “slo-mo” mode.
  • With the iPhone 5s, you can now zoom videos up to 3x by using the pinch-to-zoom technique.
  • The front-facing FaceTime camera has been upgraded as well. It can now take 1.2MP still images and do 720p video as compared to the iPhone 4S’ VGA resolution. There’s a new backside illumination sensor as well, which should make the quality of your FaceTime videos much better.
  • Phil Schiller also explained during the event that when you launch the Camera app, before you even take a picture, it is automatically setting the white balance to get the right colors, it is automatically setting new exposure levels to get the right brightness level, for the first time it is creating a dynamic local tone map around the image so you can get better highlights and shadows, for the first time you can autofocus matrix metering with 15 focus zones to get a sharper image, and when you take a photo, it will actually take multiple pictures, instantaneously analyzes in real time to display the sharpest image on the screen.

In addition to the improvements in hardware of the camera system, iPhone 5s comes pre-installed with iOS 7, so it has the all-new Camera app, which sports a new user interface and includes features such as real-time filters. Apple has also significantly improved performance of the Camera app in iOS 7. The Camera app also takes advantage of a new image signal processor built into A7 to give you up to 2x faster autofocus, faster photo capture, and higher video frame rates. So thanks to the software and hardware improvements, taking a photo should be lightning fast.

You can check out the photos taken using iPhone 5s camera, they are impressive.

Touch ID Fingerprint Sensor

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As rumors had suggested, Apple has indeed embedded a fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S’ Home button. Apple calls it the “Touch ID” sensor, which is a capacitive sensor that can scan your sub-epidermal skin layers.

The capacitive sensor is 170 microns thin, has a 500 ppi resolution and has 360 degree readability, that is, it works in any orientation. It is built right into the home button, which is made out of sapphire to prevent scratches.

  • If you’ve followed rumors, then you know that there was some buzz about a ring around the iPhone 5S home button. Turns out, the ring actually helps in detecting when a finger is being swiped, and activates the Touch ID sensor.
  • We hear the setup process, which involves scanning your fingerprint takes less than a minute to setup. You have to place your finger on the Home button, lift it above the surface and put it back on the Home button till the fingerprint graphic on the display turns red. You can use any finger based on your preference.

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  • The key function of the home button is to act as a replacement for passcodes, which many people find annoying to use. After setting up your iPhone with your fingerprints, you can simply touch the home button to unlock your phone, which is much quicker than pressing the home button, sliding to unlock, and keying in your passcode. I expect Apple to use the fingerprint scanner for payments in the future.
  • According to an Apple, the Touch ID system does not store your actual fingerprint on the phone. Instead, the phone only keeps the “fingerprint data,” which is stored encrypted in the iPhone’s processor. This means if someone stole your phone and somehow managed to hack into the encrypted chip, they would not have the information necessary to recreate your fingerprint.
  • As a further security measure, Apple is not allowing third-party apps to access the biometric scanner. The company also requires users who activate the sensor to create a passcode backup. If the phone is rebooted or hasn’t been unlocked for 48 hours, then users will have to enter this passcode to unlock the phone. This is meant to deter hackers who are holding onto a phone while they figure out how to break into it.
  • Apple did mention one drawback to the new fingerprint sensor. Though it performed reliably in testing under normal circumstances, it didn’t do so well when users fingers were sweaty or oily.

Battery

iPhone 5s comes with a slightly bigger battery than the iPhone 5. We’re assuming that Apple has managed to do this by shrinking the size of the logic board as some photos of leaked iPhone 5s internals had revealed. In terms of tech specs, iPhone 5s comes with a 3.8 V, 5.96 Whr (~1570 mAh).

Thanks to the bigger battery, iPhone 5s offers 25% longer battery life compared to the iPhone 5. It offers the following battery life:

  • Talk time:
    • Up to 10 hours on 3G
  • Internet use:
    • Up to 8 hours on 3G,
    • Up to 10 hours on LTE
    • Up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi
  • Standby time:
    • Up to 250 hours

Ultra-fast Wireless

Apple has expanded LTE support by making four different models of iPhone 5s. Some iPhone 5s models support as much as 13 LTE bands (iPhone 5 supported a max of 5 LTE bands). So iPhone 5s will be most likely be compatible with your carrier’s LTE network. Here’s a look at the frequency and the LTE bands that iPhone 5s will support:

  • Model A1533 (GSM): UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)
  • Model A1533 (CDMA): CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)
  • Model A1453: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26)
  • Model A1457: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20)
  • Model A1530: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20); TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40)

iOS 7

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iPhone 5s will come pre-installed with iOS 7 – Apple’s next generation mobile operating system for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, which comes with an all-new user interface and over 200 new features. Here are some of the major features in iOS 7:

  • All-new Control Center
  • Improved Notification Center
  • All-new Camera app
  • Smarter Multitasking
  • AirDrop for iOS
  • Find my iPhone with Activation Lock
  • Improved Safari
  • Redesigned Music app and iTunes Radio
  • New Photos app
  • Siri improvements
  • New features for business users

Colors

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iPhone 5s comes in three colors: Gold, Silver and Space Grey. Apple seems to have named the color based on the color of the anodized aluminum backplate and the antenna band.

Gold is the brand new color. The gold iPhone 5s comes with gold or champagne color backplate and antenna band with white ceramic glass inlays at the top and bottom.

Silver looks exactly like iPhone 5′s White & Silver color. The Space Grey is a tweaked version of iPhone 5′s Black & Slate color, it comes with a metallic grey anodized backplate and antenna band with black pigmented glass inlays at the top and bottom.

The ring around the Home buttons, which activates the Touch ID sensor, comes in the same color as the backplate, which looks quite nice.

As I mentioned earlier, it remains to be seen if the iPhone 5s is less prone to scratches, but it looks like Apple has selected colors, which should do a better job of hiding the superficial scratches.

Apps

Pre-installed Apps

iPhone 5s comes pre-installed with the following apps from Apple: Maps, Messages, Passbook, Camera, Reminders, Notes, Phone, Videos, Weather, FaceTime, iTunes Store, Stocks, Music, Game Center, Calculator, Safari, Calendar, Voice Memos, App Store, Contacts, Mail, and Newsstand.

Free Apps

In addition to the pre-installed apps, you can also download the following apps for free from the App Store: iPhoto, iMovie, Keynote, Pages, Numbers, iBooks, iTunes U, iTunes Festival, Podcasts, Trailers, Find My iPhone, Remote and Find My Friends.

Storage

iPhone 5s is available only in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB storage options.

Other noteworthy points:

  • iPhone 5s weighs only 112 grams and measures 4.87 inches (123.8mm) in height, 2.31 inches (58.6 mm) in width and 0.30 inch (7.6 mm) thick.
  • The iPhone 5s includes dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-fi support for up to 150 Mbits/s and Bluetooth 4.0.
  • Requires Nano-SIM card
  • iPhone 5s packaging includes Apple EarPods with remote and mic.

Pricing

iPhone 5s is available for $199, $299 and $399 with a two-year contract for 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models respectively, and for $649, $749 and $849 without a contract.

Availability

iPhone 5s will go on sale in 10 countries including the US, Canada, China, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore on September 20. Apple has announced that it will be available in over 100 countries by the end of the year.

Apple is not taking pre-orders for iPhone 5s, it will begin taking online orders for it at 12:01 am PT on September 20. If you want to get iPhone 5s on the day of the launch then you will have to go to the local Apple Retail Store, your carrier’s retail store or Apple Authorized resellers like Best Buy. Most retail stores should open by 8:00 am local time for the launch.

If you live in Hong Kong or China, then you will be able to reserver your iPhone 5s on September 17 for pickup on September 20.

Accessories

After discontinuing the bumper case and iPhone dock last year, Apple is back in the iPhone accessories business, it has launched companion leather cases for iPhone 5s.

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They’re made out of a stiff leather with a microfiber lining. The dye is infused into the leather giving it a uniform color. The case is designed to cradle your iPhone 5s and has cutouts so you can charge/sync, adjust volume and plug in some headphones to listen to music. It’ll be available in six different colors including black, beige, yellow, blue and red.

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Apple will also be selling a dock for the iPhone 5s, which will be compatible with iPhone 5 (not iPhone 5c). The iPhone 5s case will set you back $39, while the iPhone 5s dock will cost $29.

Introduction Videos

You can check out Apple’s introduction videos of the new Touch ID fingerprint identity sensor:

and the all-new iSight Camera:

Wrap up

One of the first thing that hit me while watching the iPhone event Keynote was that Apple had just 3 major things to tell us about the iPhone 5s. As smartphones mature, the pace of innovation is indeed slowing down. This is not the case with Apple, but its rivals as well.

I use iPhone’s camera quite a lot, so I hope the vastly improved camera system will reduce the often blurry and poor low-light photos that I get with my iPhone 5. With the new camera features, Apple has not only upped the ante for other smartphone vendors, but makes point and shoot cameras even more vulnerable.

I also can’t wait to try iPhone 5s’ Touch ID fingerprint sensor. We seem to be stuck in the 20th century with passwords, and it is good to see Apple taking the lead in getting rid of them at least for the most frequently used things. I have horrible memories of using fingerprint scanners in laptops, which I hope Apple can erase with iPhone 5s’ Touch ID feature. It appears to be quite easy to setup and seems to work flawlessly according to folks who got a chance to try it.

The significantly faster 64-bit A7 chip came as a big surprise. We did hear some whispers about it, but I didn’t expect Apple to launch it this year. I get the feeling that we will see the true potential of the 64-bit architecture in the future iOS devices, so I wouldn’t get too excited about it just yet.

Though it is still to be confirmed, it looks like iPhone 5s’ A7 chip only has 1GB RAM, which would be very disappointing, as the additional RAM would have helped with iOS 7′s smarter multitasking feature.

Who should buy iPhone 5s?

If you’ve an iPhone 4s, iPhone 4 or iPhone 3GS, you should definitely consider buying the iPhone 5s. It will blow you away, not only will you get the taller 4-inch display, it is significantly lighter, and would be significantly faster than your current device. More importantly it will be a joy to use iOS 7, which is quite laggy on these older devices.

If you’re an iPhone 5 user, there are certainly not as many reasons to upgrade to an iPhone 5. But if you’re like me who uses the camera a lot or who always wants a device with better battery life, then you should certainly consider buying iPhone 5s.

The faster A7 chip and support for OpenGL ES 3.0 should also make it an exciting upgrade if you use your iPhone as a handheld gaming device (I am referring to games like Infinity Blade and not Candy Crush). Though I feel those kind of games are best played on a console or an iPad.

Who will be disappointed by the iPhone 5s?

If you want a device with a bigger screen. There were rumors that Apple will launch an iPhone with a bigger screen, but we knew it wasn’t coming this year. Like you, I hope Apple does launch an iPhone with a bigger screen (4.7-inch – 5.0-inch) next year.

If you wanted Apple to launch a high-end 128GB iPhone 5S. Since I started using cloud and music streaming services like Spotify, my need for local storage has reduced considerably, so I don’t share your disappointment. Though I think it would have been nice if Apple had offered twice the storage as the same price by getting rid of the 16GB model, and offered 32GB, 64GB and 128GB models instead.


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