Camera, Performance Benchmarks, Battery Life & Conclusion
While the 5S' iSight camera module has the same 8MP count as the one found on the iPhone 5, it has been improved with a 15% larger sensor and a slightly larger f/2.2 aperture (the iPhone 5's is f/2.4) that should make it a better performer at low light photography.
The camera is also the first - mobile or otherwise - to sport a dual warm/cold LED flash module. One flash is amber colored (warm) and the other is white (cold). When flash is activated, the 5S uses software algorithms to assess the color temperature of the scene, and adjusts the percentage and intensity of white light versus amber light to achieve correct color balance. Apple claims that there are over 1,000 unique combinations that will give more true-to-life colors for your photos.
The 5S is also capable of shooting in burst mode - just keep the shutter button held down to shoot 10 photos a second. Video can also be recorded in slow motion at 120fps.
Apple also states that the iPhone 5S includes image stabilization, however, it should be noted that unlike the LG G2 and the Nokia Lumia 1020's hardware-based optical image stabilization, Apple's image stabilization is digital in nature. It works by taking four photos with a short exposure time, and automatically combining the best portions of the photos into a single, final photo to reduce subject motion and hand shake. While this method is not as effective as true optical image stabilization, it's still way better than just sharpening a blurred photo to achieve a stabilized effect.
iOS 7 also updates the camera app, which now includes the option to shoot in a square ratio and with Instagram-like filters. Unfortunately, compared to other camera apps, there's still a notable lack of manual control, so you'll have to let the 5S' auto settings do the work for you.
iPhone 5S vs. iPhone 5
Compared to the iPhone 5, image quality is about the same, but colors are more neutral, whereas the 5 has a warmer overall color balance.
The following are sample photographs shot with the Apple iPhone 5S. The photos have not been post-processed and are copyright to SPH Magazines. They are provided for your reference only and we ask that you do not reproduce them elsewhere. Click for full-resolution images.
The iPhone 5S sports a new Apple A7 processor that Apple claims is twice as powerful as the iPhone 5's A6 chip. The processor is also the first smartphone processor based on 64-bit architecture, which gives it huge potential for future apps. Unfortunately, right now, no 64-bit enabled third-party apps are currently available.
We'll be comparing the 5S against the iPhone 5, as well as a few flagship Android smartphones. It's worth noting that the iPhone 5S has 1GB of RAM, compared to 2GB that's now common in high-end Android smartphones. The GPU in the A7 SoC is the quad-core PowerVR (Series 6) G6430.
The 5S performed very well at this test, delivering a blistering fast speed of 414.8ms, making it nearly twice as fast as the iPhone 5 as well as the fastest Android smartphone, the Sony Xperia Z1.
In actual usage, both the 5S and 5 with iOS 7 installed were super-smooth and responsive, delivering a fast and snappy user experience in both browser usage and interface navigation. Having said that, when comparing the two, the 5S didn't seem noticeably faster than the 5.
Originally developed as a PC benchmarking tool, 3DMark is now expanded to support multiple platforms, including iOS. The Ice Storm benchmark is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture computers.
3DMark now consists of three test sections: Ice Storm, Ice Storm Extreme and Ice Storm Unlimited. The iPhone 5S (as well as most of the Android devices running Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processors) easily maxed out the score on Ice Storm; as such, we will focus on Ice Storm Extreme and Unlimited.
3DMark Ice Storm Extreme is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering at 1020p then scales the output to fit the native display resolution of the device. The benchmark consists of two graphics tests with high quality textures and post-processing effects designed to stress the GPU performance of the device and a physics test to stress its CPU performance.
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited is used to make chip-to-chip comparisons of different chipsets, CPUs and GPUs, without vertical sync, display resolution scaling and other operating system factors affecting the result.
In a nutshell, the 5S showed a huge improvement over the 5, scoring not just twice, but three times better. Impressively, it also fared well against the G2 and Z1's quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and was able to match the G2 on Ice Storm Extreme.
Interestingly, it didn't fare quite as well at Ice Storm Unlimited, which is a raw test of processing power without factoring in display size or OS, suggesting that while the A7 processor is weaker in terms of sheer power, Apple has done a fantastic job optimizing it for iOS 7.
The iPhone 5S utilizes a slightly bigger battery than the iPhone 5: 1,560mAh vs. 1,440mAh. But since the internals and OS are different, it's unwise to assume the same level of battery performance. We've to test it, of course.
Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:
- Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
- Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
Battery life on the 5S was actually slightly worse than the 5, lasting just under six and a half hours in our video playback test. This is probably due to the 64-bit A7 processor drawing more power than its predecessor (and that's despite moving to a 28nm process). New software features, such as background app refresh in iOS 7 may have an effect too. With both phones on iOS 7 though, the 5S lasted just a bit longer than the 5 in general usage. To give you another data point, our 5S test unit is currently off the charger for 18 hours, and it has 5% of battery life left. Throughout the day, it has seen its fair share of voice calling, texting, social media updates, and YouTube video-watching. In terms of talk time and cellular data performance, it does look to last slightly longer than its year-old predecessor.
The iPhone 5S is undoubtedly the most advanced iPhone Apple has ever made. But is it a must have?
The biometric fingerprint sensor is a huge quality of life improvement, turning unlocking your phone from a button press, swipe, and a 4-digit code entry into an effortless one button press. But is shaving a few seconds off of your unlock time worth the price of a brand new phone? That's up to you to decide. We will say this though, if you know anyone with a 5S, don't be tempted to try it out. After using the fingerprint sensor a few times, going back to unlocking your phone with a regular old passcode will make you feel like some kind of technological caveman. The camera is also better than the one on the 5, and let's just say that we're glad Apple didn't join the megapixel race.
As for the 5S' new processing hardware improvements, it's hard to evaluate how much of a difference they make right now. From our benchmarks, it's clear that the 5S is the most powerful iPhone to date, but in actual usage and in real-world apps, there wasn't much noticeable difference between it and the 5. And while the 64-bit A7 processor and M7 coprocessor certainly offer plenty of potential for future apps, until those apps actually start rolling out, that's all they are: potential. Yes, we did notice on a few occasions that some apps launched faster than before and multi-tasking was smoother. But this is more likely due to the superior CPU architecture, and larger L1 data and instruction caches, than the transition from 32 to 64-bit code. That said, we can see mobile gamers tempted by the 5S; the phone's impressive graphical prowess translates to better details and faster framerates, and for this group of users, these are noticeable.
So is the 5S a must have? Probably not, especially if you already have an iPhone 5. While its hardware should keep it competitive and relevant in Apple's new 64-bit mobile ecosystem for at least a few years to come, right now, you'll just be stuck waiting for 64-bit and M7 compatible apps. Even then - although it obviously depends on your own personal usage - we suspect that many of the 5S' hardware upgrades will go unnoticed by consumers (unless you're upgrading from a much older model, like the iPhone 4).
Finally, if rumors are true, next year's iPhone 6 could have a larger display (it's bound to happen, right?), and it will almost certainly come with some other hardware upgrades (and a new design) too, which could make it worth waiting for. Hopefully, it'd have a gold/black version too.