7 Reasons Why the iPhone 5s is Still The Best Smartphone07/01/2014 • By Xavier Lanier
The iPhone 5s is still the best phone for most people despite its shortcomings and all the Android phones that have launched so far this year. The iPhone 5s is the easiest to use, has the best apps and superior support.
Unlike most people writing an article about why the iPhone 5s is better than the competition, I actually own, review and use several Android devices. Sure, there are bits and pieces of the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 that are superior to the iPhone 5s, but Apple’s the only company that ties it all together into a package that I can confidently recommend to anyone.
We’re expecting Apple to launch the iPhone 6 in September. If you can hold off on buying a new smartphone for a couple more months we recommend waiting to see if the larger iPhone 6 is right for you. But if you absolutely must by a new smartphone today, then the iPhone 5s is still the best bet, even though it’s almost a year old and is extremely similar to the iPhone 5, its predecessor.
Here are seven reasons why I recommend the iPhone 5s to almost everyone that asks:
Read: iPhone 5s Review
1. iPhone 5s Build Quality
The iPhone 5s feels like a work of art compared to most Android phones, even most of the competition’s flagship models. While we like both the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5 a lot, their plastic shells feel cheap and flimsy compared to the iPhone 5s. The only Android phone sold by major carriers that feels as solid as the iPhone 5s is the HTC One, an Android phone that’s also built out of metal and has a unibody design. That means it’s rigid unlike most Android phones that have flimsy removable backs.
Some people point to the cheaper iPhone 5c as a good alternative to the iPhone 5s, but it feels like a toy compared to the iPhone 5s. It’s also slower, doesn’t have as good of a camera and doesn’t have Touch ID, the fingerprint security system only found on the iPhone 5s.
2. iPhone 5s Has the Best Apps
There are countless apps designed specifically for the iPhone. Even though there are more Android devices in use, developers generally release apps on the App Store before the Google Play store.
A lot of developers still forgo the Google Play store all together and focus their efforts on iPhone apps, citing the fact that Android users simply won’t pay for apps or in-app purchases with the same frequency as iPhone users. It’s also more difficult for developers to keep up with the myriad of Android screen sizes, display resolutions and aesthetics.
Those that say there’s always an Android version of every iPhone app are kidding themselves. This goes for developers large and small. For example, Nike launched its popular FuelBand fitness band with an iPhone app two years ago. It released the FuelBand Android app two weeks ago. When my toddler’s teachers recommend Originator’s Endless Reader, Endless Alphabet and Endless Numbers apps, they were only available on my iPhone and iPad. Originator simply doesn’t bother with trying to sell $7 apps and $4.99 to $11.99 in-app purchases to Android users.
Another issue with a lot of Android phones is that many of them are packed with Crapware. The first thing my 12-year old nephew recently told me when I showed him my Galaxy S5 is that there were too many ads. The Galaxy S5 has promo after promo prompting users to try bundled software that adds little value to the user experience. The apps promoted are from Samsung, AT&T (or whatever carrier’s “customized” the GS5) and third parties that have struck deals with Samsung. On the other hand, the iPhone 5s is completely free of crapware.
3. iPhone 5s Has the Best Resale Value
The last thing on a lot of people’s minds when they buy a phone is what they’re going to do with it in two years. iPhone users can regularly cash in their iPhones for as much or more than they paid for it if they received a full carrier subsidy at the time of purchase. Android phones simply don’t hold their value for long.
For example, Apple released the iPhone 5 in September of 2012 and the 16GB version retailed for $199 with a two-year contract. Those looking to upgrade to an iPhone 5s or the upcoming iPhone 6 can sell it through a trade-in service like Gazelle.com for $220 if it’s in flawless condition and $210 if it has minor scrapes. The iPhone 16GB 5s fetches $280 at Gazelle.com and if you unlock it before sending it in the company will bump the offer up to $340.
Android phones like the popular Galaxy S4 simply don’t sell as well on the used phone market as Apple’s iPhones. While the new Galaxy S5 commands a price just $20 less than the top iPhone 5s price on Gazelle.com, the gap widens as time goes on. Samsung released the Galaxy S4 a few months after the iPhone 5 and it is only worth $150 in perfect condition and $140 in good condition. That’s a $70 difference. Things are more grim for less popular Android phones, such as last year’s HTC One, which only fetches $110.
The iPhone 5s is much easier to sell on sites like eBay and Craigslist because there’s a lot more consumer demand. You can secure a higher price selling it direct to another person than through a service like Gazelle if you’re willing to put in the effort. Some iPhone owners essentially upgrade for free every year or two by selling their old iPhones and buying the latest and greatest model. Those that play their cards right in terms of timing and contracts can even turn a small profit.
4. iOS 8 and Beyond
One of the most important reasons I recommend the iPhone 5s over Android phones to friends and family is because Apple regularly updates iOS and makes it available to older iPhones. Android users often have to wait months to get the latest version of Android, if at all.
Like clockwork, Apple releases a major overhaul of iOS and pushes it out to iPhone users at the same time. iPhone 5s owners won’t have to worry about which carrier they’re on, which version of the iPhone 5s they own, or any other nonsense. When Apple releases the iOS 8 update all iPhone 5s owners will simply be able to download it over the air and benefit immediately. In fact, iPhone geeks can go ahead and install iOS 8 right now by joining Apple’s iOS Developer Program or by putting in a little effort to get an activation code.
On the other hand, most Android phone owners have no idea if or when they’ll receive Android L, the upcoming version of Android. In fact, many have no idea when they’ll receive the latest version of KitKat, the current version of Android. While Apple holds the key to updates, wireless carriers have to give the final go ahead for Android releases. That’s after Google gets around to actually releasing the software and phone manufacturers have customized the latest version of Android for a device. It’s very common to see Android version release dates slip to a point that some users give up and just by a new phone to get the new software.
5. The iPhone 5s Plays Nicely with iPads, Macs and other iPhones
Part of the reason I love my iPhone 5s so much doesn’t have much to do with the phone itself, but how easy it is to switch between it, my iPad and Macs. Apple has a lot of smart features to make it easier for me to communicate with family, friends and colleagues seamlessly.
For example, iMessages pop up on whichever device I’m currently using. iMessage alerts pop up and I can instantly reply without switching apps. I can send iMessages to people directly from my desktop without touching my iPhone or switching apps. If I want to share a photo with my wife I can simply drag and drop it from Aperture or iPhoto and into an iMessage conversation. I don’t have to worry about which of her two iPhones she’s using or if she’s on her iPad mini. I know she’ll just get it. With Android devices, there’s no messaging equivalent that works so seamlessly when using multiple computers and devices in a day.
6. iPhones Have Real Support
Another very important reason why I recommend the iPhone 5s over Android devices is because iPhones are the only phones that have truly comprehensive support. Android users are at the mercy of their wireless carriers and manufacturers’ phone support when something goes wrong.
Apple has hundreds of stores staffed by people that are empowered to solve iPhone problems and disasters. For example, when my waterproof case failed and caused my iPhone 5s to drown in a swimming pool, I drove about a mile to the nearest Apple store. Without an appointment, I walked up to an Apple Genius, explained what happened and he made sure the device was protected under AppleCare. After paying a $69 deductible I had a brand new 64 iPhone 5s that normally retails for $849 off contract. In less than 10 minutes my problem was solved.
Android phones simply don’t get the same level of support by wireless carriers or manufacturers. While some companies are trying, their efforts seem half-hearted. I had a pretty positive experience when I dropped my HTC One M8 just a couple of days after buying it and cracking the screen. Thankfully, HTC now includes HTC Advantage with the HTC One M8. The program allows for one free screen replacement within six months of purchase. But instead of being able to walk into Verizon and swapping out my device, I had to pay a rush fee to have the phone overnighted to me. Those who don’t pay the rush fee have to wait a week for a replacement phone. I don’t know about you, but I can’t go a week without a cell phone and neither can most smartphone users.
Read: HTC Advantage Review
Even those that don’t have AppleCare+ receive much better support for their iPhones than any Android manufacturer can provide. Apple’s reps are generally responsive and we often hear about Apple repairing or replacing devices that are out of warranty.
7. iPhone 5s Cases and Accessories
To get the most out of any phone you need to outfit it with accessories or at least protect it. There are countless cases, speakers and toys specifically built for the iPhone 5s.
Cases are a lot more than just fashion statements. They can protect phones from hazards and even keep them charged. A wide array of iPhone 5s cases are available almost everywhere you go. Earlier this year I was at the San Francisco airport and realized that I forgot my external battery charger at home. I walked over to a Best Buy vending machine and picked up a Mophie Juice Pack case. Sports teams like the San Francisco Giants have iPhone 5s cases with team colors and logos on sale at ballparks. The car wash I go to has a whole rack of iPhone 5s cases. None of those places have a single case for my HTC One M8 or Nexus 5.
There are certainly more cases and covers for Android phones at retailers like Best Buy and Radio Shack these days, but there just isn’t the same kind of selection as there is for the iPhone 5s. Another problem with getting a decent case for the most popular Android phones is that the devices are already so large that putting cases on them makes them unmanageably huge.
As with apps, the high-end of the phone accessory market is almost exclusively reserved for iPhone 5s owners. If you want the best cases and accessories you’re going to want to go with the iPhone 5s.
Read: Best iPhone 5s Cases