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iPhone 5S review: Still a beauty even with minimum spend of $800 locally

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When Apple released the iPhone 5S and the iPhone SC there was little they could improve from the already acclaimed iPhone 5 but Apple had something up its sleeve and made a strong case for an upgrade. Locally, pricing is always a contentious issues and often dissuades even the unflinching loyalists from upgrading. The lowest cost for an upgrade in Zimbabwe is $800 if you decide to buy from the retailer who gave us this iPhone 5S to review. Other retailers are averaging $900-$1100.

Key Specs

Dimensions123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm
Memory16/32/64 GB storage, 1 GB RAM DDR2
DataDC-HSDPA, 42 Mbps; HSDPA, 21 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps, LTE, 100 Mbps; EV-DO Rev. A, up to 3.1 Mbps
Display4.0" LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Camera8 MP, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
OSiOS 7, upgradable to iOS 7.0.4
ProcessoerDual-core 1.3 GHz Cyclone
BrowsingHTML (Safari)
BatteryNon-removable Li-Po 1560 mAh battery
FeaturesAirDrop file sharing Siri natural language commands and dictation, iCloud cloud service, iCloud Keychain, Touch ID, Twitter and Facebook integration.

Design and build

If adding a gold color is something inconsequential then the iPhone 5S has nothing new design wise. The weight, dimensions and shape are identical to those of the iPhone 5 so if you buy phones for bling, you might not get noticed, unless of course you go for the gold colored iPhone 5S which does make a statement on class. The gold is not loud or too bright and blends well with the metal finish on the iPhone 5S.

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Just like the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5S fits perfectly well in the palm of the hand. This is convenient enough to easily navigate, type and browse using one hand but it has been criticised for not being big enough “to have a richer experience” with apps. We felt this criticism was not big enough to cry over.

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The backside of the Gold colored iPhone 5S. Notice how the gold is toned down to a champagne like feel.

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The iPhone 5S base continues from its two predecessors maintaining the speakers and USB jack at down under. Like it’s immediate cousin, the earphone jack is also at the base and continues with the orientation ambiguous  “Lightning connector”. Everything else is positioned exactly as is on the iPhone 5 with the power switch at the top, volume controls on the left and the nano sim slot as the only space on the left side of the phone.

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The right side of the iPhone 5S showing the nano SIM card slot.
The left side of the iPhone 5S with volume controls and the mute switch
The left side of the iPhone 5S with volume controls and the mute switch.

Touch ID: The Touch ID is another noticeable upgrade on the iPhone 5S over the iPhone 5. Firstly, the home button no longer has a square in the middle but rather a conclave dip which has a fingerprint sensor. This an optional feature that users can use to secure their phones instead of the number based security codes. The Touch ID can accommodate  up to five different prints meaning you the phone can still be accessed by different users even with the Touch ID in use.

The power button placed on the top of the iPhone 5S
The power button placed on the top of the iPhone 5S

On the whole, the iPhone 5S is just a replica of the iPhone 5 with better color options and a few, hard to notice fingerprint sensor. Apple has always done this with an upgrade to an “S”. The brain changes but the head remains the same.

Screen and display

The iPhone 5S has a 4″ retina screen that is easy to navigate with one finger. The display quality has vibrancy and clarity like no other. The iPhone 5S comes with the default display brightness setting at under 50% but still appears brighter than many android devices at full brightness.

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On responsiveness, the iPhone 5S display is well balanced as it is not overly sensitive to finger gestures but at the same time, promptly recognizes a screen tap to launch apps.

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Processor and Memory

Based on different benchmarks and thanks to the A7 processor, the iPhone 5s is said to be the fastest iOS device to date. Fractionally faster than the iPhone 5. Although there is definitely no lag time in launching or running apps, there was not noticeable change is speed in both app launching and performance. What the A7 gives is not exactly fast performance but rather guaranteed and consistent performance.

Chart shows overall performance rating of iOS devices done by PerformanceTest Mobile
Chart shows overall performance rating of iOS devices done by Performance Test Mobile

Camera

Besides the Touch ID, the iSight camera on the iPhone 5S is the other most significant change from the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5C. The camera still remains 8mp but has wider aperture for better images in low light environments.

We were particularly impressed with the panoramic feature which is probably the simplest to use at the moment. If your decision to buy a smartphone is influenced by the camera, then the iSight is it.

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Battery

The iPhone 5S carries a 1560 mAh battery which is a fraction larger than the 1440 mAh battery on the iPhone 5. The performance is nothing spectacular but just gives the standard longevity of 8 hours at optimal use.

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Verdict

There is no doubt that the iPhone 5s is the best Apple phone to date. iOS 7 is a great update, Touch ID is relevant and improvements on an already good camera is welcome. However, you could almost feel that the upgrade from iPhone 5 is lacking. Maybe the battery could have had more and something different with the shape would have given it a true impression of an upgrade.

The Zimbabwean lowest price is $800 and it’s something to think about. However, considering that the iPhone 5 debuted at more than that price in our main retail outlets, then iPhone 5S shouldn’t be expected to be lower. The iPhone 6 is expected to be released between June and September 2014 and Apple loyalist may want to consider upgrading to the latest model available.

The iPhone 5S in this review was provided courtesy of Mr. Muhammad Zubar Omar, an Apple dealer based in Harare. You can contact him on +263 775  550 786, +263 739 759 321 or allthingsapplezw@gmail.com.


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10 thoughts on “iPhone 5S review: Still a beauty even with minimum spend of $800 locally

  1. I think your spell checker is playing games with you – phone jack vs jerk.

    Otherwise interesting review. sadly I will not purchase apple products based on two factors, price point and the fact that I used android first and the ability to access the terminal and my line of work has made it such that all my tools are easy to access as a network engineer!

  2. Apple should consider wider screen phones more along Samsung S4. I have an Apple 4S and i tell u, mobile computing like emails and stuff are a pain. I cant always be carrying my iPad to use for that. Am seriously considering a Huawei Ascend Mate (despite its ugliness) as my other phone for emails on the go and bigger screen.

    The screen size upgrade is overdue despite its potential effect on the iPad Mini (cannibalisation)

    1. Apple will likely upgrade the iPhone screen size to 4.7″ around September… Whats worrying is that they wanna stick to a policy whereby they don’t exceed 5″ reason being that “a smartphone should fit in one palm…bla bla”… Apple’s market share will go down as bigger screens particularly from Samsung will get more attention, however in its core market (US), Apple will continue to dominate because of their ecosystem, i.e iOS, iTunes, smartphone, tablet and pc integration which is generally viewed as very robust.

    2. apple has increased the screen size as of the iphone 5 the screen size was increased to 4 inches

  3. The Iphone 5s is the greatest phone so far.. Its fingerprint touch id is the major improvement from the Iphone 5 which i also rate very highly. The only limitation to Apple’s Iphone 5s is the IOS which Apple doesnt allow it to be tweaked and customized except wen you “jailbreak” it and void your warranty.. If only they could liberate their operating system like Android im sure the Iphone 5S will never be surpassed in terms of greatness.

    1. I agree on the great phone part but Others argue that because iOS cannot be customised or tweaked, it retains a clean design which allows it to stands out. Some android devices look terrible with all the clutter that comes with liberalised OS.

  4. I have a 5s and a nexus 5. I can assure you that the nexus 5 beats the 5s hands down on everything except the battery.

  5. the beautiful part about the iPhone 5s is that the software is optimised for a specific set of hardware and that make its operation very smooth, unlike android phones where the software is designed for many different phones and is not optimised for a specific set of hardware, also the iPhone 5s has a newer processor than the iPhone 5 in addition to other new features which makes it a worthwhile upgrade

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