iPhone 5s Review: 100 Days with Apple’s New iPhone
The iPhone 5s remains one of the best smartphones available 100 days after its release and is still a top choice for many of the Gotta Be Mobile team members even after the Nexus 5 release and it remains a top seller even as consumers turn their eyes to the Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 6.
Since the release Apple delivered several new iOS 7 updates and is already working on the iOS 7.1 release while hackers opened up the iPhone to a host of iOS 7 jailbreak apps and tweaks with the release of evasi0n7.
100 days seems like a short amount of time for many iPhone owners, but it is 1/3rd of the way to a new iPhone release based on earlier Apple launches and quite a long time in the smartphone world.
During the last 100 days the iPhone 5s served as my primary smartphone, though it shares double duty with whatever my favorite Android smartphone of the month is, and I do find myself gravitating towards the larger screens on the Galaxy Note 3 and Nexus 5.
The iPhone 5s remains a solid performer and I notice small speed enhancements even with an upgrade from the iPhone 5, which was no slouch itself. The Apple A7 64-bit processor leads to faster app launches and a very responsive iOS 7 experience — at least after patched some of the bugs which caused random rebooting.
I don’t experience any sluggishness while using the iPhone 5s on iO S7.0.4 or on the betas for Apple’s upcoming software release. One of the best performance features is the ability to quickly flick the camera open, focus and take a photo without waiting on the camera app like I did while using my wife’s iPhone 4s on IOS 7 or while using the Nexus 5.
The iPhone 5s is thin and light which makes it easy to carry in a pocket without noticing it is there and to hold for extended periods of surfing Reddit or reading a book on the Kindle App.
One major change for me is using the iPhone 5s without a case. I may look back and regret this if I drop my iPhone in the coming months, but after using an iPhone with a case on it for the past several years it feels great to use an iPhone without a case. I still put on a waterproof case from time to time or a semi rugged case when I am working in the yard for added protection and I often use a wallet case or a iPhone 5s battery case if I am going on a trip, but for day-to-day use I am no longer carrying my iPhone 5s in a case. I carry most of my Android phones without cases unless I am reviewing one, so I figure it is time to fully enjoy Apple’s design.
My iPhone 5s runs on Verizon 4G LTE and does so pretty well. I’ve written off using 4G LTE in my neighborhood as Verizon’s coverage is not up to par but for the most part the 4G LTE signal is good outside of this 3-4 block radius. One complaint is that the iPhone sometimes will stick on 3G until I toggle Airplane mode, after which it will connect to 4G LTE with a full signal.
The iPhone 5s battery life is good overall, but I find myself recharging more often than I have in the past thanks to a dramatic increase in the amount of time I spend talking on the phone.
On a typical day after spending an hour to an hour and a half on phone calls and with normal use around my office while connected to WiFi the battery may drop as low as 30-40% remaining by 5 PM. Today after talking for quite a while the iPhone hit 27% by 2PM. Luckily I can charge up after my calls so this is not a major issue. When traveling I always carry a backup battery or use a Mophie iPhone 5s battery case to make sure my battery lasts.
iPhone 5s Problems
While the iOS 7.0.4 update solved many of the random reboot problems for users, a Gotta Be Mobile team member still experiences the soft reboot issue which can cause audio and video to drop out while the phone shows an Apple logo. This can lead to issues with phone calls and with hangouts. Other team members report the reboot problem occurring at least once a day.
Some of the iPhone apps still crash on iOS 7 on the iPhone 5s. Messages and Settings are the worst offenders with crashes coming for seemingly no reason. Thankfully re-opening the app tends to fix the problem.
iPhone 5s Features I Love
There are several iPhone 5s features the I love. These are features that I cannot find on other smartphones or that I don’t find mixed with the same overall user experience as the iPhone 5s.
The iPhone 5s camera is simply stunning. Thanks to the software algorithms, a nice sensor and the new dual flash it takes some of the best photos of all of my devices. While it isn’t going to replace my Nikon D5200 DSLR I haven’t touched my Sony point and shoot in months.
I also really enjoy the Slow Motion feature. Though I use it less often now than when I first got the phone there are still many times when shooting in slow motion is a perfect option. While I typically carry two smartphones with me on a daily basis I trust the iPhone 5s to focus and take a great photo without requiring extra taps and time. I shoot many of my Gotta Be Mobile review videos and some of the photos on the iPhone 5s as it saves me a lot of time in editing and uploading, and I will use it more than my DSLR at CES 2014 this month.
The design of the iPhone 5s remains one of the biggest selling points. This thin, light and premium feeling smartphone is one the competition continually tries to meet and beat.
The HTC One delivered a very similar premium feel and the Moto X’s customizable back which is soft yet solid also comes close, but at the end of the day the iPhone 5s is a winner.
I bought the white iPhone 5s to avoid some of the easy scratching that I experienced on the black iPhone 5. So far with mixed case and case-free use I am not seeing any scratches and a Gotta Be Mobile team member with the Black iPhone 5s reports that his device is scratch free even with removing and re-inserting in a case many times since buying it 100 days ago.
One of the other things I really like about the iPhone 5s is the access to quality apps that work more reliably than they do on my Android devices. Apps like iFruit, a companion app for GTA 5 arrived on iPhone before the game even hit store shelves, but the Android version didn’t land until I was almost done with the game. Many apps are still coming to iPhone first, though the good news for Android users is that the length of time between apps is shortening.
The other thing I like about the iPhone 5s and apps is that the app quality is still often better on the iPhone than it is on Android. Alien Blue is a reddit app that still beats the best Android reddit apps I’ve tried. The NFL Sunday Ticket App routinely crashes on my various Android devices, but it has yet to crash on my iPhone 5s, even while streaming most of a Miami Dolphins game. Once Again there is hope for great looking and performing apps on Android with Robird delivering an amazing user experience that is nearly as good as Tweetbot.
When the iOS 7 update launched a vocal contingent of users complained about the new look, new feature setup and some features disappearing, but overall iOS 7 does a better job of putting the settings and info I want within a tap on the iPhone.
I’m still not using the iOS 7 jailbreak on my iPhone 5s, but the fact that it arrived and there are a growing number of iOS 7 compatible Cydia apps and tweaks also helps solidify my enjoyment of iOS 7 and the future of the software on the iPhone 5s.
iPhone 5 Features I Wish I Could Love
For all I love about the iPhone 5s there are three things that I wish I could love more, but they don’t fulfill my needs as much as they used to or don’t perform reliably enough for me.
The Small Screen
The iPhone 5s features the same 4-inch Retina display as the iPhone 5, and it is a very nice looking display with pixels packed so tight you can’t see the individual pixels in text. Photos and videos look very good on the Phone 5s display, but I wish the screen was larger.
The Nexus 5 and the Galaxy S4 both offer significantly more screen real estate for watching Netflix, reading books and surfing the web. I was OK with the iPhone 5s screen size when I bought it, but I find myself using my Android phones more to read and to watch Netflix when I go to the gym, which makes me wish for an iPhone 6 with a bigger screen.
A 4.7-inch to 5-inch iPhone 6 display would fill this need for me and wouldn’t necessarily make the iPhone 6 much larger.
Siri & Dictation
I use, or attempt to use Siri quite often and I am respectful of the limits to what Siri can do in regards to tasks and commands to follow. What continues to frustrate me is the amount of times Siri and Dictation time out. Unlike Android devices the iPhone 5s sends Siri and Dictation requests to the cloud, and with that comes unreliability.
I can handle that when I want Siri to perform a web search, but to often Siri can’t schedule a meeting, send a text or even call a contact because of a cloud issue. Too many frustrations lead to me skipping Siri more and more often. And I was a heavy Siri user. The same goes for dictation which will often sit at a spinning symbol until I give up.
Hopefully Apple adds an offline dictation option and supports simple offline command support for performing actions with local content like calling a contact.
The iPhone 5s brings Touch ID a fingerprint reader built into the home button. When Touch ID works it is an awesome way to unlock the iPhone, but when it doesn’t I end up frustrated and wasting time.
For the first month and a half Touch ID worked great, but after Winter hit and did a number on my hands Touch ID became less reliable. It still works from time to time and it is slightly better when I retrained the service, but overall I still end up entering a pass code more often than not.
Currently Touch ID only works as an App Store password if you’ve also entered your password recently, which means unless I am buying a new app every day I rarely get to use Touch ID for purchases in the App Store. Hopefully Apple tweaks the software and removes this restriction in iOS 7.1 or a future update.
Final Thoughts on Using the iPhone 5s for 100 Days
The iPhone 5s remains one of the best smartphones out there and thanks to many deals users who are at the end of a contract can upgrade for as little as $125 for the 16GB model.
I would upgrade from the iPhone 5 again, but it is not an upgrade every iPhone 5 owner needs to make, especially with attention turning to the iPhone 6. iPhone 4S owners like my wife definitely notice the increased speed and camera capabilities, making it a very worthwhile upgrade.
I still recommend the iPhone 5s for many users, but with the competition delivering great smartphones with ever improving designs and growth in the quality and quantity of Android apps there is a reason to consider Android before buying the iPhone 5s, even for the longtime iPhone user.
As the iPhone 5s ages into 2014 Apple will need to work hard to keep users interested, especially with rumors of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC Two arriving in early 2014.