iPhone 5S

24th Oct 2014 | 15:47

iPhone 5S

Faster, new camera and a clever fingerprint reader. But is it enough of an upgrade?

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

The best iPhone yet, featuring a great camera and the TouchID fingerprint sensor. The high price will put many off, but you'll find a lot of joy in this phone whether you're an iPhone fan or if you've been sitting on the fence. It's more than just an iterative update.

Like:

Powerful core; Touch ID is a real step up; Excellent camera;

Dislike:

Expensive; No screen tech change; Battery suspect;

Introduction and design

Scores in depth

Design
Features
Performance
Usability
Value

The iPhone 5S: a phone that looks like the iPhone 5, but goes so much further under the hood. Is that going to be enough to impress the baying hordes?

I feel like I've been here before: the iPhone 'S' conundrum. A new phone comes along, taking the shell of the previous model, adds some new bits and pieces, and then claims to be an entirely new phone.

Which it is, of course. But also it isn't. Well, mostly is. It's the kind of move that only Apple can pull off with any kind of conviction: the notion that it can take the same chassis, have a little tinker, throw in a new CPU, slightly better battery and camera, and call it an all-conquering device.

There are a few who question whether it's 'fair' to launch a phone and then append an 'S' to the same thing a year later - Apple's response would likely be that nobody is forcing you to buy the new hardware. And that's a fair point. Yes, this is a phone that bears far too many hallmarks of its predecessor. And yes, this is the third time Apple has done this.

The time is now right for the iPhone 6, with its larger screen and greater abilities inside and out. It's the first time in years we've had a real update to the iPhone design, and its release should give you pause if you're looking at buying an iPhone 5S right now.

The 5S is still one of the most expensive smartphones on the market right now, even on 3G plans - although thankfully the price has started to fall.

You'll still be looking at around £30 a month to get one without an upfront fee, but Apple has dropped its SIM-free prices following the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus releases. The 16GB model is now £459, while the 32GB version will set you back £499. The 64GB variant has vanished as an option.

iPhone 5S review

Apple is obviously aware of this change, be it the aluminium unibody of the HTC One M8, the new fight into low-light cameras or the need for a strong processor as a headline to shout about. And to be fair, it's addressed these needs to some degree or other on the iPhone 5S.

Whether it's the Touch ID home button (which is excellent, more on that later), the jump in CPU power or the fact the camera has, once again, been improved no end, the iPhone 5S is clearly Apple's attempt at bringing as much as it can to the party without having to re-design the whole concept all over again.

There are many that think releasing the same design twice is cheeky, and there are others who realise that sometimes there's no need for change. It's easy to fall into the former camp, and while Apple will happily point out it's not forcing anyone to buy its phones, its acutely aware the competition is now scarily strong and it needed to bring its best to stay relevant.

Design

What can you say about the design of the iPhone 5S that already hasn't been said with the iPhone 5? Let's face it: there's nothing really new here that's going to help you work out if the person sitting opposite you on the train is using the newer phone.

Perhaps that's less of an issue now that the iPhone is becoming something of a commodity, a device that is so oft-used by the middle-aged generation that it no longer carries the lustre that the exclusivity of the earlier models emanated.

That's not necessarily a bad thing either; just because it's not an 'exclusive' design, it doesn't make the iPhone 5S any less premium.

It's still a stunning phone to hold in the hand, coming with the all-aluminium-and-glass chassis. There's no doubt Apple has had a look at the way the iPhone 5 range (well, black and white) chipped so badly around the edges.

iPhone 5S review

But that same issue was apparent already in my iPhone sample within a week, so it looks like you're going to quickly need to stuff your new iPhone 5S in a case the second you release it from its box, lest you leave it in a pocket or bag with change and keys and it comes out looking like it's gone a few rounds with a randy cheese grater.

iPhone 5S review

The new colours, which include champagne and space grey, are a little odd, but at least promise to show up the scuffs a little less prominently.

The way the iPhone 5S feels in the hand is something impressive though, coming with the low, low weight of 112g and dimensions of 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm.

It's still got that almost too-light feeling, that the premium metal finish is somehow diminished through the lack of heft, but it's a long, long way from feeling cheap.

iPhones 5S review

Compared to something like the Galaxy S5 or LG G3, the iPhone 5S is miles ahead when it comes to design, although less so than the HTC One M8 or One Mini 2 which have repeated the aluminium-clad trick.

It's got a slightly sharper edge than other models on the market, which can make it a little uncomfortable when being pressed to the ear. But I'm not going to quibble too much there lest it makes me seem a little wimpy.

iPhone 5S review

There are only a couple of real design differences compared to the iPhone 5, and one of them really is miniscule: the camera module is now flanked by a dual-LED flash, which I'll talk more about later (it's a really rather nifty piece of technology, trust me).

The other is a lot more substantial and impressive: the home button has been redesigned.

Yes, it doesn't sound like much, but consider how iconic the Apple home button has been over the past half-decade, and you'll see why I'm holding the change in such high esteem. The visual effect is impressive, taking the square off the button and putting a fancy silver ring around the key.

iPhone 5S review

The effect isn't only aesthetic, as this area now also serves as the fingerprint scanner, home to Apple's new Touch ID technology.

Having bought two separate biometric security firms, Apple was likely to do something like this, but the implementation and visual effect is really something that Apple does well, and has done so here too.

Beyond that, the iPhone 5S is identical to the 5, even down to the rattle in the power button. We're still a little confused as to why a device with such a high build quality has a slightly loose part with it, but shake the iPhone 5S gently and you'll feel the key moving around.

iPhone 5S review

It's not a big deal, but every so often you'll note the motion, and it does detract somewhat.

Thankfully the rest of the phone is built impeccably. The round volume keys are easy to hit. the switch to enable volume on or off has the same sturdy feel that I've come to enjoy, and the headphone port is still welded to the bottom of the phone.

The Lightning connection port is here as well, along with the stereo speakers on the bottom of the phone. I wish these were placed somewhere else, as when cupping the phone in landscape mode it's far too easy to cover these with palms or digits, and there's not really any way to shift around them.

iPhones 5S review

You can always use headphones, but that kind of negates the point of the speakers for gaming at all.

The right hand side hasn't been left completely alone on the 5S, with Apple choosing this surface as the location for the SIM card tray - but unlike most smartphones that take microSIMs these days, iPhones now rock the tiny nanoSIM technology.

iPhone 5S review

There's also the new leather cases, which are something of an oddity for a brand that's just overhauled its whole outlook with an all-new operating system. They're slightly cumbersome, making it hard to hit the buttons, and they get scuffed so easily - all for £25.

But beyond that I'm still impressed with the design of the iPhone 5S. It's hard not to be, as if there's one thing that Apple gets totally right it's the way it assembles its devices.

The metal and glass combination does feel a little fragile, and I'd recommend a case (perhaps a third party option) to protect the aluminium, but the design is something that at least helps mitigate the higher price.

Display

Apple has used the same Retina display as found in the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C, in the new flagship model. It's a four-inch screen, and comes with a resolution of 1136 x 640, making it still-sharp at 326DPI.

It's difficult to recommend the display compared to the rest of the smartphone world, as there are definitely better screens out there. The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus offer higher resolutions, and larger displays, and the Plus boasts a higher PPI. Whether this is enough for you with the competition being so far ahead is something I'll leave you to work out.

The four-inch size of the screen is good enough though, as while I might be a fan of the larger screen for movies and internet browsing on the Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8, the iPhone 5S is a good phone for people that hate the idea of being forced to live with a bigger screen they don't want.

It's not perfect though, as despite what Apple would have you believe, the screen is just a tad too large to operate easily with one hand.

iPhone 5S review

With a small amount of shifting you can get the thumb all the way across, but given you have to jiggle the phone in the palm a little bit to do so, it kind of feels redundant.

In terms of the clarity of the iPhone 5S' display, I'd say it's excellent in terms of colour reproduction and general effect, but there are better displays too choose from - the Sony Xperia Z2 is worth looking at, for example.

Many people will be upgrading to the iPhone 5S from the 4S, and this is one of the few areas where, extended size aside, they won't see a large amount of difference.

iPhone 5S review

The sharpness is great, the colour reproduction still industry leading, but the brightness can be a little erratic for some low-contrast movies and isn't big enough for speedy typing. HD movies still look acceptable on the device, but I've seen a much more jaw-dropping effect on rival devices, such as the LG G3.

I like that Apple is leading the charge to stop screen sizes going too far in the wrong direction, but there could be something more that's done here.

iPhone 5S review

Even a display with a thinner bezel would have impressed (although scaling apps might have been a problem, with is something Apple is so proud of) but I still think in the face of fierce Android opposition the iPhone 5S display could be better.

iOS 8

One big change on the iPhone 5S was the fact it arrived with iOS 7. This is clearly the flagship device for the new operating system, and it showed off the UI redesign superbly.

The Retina display is clearly calibrated to make best use of the explosion of colour on offer, and the flatter icons look painted onto the screen.

And now that we've seen this for a whole year, it's time for a new upgrade - iOS 8 has brought a few new
refinements and extra features, and it was swiftly followed by iOS 8.1, which is largely about bug fixes.
Neither has really altered the aesthetic established by iOS 7.

The new update brings the chance to track your fitness and health (and even your caffeine intake) as
well as connect to more devices within the home.

It also finally opens up things like the keyboard, which means you'll be able to customise your phone in
ways you couldn't before.

Unfortunately Apple Pay, a new way of paying for goods and services in store and online, is not going to work on the iPhone 5S because it lacks NFC, but pair with a new Apple Watch and you're laughing all the way to the bank (until you see your balance anyway).

For those that missed the iOS 7 update, you'd best gird your loins if you're not a fan of colour all over the place. iOS 7 is a lot brighter, cleaner and sleeker than its bloated predecessor, but it does look like Jony Ive has dipped into his crayon pot a few times. But don't think this is a negative: I like it.

The colours on offer are fun, fresh and most importantly distinctive, giving a real unique feel to iOS 7 that other platforms might not have. Photos, Safari and Music are all changed, as well as a host of other apps too, and while some have labelled them 'childish', they're clearly indicative of the new style Apple is looking to create.

And when iOS 7.1 landed, things were tidied up a bit and helped appease some Apple fans looking to not feel like they've fallen into a big bag of rainbows.

iPhone 5S review

What I do find frustrating in iOS is the dependence it has on the settings menu, with various app controls all housed here instead of within the apps themselves.

It's annoying if you're in the Facebook app for example and want to adjust the notification settings. You have to exit the app and navigate to the setting menu instead.

Look beyond the UI though and you'll see that the iPhone 5S is much easier to use, which is impressive for a phone that was already market-leading in its simplicity.

iPhone 5s review

Dragging upwards from pretty much anywhere on the phone will open the Control Center, giving access to the music player, brightness, quick apps such as a timer, torch and calculator, as well as allowing you to switch on and off elements like the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Yes, it's a notion that's been part of Android for a number of years, but it's been done in a way that feels a lot more solid and intuitive, never changing with notifications so you can easily trust that when you need a torch you can get to it easily.

iOS 7.1 review

That said, the torch was an odd area of the Control Center. Whenever lifting up the tab to access said function, you'd always need to wait a second or two before being able to hit any of the quick app icons. It's not a huge problem, but one that quickly got tiring. It's like the whole drawer needs a second to boot up.

I also found an odd glitch here too: the music controls don't work over Bluetooth headphones, nor on the lock screen. This was fixed with a reboot, and hasn't happened for a while, but it didn't give me massive confidence in the device.

There's also a new notification area that can be accessed by dragging downwards. Thankfully unlike the Control Center, this can be customised: you don't need to have to look at stocks or your upcoming meetings or lack of social engagements if you don't want to, but there's always information on the weather there, which is nice when you realise you'll need a coat.

This is also the place where you'll get any missed notifications, be it a call, message or that jacket on eBay you were looking to buy when someone's outbid you on it.

It was a bit of a wasteland, but Apple has changed that with the iOS 8 update, adding more intuitive interactions, and live widgets that update with key information - plus the ability to directly reply to messages there too.

iPhone 5S review

Both of these areas are nicely designed too, with translucency that allows you to see very vaguely through to the rest of the phone. This gives the whole handset an air of completeness. It feels like a phone that's able to connect within itself and not fall apart when a new app rolls into town.

With iOS 7.1 the phone and messaging buttons have been toned down in colour somewhat, meaning less neon green and a more pleasing look to the eye.

Multi-tasking has been given an overhaul with iOS 7. Gone is the bar that appeared at the bottom of the display when you double tap the home button.

The double tap action now sees the screen you're viewing minimised to a thumbnail in the centre of the screen, and a horizontal list to the right of it made up of small panels of all the other apps running in the background.

The relevant app icon sits beneath each screenshot and above them you'll find your most recently used contacts, making this a quick stop shortcut screen for apps or contacts.

The layout reminds me of the multitasking menu on HTC's Sense UI, and you can scroll through the various applications, swiping up over thumbnails to close certain applications.

iPhone 5S review

I'm not overly keen on this new design as the interface does break things up when flicking between apps. (On the iPad you've got the great four finger swipe to move between open apps – could this have not been repeated on the iPhone?)

There's obviously some other new features, as well as some old favourites.

For instance, a long press on any app will engage the editing mode for the home screen, meaning you can uninstall anything you fancy (as long as it's not hard-coded by Apple) and drag and drop it onto another icon to make a folder.

The folder system and organisation method was a great idea from Apple, and it's been improved with iOS 7, allowing users to dump more in one folder and just swipe through it to see more apps.

It's not a big thing, but show it to any iPhone user now and they'll smile at such an important fix. Who wants 'Games 4' anyway?

The rest of the phone's interface is mostly a cosmetic upgrade - there are some important performance tweaks, such as on the internet browser and camera UI.

But iOS is really a lick of exceptionally powerful and much-needed paint, keeping the raw power and integration that Apple prides itself on while taking some of the clever ideas from other smartphones on the market and making them its own.

iOS 7.1 update

iOS 7.1 review

There are a few extra features that I need to mention here to show that Apple has been through and had a think about how things work with the new iteration of iOS 7.1

First, the parallax effect has been given a little bit more respect within the OS, with the ability to turn it off when your first turn on the wallpaper making things a lot more fluid and understandable to people.

It's not locked down in the Accessibility menu any more either, rather when you set the wallpaper instead.

The menus themselves have been given something of an overhaul too, thanks to the ability to mark out where the buttons are.

This is a weird one, as it's not a problem I'd come across really. Apparently swathes of you were worried about not being able to tell what's text and what's a button thanks to the large white expanses being thrown around the screen where usually things used to look like buttons.

iOS 7.1 review

Well, now you can do just that once more, as a setting in the Accessibility menu will let you swoop in and make every button look a little bit more uglier thanks to a tab sitting around it, or words in a list will be underlined if you can tap them.

The extra navigation in iOS 7.1 also includes a nifty feature that lets you choose to be able to select menu items and move around the screen using a tilt of the head.

Some have likened this to the Smart Scroll feature in Samsung's Galaxy S4, but in reality it's designed for those unable to interact with an iPhone using their hands, allowing them to control the interface using head gestures and pre-determined times to wait to select menu items.

And finally: a hurrah for the fact that the calendar has been re-enabled with a split screen view thanks to a toggle at the top. Apple dropped this for the iOS 7 update to its devices, but now you can be in the month view and still see what appointments exist on any given day you tap.

You know, like every other smartphone ever.

iOS 8.1 update

You can find out the full details of what the latest version delivered in our iOS 8 review. There have been a few menu tweaks, third-party extensions for Touch ID and keyboards, some extras for the camera, the ability to share your location with contacts, and more integration with Mac.

In iOS 8.1 Apple relented and brought back the Camera Roll. There's also a new Health app to help you keep an eye on your fitness.

Touch ID

Now we're getting onto something that's really rather special: the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5S. You'll find it on the new iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3 and obviously the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and it gives them a whole new level of functionality – it's much harder to enter a passcode on two-handed devices.

Touch ID is a system that I didn't expect to see in phones now, as when the iPhone 5S launched fingerprint scanning was relatively written off as being something that was just too cumbersome to implement.

Just look at the Motorola Atrix with its back-mounted sensor… that didn't work at all.

Well, that's not true with the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5S. It's phenomenal in the way it works, making it possible to have a phone that is as secure as having a passcode, but without the irritation of having to enter it a million times a day.

iPhone 5S review

Press the home button and let your finger rest there, and the phone just opens itself up. It's hard to explain just how cool the motion feels.

Yes, it's not 'properly' secure – there's still a passcode right there for those that don't want to use the fingerprint scanner, and if someone reads that over your shoulder they'll still be able to steal your phone and get in.

This should explain the insanity that some are peddling, such as how robbers will be cutting off fingers or forcing users to unlock the phone. Firstly, the sensor is capacitive and therefore needs an actual, alive, finger to use it.

Secondly: this isn't a way of securing national secrets. If someone is that desperate to get into your phone, there are myriad ways. But if you want to avoid pecking out a passcode time and time again, this is a brilliant method of doing it.

iPhone 5S review

Moreover, you can use Touch ID to replace your iTunes password. This is an excellent way of not having to pop in your special word over and over again when you're buying items or downloading certain apps. It might only save a few seconds, but more importantly than that, it's just so goshdarn cool that I can't help but love to do it.

And on the point of security, Apple may have pushed that element further than it needed to – but that should give consumers decent peace of mind.

iPhone 5S review

The Touch ID sensor communicates directly with the stored fingerprint on the A7 chip, and not even the rest of the phone can see it.

This means your fingerprint won't get backed up to iCloud and accidentally shared with the world. But you won't be able to use different digits to open other apps, which would have been awesome from the lock screen.

Imagine being able to press a single digit to the phone to unlock it… OK, that's here now. But then press a different finger and open the music player, and a third will take you straight to your Pocket reader.

It would be an amazing way to do things and show that the iPhone is more built around the user – however, I suspect that Apple is erring on the side of security here, and that's not a bad thing at all.

The system has been opened up to third-party developers with iOS 8, so there's every chance that could happen in the future now the security aspect has been locked down.

The iOS 8 update has allowed more apps, like Dropbox, to make use of TouchID too, so the service is growing even more useful all the time.

In terms of setting up your finger recognition, there's nothing to it: press your digit up and down on the sensor and the phone will buzz every time it learns your fingerprint. And not only that, but you're then asked to show the edges of your finger to get a larger image of the print, giving more accuracy.

I never really found a problem with the accuracy of the iPhone 5S' Touch ID sensor, but it appears that some people did. Apple reckons its managed to improve that somewhat with the new iOS 7.1, meaning it won't 'forget' your fingerprint as easily as before.

In practice you can turn your finger or thumb any way you like on the button and it will still register just the same – there are some mis-scans, but on the whole it's really rather excellent and accurate. It's not 100% accurate all the time, which can grate.

But compare it to the same trick Samsung has tried to employ on the Galaxy S5, which needs a swipe, and you'll see how hard it is to implement a system that's even this good - plus the iPhone 6 will get the necessary upgrade to make it more accurate too, it seems.

A7 and M7 chips

Apple has imbued the new iPhone 5S with not one, but two, chips that it thinks make the iPhone 5S one of the powerful phones on the market. A lot has changed since its launch, and there's now a raft of newer handsets packing in more power - but the 5S is no slouch.

It's almost insane to think of the power running under the hood here, and there's no doubt that it's given things a real performance boost - that said, it's not realised the potential of that chip in the way other phone manufacturers have, although it still impressive when it comes to graphics reproduction and similar tasks.

A7 Chip

The new A7 chip from Apple is an interesting concept: not only does it bring a huge boost in power, but it's now been turbo-charged to a 64-bit CPU.

To most people that label will mean nothing more than wondering whether this means their phone is as powerful as a Nintendo 64 – in reality, it's actually a pretty important move for the company.

iPhone 5S review

Simply put, a 64-bit chip allows for more powerful processing and a greater amount of power to be plugged through the phone for most tasks. It will tolerate a greater amount of RAM in the future too.

The thing is, it doesn't really mean much to the consumer right now. There are some noticeable elements that take advantage, with the camera being much faster and able to handle so much more smoothly. And I'm willing to bet the Touch ID sensor is going to need a hefty whack of power to enable such tight security on the phone.

Beyond that though, you're not going to notice much in the way of an improved experience, and that's not because this phone is slow, it's because the iPhone is already a slick and fast beast.

Almost since the iPhone 4 I haven't seen much in the way of slowdown from Apple's handsets, and this is no different. In fact, in side by side comparisons, the iPhone 5S is actually a touch slower than the iPhone 5 for general use, thanks to iOS 7 relying more on animations to move between apps.

This doesn't mean it feels slower, it just has a really different sensation to the way you navigate through the phone.

So there are two things to note when thinking about the A7 chip: one, Apple is able to talk about a chip that's one of the most powerful around, which is something its rivals have been doing for a while now with no need. But like the quad-core phones of today, there's not a lot of point in a 64-bit chip right now.

That doesn't mean it's a pointless move from Apple, and this leads me to my second point: Apple is getting its iPhone range ready for the next generation of devices. These will allow developers to create apps across all Apple devices, thanks to iPhones now packing 'desktop class architecture'.

But what does it all mean for you, the consumer? Well, put simply, it's Apple taking its CPU seriously, giving the customer more power than they could ever possibly need at the moment without compromising too much on battery life - although the latter part still isn't great.

It's partly a marketing exercise, and partly Apple future proofing itself, allowing its phones to add in new layers of security and providing developers with the tools to make even better apps.

iPhone 5S review

However, those apps will be larger and could create a greater drain on battery life should they get more intensive – however, that's for Apple and the developers to thrash out, and there's no reason to think that there won't be greater efficiencies clawed back through the improved OS integration.

In short: bigger, faster and better to give the most slick iPhone experience yet.

M7

There's another cheeky little chip under the hood that sits alongside the A7 main unit: the M7 chip, which is there to make the iPhone 5S a rival to the likes of the Nike Fuelband and the Jawbone Up.

It allows the main CPU to snooze while it tracks the motion of the phone, through the accelerometer, gyrometer and compass.

This means that it will know when you're jogging or when you're in the car, and can take that information and store it without needing to drain the battery by having the main CPU chugging away.

It can even retrofit the data to apps that you download at a later date, meaning any M7-enabled app that uses the new CoreMotion API will be able to give you information on recent training.

It will also seamlessly slip from walking to driving navigation on Apple Maps, which is a nifty extra, taking another hassle out of life, and especially useful for keeping drivers safe behind the wheel.

We're seeing the benefit of what's on offer with the M7 chip now that Apple has released the Health app. It's a comprehensive record of your activity and a place to store important health data, and it ties in with all the top fitness apps and wearables.

4G, contacts and calling

The iPhone 5S is nothing more than the 5 when it comes to calling, but with iOS 7 on board as well as a few more LTE bands, it means that it can function on pretty much any next-gen network around the world.

If you're in the UK, this means that you'll be able to connect to 4G on the likes of Vodafone, O2 and Three when their services are all up and running without a worry – something that will have been a hindrance to those wanting to connect to the super speeds with an iPhone 5.

iOS 7.1 review

I tested the iPhone 5S on EE's network in the UK, and was mightily impressed with the results - which makes sense, given 4G is all fast and that.

When there's a full signal, the phone is blisteringly quick over 4G, although when a couple of bars (or spots, now we're in iOS 7 territory) drop off, the speeds can slacken quite measurably too.

However, unlike its predecessor, there's a real feel that the iPhone 5S is a handset designed for 4G – although running at the faster connection does seem to cook the battery somewhat.

Calling

The call quality on the iPhone is nothing to shout about, with the slightly sharper edges of the phone making it even harder to hear people due to reticence to push it closer to your ear hole.

The sound quality emanating from the earpiece is decent without being stonkingly clear and there's not much in the way of audio enhancement to play with. It's worth noting that on rival handsets there's always a lot more that you can do to improve things in this respect.

In terms of the other person being able to hear you, things are more impressive, thanks to three microphones that enable excellent noise cancellation and can pick up a wide level of what you're trying to say.

But therein lies the rub - is that too simplistic? To one person, being able to calibrate the sound levels of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a great thing to be able to do, and they'll do so willingly. With the iPhone, many prefer simplicity, so the ability to be able to just press a button, make a call with a nice interface and move on will impress many.

iOS 7.1 review

There's no smart dialling here though - that really irks as it's an excellent method of getting to your contacts through the dial pad. Android 4.3 and up has it baked into the OS, and it feels high time Apple did the same thing.

The Phone app has been updated slightly too with iOS 7.1, with the buttons now turned from large coloured rectangles to circular buttons to match the dialling pad - it's a subtle change that I didn't really care about when first hearing of it, but does look more aesthetically pleasing.

Maybe Sir Ive was bored in a meeting and re-tooled them.

Facetime has been given a cheeky boost too thanks to the improved front camera, which displays really fast and clear images provided you've got a strong enough connection.

Is it ever going to take over the world in the way voice calling did? Nope, not even with an HD front facing camera. It's better though, and really helps with those lonely hotel trips.

Contacts

The contacts on the iPhone are still rather dismal, and still something that Apple needs to address. I want far more than the list of contacts on offer, despite the list of letters at the side of your address book being very easy to slide down.

iPhone 5S review

It's a lot better than it was, allowing you to enable Facebook and Twitter to update your contacts book with pictures of friends when all the data matches.

But compare that to pretty much any Android phone now and you'll see the disparity: here you have to hope that things match in terms of email or other information and the iPhone will deign to connect them together.

If this fails, it's far from simple to have everyone matched up, so no high-resolution profile pics, no updates on what your friends are doing from within the app, and generally not a lot going on at all.

Apple could do so much more with the matching here, but it's a sticky mess if you want to link anyone together.

It's not a bad contacts system, it just could (and probably will) be so much better in the future.

Messaging

Messaging on the iPhone has always been a tricky area to call, and this device is no exception. On the one hand, the range and stability of the options to talk to other people with your fingers have been superb, and iOS 7 takes this even further than before.

iPhone 5S review

The way things look is just so much more complete, and when you're doing something simple like swiping away an email, the new blockier interface gives you so many options in such a small space.

However, the same screen is getting very cramped for typing these days, though the introduction of keyboard customisation with iOS 8 is very welcome.

Now you can install a third-party keyboard like Swiftkey and swipe around from letter to letter without lifting your thumb from the screen. It's great for one-handed typing and there are plenty more keyboards to choose from in the App Store.

The predictive text isn't too bad though, and seems to have improved over previous iterations of the iPhone. But not being able to simply add in a full stop without having to measure a tap and slide just gets too aggravating at times, and the fact your finger will often cover the area that lets you know when caps lock is on led to a few expletives.

With iOS 7.1 the keyboard was mildly enhanced to make it easier to see when the shift key is pressed - in reality, it's just a bit different and many people might not even notice.

In iOS 8 you'll find the predictive powers have grown and suggestions sit beneath the text input box now. There's also a microphone to the right of the text input box that allows you to record and send audio messages.

Email, SMS and iMessage

As mentioned, email on the iPhone 5S is excellent thanks to a combination of fast speeds and a strong UI that makes it a breeze to whip through missives from your boss.

The folder organisation is fresh and easy to use, and you can simply choose the options you want in the mailbox instead of just a list of the accounts you've got on offer.

iPhone 5S review

A swipe to the left or right on the message will give you the option to delete said email or quick reply without having to open the message itself. It's clean and crisp and, the smaller screen aside, it's very easy to manage your mail.

Mail does seem to be one of the harder apps on the operating system, with a couple of pauses noted when jumping from one app to another.

It also caused a crash on a couple of passes through different apps - I'm not used to this kind of thing from Apple, and it's been noticeable that the iPhone has suffered more crashes than usual since iOS 7 rolled around.

The impressive messaging experience continued when using the SMS and iMessage apps – the only real difference between the two (and thus when you know when it's a free messaging service or a paid for one) is there will be green or blue accents rolling around, including the bar that fills the screen as the message sends.

The ease with which you can send a photo is great, as a quick tap on the icon will enable it and iOS 8 has added the ability to send videos, audio recordings, and even share your location directly with a contact. You can even share your roaming locations for a set period of time.

There's also a change for individual contacts as the "Contact" link at the top right is now "Details" and it enables you to set "Do Not Disturb" to mute single or group conversations, and see the full list of attachments you've sent and received to that contact.

Social networking

With iOS 7 on board the iPhone 5S it means Twitter and Facebook come baked into the handset - head over to the settings menu and tap the relevant social network to sign in to your account.

Signing into these social networks in the settings menu of the iPhone 5S allows you to quickly share content to both without having to jump into the dedicated applications - which aren't installed by default.

iPhone 5S review

Say you want to post a photo to Facebook, just head on over to the Photos app, select the image you want, tap the share button and choose the FB icon.

Instead of taking you out of the application and into Facebook's own offering, you instead get a little pop up box allowing you to tap in your message, select an album to post the photo to, attach the location it was snapped (which are both optional) and the audience you wish to view it.

A similar pop up box appears if you select Twitter, but obviously with fewer options and a counter for 140 characters.

Pull down the notification bar though and the "Tap to Tweet" and "Tap to Post" buttons are no longer sitting proudly at the top of the screen - so you'll have to fire up the dedicated apps (once you've downloaded and installed them) to update the world on what you had for breakfast.

I bemoaned the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 for Apple's poor implementation of the baked in social features and sadly with the new range of iPhones and iOS 7 things haven't got much better. I'm sure there's some cool stuff Apple could do with this functionality, but it's obviously yet to realise its potential.

Internet

The internet browser on the iPhone 5S is one of the most improved elements when it comes to looking at the way iOS 7 has been integrated into the device. The overall UI is more sleek than ever, and there are some dynamic touches that make trotting around the world wide web much easier.

One of the biggest changes, and simultaneously the smallest, is how fast the URL bar will shrink and grow as needed. Go to the top of the page where the URL bar used to be and it will expand to offer full functionality. Start scrolling and you'll see it move away, but still give you the information you need to check on where you actually are on the net.

iPhone 5S review

The Retina display is still just about sharp enough for general browsing, but you'll need to double tap more than you might on other phones to zoom in as text isn't as legible on some of the Full HD phones out there when viewing a web page from afar.

However, the A7 processor is adept at not only rendering web pages with panache, but also making sure that web elements are loaded properly and don't detract from the overall zooming experience. It's fluid without being fast, which is a trait of iOS 7 overall.

iPhone 5S review

I like that Apple has also included the search bar in with the URL entry area, as it means that more screen real estate can be used for browsing, rather than all being crushed at the top. There's no need for it to be any other way, and it makes things more integrated too.

You get icons on the home landing page which you can set as your most-used apps, and this is a nifty feature that solves the fact that Apple's bookmarking system can be a little convoluted.

The icons at the bottom of the screen can be a little harder to work out on the first viewing, but do work nicely nonetheless, with the tabs page allowing you to simply swipe away the open web pages you don't want.

Airdrop is integrated here too, if you want to share web pages with people around you easily, as well as the ability to share it to Twitter, Facebook or other installed apps.

Of course you can always lock it in an app like Pocket, but with the ability to add these things to the reading list for easy access later on, that's not really as much of a necessary option (apart from being able to access it on other devices).

iPhone 5S review

The reading mode has also been given a tweak that means that it no longer takes up as much of the URL bar, with a simple 'lines' icon signifying when you can enter the cleaner, more stripped down version of the page. This is most useful when using the Twitter functionality, which I really like.

If you're signed into Twitter on your iPhone, then it can parse through your feeds and present you with a list of Tweets with embedded links, which you can scroll through at your leisure, with the bottom of each web page passing on to the next one Tweeted.

It's a nice way to browse through what your friends are sharing, and will perhaps encourage reading on a wider range of subjects.

Apple was in danger of making Safari too complicated with recent iterations, and on the iPhone 5S the cleaner, more simple look is held up nicely by the processing power. I like this method of browsing as it allows users to get to the stuff they really want with the minimum of fuss, and share it easily too.

Camera

Right - this is where the iPhone 5S is expected to shine, and it really rather does. Apple has decided to push harder with the camera sensor in the new handset, trying to create something the lies squarely between the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5, and beat both.

In honesty, it mostly manages this, although the other two are also really decent snappers and in many ways are also class leading - for instance, there's no background de-focus here with the newest iPhone.

Let's dial it back a little and explain: Samsung is all about staying true to the 'megapixel wars' and wants to cram as many as it can in there, which is why it has such a complex sensor. It can't function as well in low light, but get the shot composition right and you're going to get some really nice snaps.

iPhone 5S review

The HTC is almost the opposite, as with that you can get some really great low light shots thanks to the improved Ultrapixel camera. This is only a 4MP sensor, but with much larger pixels which let in more light.

This means better night time performance and a faster shutter, and with this camera you get a wider gamut of shots to take away with you, although you probably won't want to blow them up for the wall.

The iPhone 5S, as I said, falls in between these camps, coming with an 8MP sensor and pixels 75% the size of the HTC One's offering. The result is a strong blend between sharpness and low light ability, where the iPhone straddles the categories without being market leading in either.

iPhones 5S review

It's got an f/2.2 aperture for better low light, but that's still the same as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and not as good as the f/2.0 on the HTC One.

That said, the new camera interface, combined with the A7's ability to easily combine together three snaps to make the best picture it can, mean this is a truly awesome cameraphone.

iPhone 5S review

The new UI will let you simply slide between modes, be it panorama, a new 'square' mode for social networks, the standard photo, video at 1080p or the all new Slow-mo mode, which can capture 120 frames per second at 720p resolution and gives you the option to choose when the slow down and speed up happens.

The new CPU is at its best here, with the shutter speed really great, the all new burst mode working well (simply activated by pressing the shutter button for any length of time) and giving seemingly unlimited shots. The iPhone can also intelligently work out the best shot and the suggestions usually get it pretty bang on, where other handsets with the same functionality can't every time.

I know Apple is pretty late to the burst mode game, but it's implemented it in a way that really works rather well. At least the ability to lock focus is on board, as well as locking exposure - these are closer to pro-photographer moves, and allow for some interesting shot composition.

The UI is a something of a bugbear though, despite looking so flashy. The options to enable HDR mode, turn the flash on and off or change to the front facing camera don't always want to come on when you tap, which makes it hard to use the camera when you're trying to take an arty shot in lower light that doesn't need the flash.

With iOS 7.1 there is a cool new feature: Auto HDR mode. This will fire up automatically when light levels are going a bit all over the place and will give you a much richer (if slower to snap) picture without you needing to mess about with the settings.

Clever work from Apple - it's up there with the real time HDR on the Samsung Galaxy S5.

iPhone 5S review

This leads me nicely onto the other big change, with the flash getting something of an update thanks to an increase to dual LED. This is nothing new in smartphones, but Apple's been smart here as well, thanks to bringing a white and amber option into play.

What this allows the iPhone 5S to do is analyse the scene with a primary flash and then mix the amber and white colours together to reproduce colours more accurately and stop everything looking so washed out.

It's actually a more impressive feature than I thought it might be when it comes to colour rendition, but I can't say it made me want to use the flash any more than normal. As per usual, it got turned off pretty soon and didn't come back on again, which is partly due to the impressive low light performance.

Apple has added a few extras to the camera app with iOS 8, including a timer and the ability to control exposure by swiping up or down on the screen.

To summarise: this is the best iPhone camera yet by some distance, and its simplicity of use and the great modes on offer (there's even an area that allows you to choose a filter before you start snapping, with real time previews so you can check each one out.)

That's actually something that I found a little odd: when you pull a filtered photo from your iPhone 5S onto your computer, the filter has been removed. However, share it through Airdrop or in the Mail app and it will display with Chrome or Mono or whatever filter you went for.

However, that's a terribly minor niggle compared to the hugely impressive camera, which I urge you to try with a little more depth should you get the chance. I would like to see Apple enable 16:9 photos at some point soon, as the UI doesn't lend itself to the 4:3 options that come out.

I understand Apple is trying to stay close to more professional photography, but most phones make full use of the screen, and it would be great if Apple followed suit.

iPhone 5S review

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iPhone 5S review

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iPhone 5S review

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iPhone 5S review

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iPhone 5S review

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iPhone 5S review

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iPhone 5s review

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Video and Slo-mo

Video on the iPhone 5S isn't anything overly special beyond offering decent footage without having to try very hard. Like the camera there's no optical image stabilisation on board, which means that anything that comes with a shaky hand will have the same judder in the footage.

iPhone 5S review

This is especially apparent when zooming in on the footage when you're filming, which can now be done at the same time.

However, the general clarity and smoothness of the video is impressive and will help you capture the precious moments in high clarity. The only other real option is to turn the LED light on to get some real illumination, but be warned: it's bright.

Slo-mo

Another trick enabled by the A7 chip, slow motion has been added to the iPhone 5S. It enables 120fps capture at 720p resolution, but more importantly you can choose when in the footage to speed up and slow down the action, so if you've got a squirrel falling from the tree you can make it so that only the really hilarious bit is at the slower speed.

iPhone 5S review

It's a really neat system for editing your footage, with little tabs to trim the movie to get rid of any waiting around at the start or the end.

iPhone 5S review

While the effect is cool, it's not something I'm particularly bothered about in terms of a killer feature on a smartphone. The results are fun and pleasing, but they don't really make me want to pull out Slow-mo mode all the time.

On top of that it's very hard to share the slow motion video, as you can't just pull it off the phone, with the resulting .MOV file jumping and skipping somewhat when viewed back on a PC.

So while I like the idea, Slo-Mo left us feeling rather cold.

Gallery

The gallery app on the iPhone 5S is something that stays very true to Apple's ethos, one of displaying all your photos in one place but organising them in easy to find places.

For instance, when you open up the redesigned Photos app, you're taken through a few options. You can view your album, your Photostream through iCloud or the myriad videos you'll have nabbed during your time with the device.

However, once into your camera roll, you can organise by moments in time, location or just general collections, with only a couple of taps being needed to make it easier to share the content with a social network.

Obviously from this app you're able to do more, such as create a shared photostream for the family to enjoy, or you can open Apple maps to see properly where the photos were taken. And if you want to zoom out a bit then all you need to do is tap the top left-hand icon, taking you from 'Collections' to 'Years' which means that if you've got millions of snaps then you can see them grouped properly together.

After a few complaints, Apple included an option to switch back to the traditional Camera Roll view in the iOS 8.1 update.

If you're not happy with the photos you have you can always tap the "edit" button when viewing a particular picture to take you into an editor.

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From there you have various options including crop, rotate, red eye removal, eight filters and auto-enhance. iOS 8 has beefed the editor up to match Apple's iPhoto app, which is not supported on iOS 8 devices, though you can import old images from it into your Photos app on iOS 8.

This allows you to fully tweak light and colour settings, digging into exposure, brightness, contrast, and a lot more.

It's certainly not as detailed as Apple's iPhoto app - which can be downloaded for free from the App Store - but for the occasional photography this simple editor will suffice

Airdrop

If you're interested in sharing these photos with others, the Airdrop is your friend here. Apple's new proprietary connection is one that's pretty darn good and beats the pants of the likes of S Beam on a Galaxy phone or the general need to pull ones hair out when setting up Wi-Fi direct.

iPhone 5S review

In this option you simply tap the photo you want to share, make sure the person you're looking to share it with has a compatible Apple device (and is visible) then tap on the icon of the person that comes up at the bottom in the Control Centre - this works really well and the photo sharing times between the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C were very impressive indeed, using Apple's implementation of the Wi-Fi ad-hoc technology.

It's startling how fast photos beam across, and it's more simple than competitor methods, providing you've made yourself available or accepted other users.

Bluetooth - your days as a data transmission option are starting to draw to a close, unless a newer version of the technology pushes the envelope again.

Media

The iPhone range, and now including the iPhone 5S and little brother, is born from strong media foundations and thus can deliver in pretty much every department, from music to movies to imaging.

With the backing of the iTunes store the iPhone 5S puts millions of songs and thousands of films and TV shows at your finger tips, available for purchase and download.

The heritage goes further than that of course, with excellent sound reproduction on offer and an improved interface making all manner of music and video a really great experience.

Music

iPhone 5S review

With its heritage in the iPod sector the iPhone has top-notch audio capabilities will a fully functional music player and great sound quality allowing it to mix with the big boys in the mobile world.

It's not in the same league as the LG G3, with its insane 24-bit sound, but that's something that mostly the audiophiles will enjoy as they'll have the sound to pump through the phone.

With the iPhone 5S, it's a lot more simple. It's clear sound, as long as you upgrade the bundled ear buds and go for something half decent instead.

Apple's bundled buds aren't bad, but they still leak sound compared to some decent over the ear cans or the plethora of in ear and noise reducing buds on the market.

Back to the handset: you'll want to head over to the music player to get started. Here you can viewing all the songs saved on the 5S, as well as any you may have hanging around in iCloud - with a choice of sorting them by artist, song title or album.

Hit the "more" tab at the bottom of the screen and you'll see you also have the options to browse by genre, compilation or composer - if that's your sort of thing.

iPhone 5C review

You can create and edit playlists from the Music app on the iPhone 5S, and it's an easy system to master with a simple tap of the cross next to the track name all that's needed to get going.

As this is an Apple device album art is thrust into the mix, adding a bit of colour to the otherwise optician-white interface.

iPhone 5S review

Flip the iPhone 5S from portrait to landscape and you'll see album art becomes even more important as the images fill the screen in a tile effect allowing you to flick through albums in a visually impressive manner.

Tap a song to play and you'll be transported to the Now Playing screen which itself is pretty self explanatory. There you have normal play/pause, skip and scrub controls, with repeat and shuffle options below them.

If you tap on where the song details are on the now playing screen they will disappear to reveal a five star rating system, so you can let the iPhone 5S know which songs you favour. Tap again and the song details will return.

There's a button in the top right corner above the album art which will bring up all the tracks on the album you're currently playing.

More options for the music player can be found in the main settings menu - which forces an annoying departure from the Music app - giving you access to an EQ, the option to Shake to Shuffle and to set a volume limit to protect your ears - or those of a loved one.

Video

Videos are, unsurprisingly, handled in the aptly named Video app, where you'll be able to view all your movies, TV shows and music videos you have stored on the iPhone 5S as well as iCloud.

iPhone 5C review

If you're connected to Wi-Fi or trust your mobile signal not to cut out you can stream any iCloud content directly to the iPhone 5S, but if you're going on a plan or don't have a network connection you can always download the media to the handset to ensure fluid playback.

With the iPhone 5, Apple stretched the screen to provide a 16:9 aspect ratio and that 4-inch display is also present on the iPhone 5S making the video player a more pleasant experience.

I've already mentioned that the new iPhone's screen isn't HD at 1136 x 640 and held up next to video playback on any of the current crop of high-end Android phones (or the QHD display on the LG G3) you can see the disparity.

Some will argue that the 326ppi pixel density means the human eye won't really be able to discern the difference, but the fact is that on comparison there is a noticeable difference.

Watch video on the iPhone 5S in isolation however and you're unlikely to have any real complainants with a bright screen and smooth playback - I do wish that display was bigger though.

The iPhone 5S supports MP4 video files, and that's pretty much it. There are workarounds with third party video players available in the App Store which support different formats, but loading those videos onto the phone isn't overly straightforward so I'd recommend sticking with Apple's rules this time.

iPhone 5S review

It's a shame these restrictions are in place, as many phone these days support a wide range of video formats and Apple's limiting approach may well put off some prospective punters - although iTunes is rather adept at conversion if you're that bothered.

Video player controls are very simple. You get play/pause, skip, scrub (at varying speeds depending on how far you drag your finger up and down the screen) and volume, and that's it.

If your video supports subtitles then an icon will appear in the bottom right of the video player where you can select your language and toggle them on and off.

iPhone 5C review

I found the iPhone 5S was averagely comfortable to hold for extended periods of time, with the thin frame and sharper edges not making it conducive to lengthy watching, although if you invest in the leather case you'll be able to prop it up against a mug or seat back without it sliding all over the place.

One issue I had was with the placement of the headphones port which is right on one side of the handset, meaning the rigid plastic connector sticking out of the bottom of the phone does get in the way of your hands somewhat.

I should also mention that when it comes to video it still absolutely pays to have an iDevice, as things like BBC iPlayer, 4OD and Sky Go all have downloads available on the iPhone 5S. I'm aware this happens on Android phones too these days, but it always feels like an afterthought compared to being iOS-first for most video brands.

Battery life, connectivity and iTunes

Battery life

Battery life on the iPhone 5S is something that a lot of people will be checking out for a number of reasons, and mostly because they'll be curious as to how the uprated processor and iOS 7 combine to improve the life of your power pack.

While the iPhone 5 was an improvement in battery life for the iPhone range, there was still room for more, and that's partly come on the iPhone 5S.

The main thing that's been fixed is the fact that leaving the iPhone 5S on standby, perhaps overnight, sees very little drain on the battery. One night I noticed around 15% drop, but after that it was merely 4-5% on average which I can put down to iOS 7 keeping its apps in order a little better. On iOS 8.1 the battery dropped around 7% overnight.

So that's a big problem of the iPhone battery sort of solved: if it's in your pocket, it won't inexplicably run out of juice.

iPhone 5S review

However, there's still a rather large issue I need to address with the battery: and that's the problem of actually using the phone. I test a large number of devices here at TechRadar, and in the more intensive tests it's always interesting to see which phone fares better.

A little photography, web browsing, video watching and flicking through apps not only warmed up the 5S quite considerably but also saw a rather rapid drain in the battery. For instance: streaming BBC iPlayer on the train home for half an hour saw a 20% drop in the battery life.

With the launch of the Snapdragon 801, most Android phones absolutely destroy the iPhone 5S in terms of battery life. The One M8, Galaxy S5, Xperia Z2 and even the G3, with millions more pixels to drive, all exceed the battery life of the iPhone.

I can't see how the claims of 8 hours' browsing on 3G holds any water, as that was one area that really hurt the battery and caused the phone to heat up. Talking also drained the power pack, and Apple's quoting up to 10 hours on 3G. Again, I can't see it.

It's not horrendous, and if you're an iPhone user you'll be used to a faster battery drain, but there's definitely a wistful air that hangs over me every time I check out the battery percentage in the top-right corner.

Battery life is improved slightly with iOS 7.1 - but only to a 17% power drop in the video loop test. That's not a bad result by any means. Running the video test with iOS 8.1 resulted in a 25% drop.

But testing things out hard on the new platform just confirmed to us that the iPhone 5S can't hold out with general day to day use... and with the new brigade of ultra-efficient Snapdragon 801-enabled handsets coming out now, there's a new level of battery power Apple needs to be hitting with the iPhone 6, as this simply isn't good enough as a flagship now.

However, here's a great little update that will cheer you up: the iPhone 5S charges phenomenally quickly. REALLY quickly. I timed a charge in just a little over two hours from nearly dead - that's great if you just need a slug of juice on the run.

Connectivity

Unsurprisingly the iPhone 5S comes will all manner of connectivity options, but NFC is still the high-profile absentee at the Apple party. Not even the plastic clad iPhone 5C could tempt the firm to give us a bit of contactless tech, and it clearly paints a picture of where the brand stands in this area.

The iPhone 6, 6 Plus, and the new iPads have put Apple's NFC connectivity game on the map, but it's sadly lacking on the iPhone 5S. It's annoying because it means Apple Pay won't work with the iPhone 5S even though it has the Touch ID.

It's worth mentioning again that the iPhone 5S sports Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, 3G and 4G connectivity, with special mention of the latter as this phone supports the most LTE bands than any other smartphone, allowing even more people to take advantage of the superfast network.

iPhone 5C review

There's a new way to control Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 in iOS 7 with the arrival of the Control Center, which is accessed with a swipe up from the bottom of the screen as I mentioned before.

This brings up some shortcut settings including toggles for both connections, plus you can also enable airplane mode here if you want to go off the grid - or, you know, if you get on a plane.

GPS and GLONASS also make an appearance to help you locate yourself in Maps with earth shattering accuracy (and very quickly, too) and navigate you round the world with the free turn-by-turn satellite navigation system.

The iPhone 5S sports Apple's new physical connection port - dubbed Lightning - on its base which is used for charging as well as connecting to computers and any third party peripherals you may pick up.

It provides a faster connection than the 30-pin port it replaced, allowing for quicker data transfer meaning you won't be waiting around quite so long. Plus you can plug it in both ways round, which saves scrabbling at night.

Apple offers its own cloud storage solution, cunningly named iCloud, which lets you store all your vital information in its secure servers should the worst happen to your iPhone 5S.

You can back up everything from contacts, mail and calendars to photos, documents and notes to iCloud, and if you've owned an iDevice in the past you can download your settings from that onto your iPhone 5S - saving you from having to re-enter various bits of information.

iCloud also enables the "Find my iPhone" feature, so if you were to misplace your new iPhone you can log onto the iCloud website and see where your phone is on a map.

Once located you have the choice of making play a sound so you can dig it out from behind the sofa, report it as lost or erase the contents of the phone - it's all very clear stuff.

iTunes

No longer is there a reliance in Apple's desktop iTunes software when you come to starting up your iPhone for the first time - no physical connection ever needs to made to a computer during the lifetime of the 5S if you don't fancy digging out your Lightning cable. Although you'll probably need it to charge.

If you do decide it's time for things to get physical between your computer and iPhone then you'll need to make sure you've got the 11.1 and up version of iTunes installed, otherwise it will refuse to play with your new phone.

Why would you want/need to connect your iPhone 5S to your computer? Well perhaps you've got lots of music, movies and photos you want to transfer from your machine to your new phone - iTunes will pull it all in, churn it up and spit it out to your new iPhone in a useable format.

Using iTunes is a rather hit and miss experience, with the software performing far better on a Mac than a Windows PC, but either way it's usually a long, drawn out process which involves lots of syncing - so avoid it if you can, unless you're tremendously regimented in your music organisation.

Maps and navigation

Maps is a contentious area of the Apple ecosystem since its rather embarrassing launch which saw the whole of the internet go about spotting the myriad of errors in the software. It lead to an Apple climb down and CEO Tim Cook recommending users try alternative solutions until a fix in place.

Much later and I'm still waiting for the major overhaul to take place - Maps is still determined when I type "Luton" that I mean a tiny village in Devon rather than the large Bedfordshire based town.

iPhone 5C review

Some things have been fixed, Doncaster for example is now spelt correctly, but there's still quite some way for Apple Maps to go before it can seriously challenge Google Maps, with elements like public transport integration not on offer.

Of course it's not always bad news and for the most part Maps works pretty well, and it's able to comprehend where I am and where I want to go.

iPhone 5C review

The colour palette is pleasing to the eye and everything is very easy to read with various points of interest marked on the map including restaurants, hospitals and train stations.

Maps load very quickly on the iPhone 5S, be it over Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G, so there's no awkward waiting around when you fire up the app, and unlike the 5C, the 5S was very fast at locating us. I'm surprised about this, as the location chips inside should be the same, but clearly the A7 chip is playing a part here.

Turn Wi-Fi off and try and locate yourself when indoors and the 5S struggles to really nail down your location, placing a large blue halo round the location dot, which is usually in the right vicinity.

iPhone 5C review

As well as the stock map view you can also view the world in a series of satellite images or choice a hybrid option which sees roads laid on top of the satellite snaps.

However unlike Google Maps, the TomTom powered Apple maps doesn't have the StreetView option, nor does it sport any public transport information, so if you want to know which bus or train to get you'll have to go else where.

The 3D Flyover option which Apple lauded at the launch of Maps last year is nice to view when you're over a city which has actually supports it, but for the majority of the world there are no 3D renders present and thus the mode is merely there for aesthetic value.

iPhone 5C review

While there are some gremlins on the navigation side of things, in general Apple Maps is a very capable turn-by-turn sat nav alternative - and you'd hope so considering TomTom is behind the technology.

iPhone 5C review

Tap in your destination and pin pops up with a little blue square next to the address details with an estimated drive time - tap this and Maps will load the route from your current location, plus provide two alternatives.

Select the route you want and hit "Drive" and you'll be launched into the navigation screen, where the blue route stands out well on the grey roads making it really clear where you need to go - especially useful at tricky junctions.

There's an extra clever little feature on offer here too: with the M7 co-processor on board, the iPhone 5S was able to work out when I had stopped driving and began walking, showing that the phone's internal motion sensors are up to snuff.

I did note once during testing that the GPS signal caused the phone to freeze when jumping out to the email app, but this was a singular instance which I've not been able to replicate since.

I did find the text display the time and distance left on my journey and my estimated time of arrival were a bit small at the top of the screen and I found myself squinting at the screen to read them - not particularly safe when you're driving.

The stereo speakers on the base of the iPhone 5S allow for loud, clear spoken instructions from a robotic male voice, and the volume really impressed us as I've found many phones struggle to be heard over the noise of the car.

Apps

When it comes to applications the App Store on the iPhone 5S really only has one competitor in the form of Google Play, and it's fair to say that the App Store still comes out on top in terms of quality - if not quantity.

Apple confirmed it has over a million applications in its App Store, so there's plenty for you to choose from including business related content, fitness apps and games.

iPhone 5C review

The store itself is simple to navigate with various categories to drill down into to find the apps best suited to you, and the Top Charts shows you which ones are the most popular at the moment - and ultimately the ones which are worth downloading.

You can download a maximum of three applications simultaneously on the iPhone 5S, letting you get your favourite apps onto the phone even quicker.

If you select more than three to download the others will wait in the wings on your homescreen and will commence downloading when another has finished.

Apps such as Clock, Calendar, Weather, Calculator and Compass are all self explanatory, intuitive and have been given a visual reboot thanks to iOS 7.

iPhone 5C review

The Passbook app arrived with iOS 6 last year and provides you with a storage area for all your loyalty and gift cards, cinema tickets and airplane boarding passes.

Its scope is limited depending on which region you live in and there's only a handful of applications which current support the Passbook way of life - although most of the major airlines have tie ins with the service, as do the likes of Starbucks, AirBnB and yPlan.

Sadly the iPhone 5S lacks the necessary NFC hardware to take advantage of the new Apple Pay service, even though it does have Touch ID. You could always pair it with an Apple Watch if you want to try out easy contactless payments.

The new Health app is a real boon for fitness fanatics and the iPhone 5S has the M7 co-processor needed to take full advantage. It starts tracking your steps automatically and will sync with all kinds of third-party fitness apps and wearables. You can also pack in all sorts of other health related data, which could be very handy in an emergency.

Siri

Siri makes a return to the iPhone arena on the iPhone 5S and thanks to the iOS 7 update it's got a few new tricks up its sleeve - including the ability for you to choose whether it's a woman's or man's dulcet tones which ask you "what can I help you with?"

Just hold down the home button to activate Siri, or hold down the central button on the earpods cable if you're in need of some hands-free action.

In fact, now iOS 7.1 has landed you can hold down the home button and as long as it stays pressed Siri will listen. When you let go, the app will automatically start processing your request (and if it's voice dictation it's stunningly accurate) - and it's only going to get more intuitive with iOS 8.

iPhone 5S review

All the usual commands are present, from making a call and writing a text to setting a reminder to buy milk and finding out if you need to take an umbrella with you - because looking out of the window is difficult.

You can ask your virtual assistant to launch applications - although I found this a little unnecessary - and with the help of WolframAlpha you can ask poignant questions such as "how many days until Christmas?" or "how far away is the moon?" It's enlightening stuff.

I still think Siri just trumps the Google Now offering in Android, but it's usefulness varies from country to country (although that's something that's really up for debate with recent enhancements to Google Now) - with the best service available in the States where far more services are intertwined with the personal assistant.

Siri has become more useful with iOS 7, there's little disputing that, and the range of answers and information it can give is inching closer to day by day use. It's not great for some things, especially outside of the US, but I don't hate it as much any more. That's a win.

While Apple's own business orientated applications, aimed at taking on Microsoft's Office suite and Google Docs, don't come pre-installed on the iPhone 5S it's worth noting these apps are now available to download free on all newly purchased iPhones.

This means you can get access to Pages (a word processor), Keynote (a PowerPoint rival) and Numbers (basically Excel) free of charge, which will be a godsend for anyone looking to use the iPhone 5S for business. You'll also get iPhoto and iMovie for free too, and really does supercharge the iPhone when it comes to being a fully-formed device right out of the box.

All your documents are backed up to iCloud as well, meaning they'll be available on any of your iDevices or Macs - plus you can also access them via any web browser by going to the iCloud website.

Let's face it: if you want the best apps experience out there, then Apple still has it. While the top end of Android devices are pretty universal in their slick UI and power for apps, Google Play still has to deal with so much fragmentation.

Google has done a fantastic job at managing to overcome this problem, but its rare I'll download an app on an iPhone and an Android device and not be more impressed by the UI (if perhaps not always the functionality) on the iPhone or iPad.

iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C

For the first time in its history Apple launched two smartphones at the same time, and thus introduced a new tier to its iPhone range with the mid to high-end iPhone 5C joining the premium iPhone 5S.

But how do the two handsets differ? Well in simple terms the iPhone 5C is just 2012's iPhone 5 repurposed in a slightly chunkier, fully plastic body, while the 5S keeps the design of the 5 and adds a couple of new features.

If you fancy a more in-depth comparison check out our full iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C feature, but here's a quick breakdown of the main differences.

iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C: Build

This is easy - the 5C is plastic, the 5S is metal and thus feels far superior in the hand.

The 5S is thinner, lighter and generally much more attractive than its colourful, yet rather toy-like plastic clad brother which ends up feeling a lot cheaper than it is.

The iPhone 5S measures a svelte 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm and tips the scales at 112g, while the porky in comparison 5C comes in at 124.4 x 59.2 x 9mm and 132g.

iPhone 5C

iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C: Processor

The iPhone 5S treats you to Apple's fancy new 64-bit A7 chip which has been smashing its way through benchmarks.

That's not to say the A6 chip found inside the 5C is a poor offering - it runs iOS 7 just as well and it be honest in day to day usage there's little to choose between the two in terms of performance.

Where the 5S steps up is in graphically intense tasks, such as 3D gaming, where it's able to render a lot more and the addition of the M7 motion co-processor means all the sensors on the iPhone are kept in check.

iPhone 5S

iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C: Camera

Both handsets sport an 8MP rear facing camera capable of 1080p video recording and front facing 1.2MP snappers with 720p video.

The 5S has a slightly larger sensor, dual-LED flash on its rear as well as a slo-mo video recording mode, while the 5C makes do with a single flash and no fancy slow motion capture.

iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C: Security

One of the biggest new features unique to the iPhone 5S (the 5C misses out here) is the TouchID fingerprint scanner hidden under the home button.

It allows users to register a number of prints with the 5S which you'll then be able to use to unlock the phone and authorise iTunes purchases without having to enter your passcode.

iPhone 5S

iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C: Storage

You can pick the iPhones 5S in 16GB or 32GB models, while the 5C only comes in an 8GB option now.

iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C: Price

Aside from the design, the biggest (and most noticeable) discrepancy between the 5S and 5C is the price.

The iPhone 5S costs £459 for the 16GB model, rising to £499 for 32GB and the 64GB model has been discontinued. The 8GB iPhone 5C can be picked up for £319 and that's your lot, there is no other option anymore.

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Verdict

The iPhone 5S was Apple's attempt to stay at the sharp end of the smartphone market, and it's an iterative update compared to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus which represent a real leap.

Detractors will point to the identical shell (colours aside) of the iPhone 5S and claim that it's not much more than a rebadged iPhone 5 (nope... that's the iPhone 5C, people) but to do that misses the point of this new device.

We liked

If you want to match the iPhone 5S spec for spec with other smartphones, then it's a difficult task - but it
misses the point of Apple's device.

Below the surface Apple put together one of the most cutting-edge smartphones around last year, imbued with a top-end camera and a really innovative feature with Touch ID.

There's only so much that smartphone manufacturers can do to differentiate these days, and while Apple can't expect consumers to be wowed by the same shell, it can expect to get some interest in the sharp camera and gives a sense of relief with the new A7 chip.

The M7 chip is a really cool tool for developers to play with, though it has taken months for the iOS 8 update to really unleash its potential with the Health app and third-party tie-ins.

Yes, the 64-bit element of the A7 chip doesn't have a huge role to play now, but it does make things like camera use so much faster, and facilitates the increased security in Touch ID. I just hope Apple starts to exploit its power in the future.

We disliked

I'll start with a different refrain: the screen technology on offer here is what upsets us most. There will be a lot of upgraders from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5S, and many of them will be disappointed to see that two years later they're still looking at the same resolution, albeit a bit stretched out.

The only reason they'll be a little sad is that the Full HD screens of the rivals are so much more impressive - in its own iPhone 5S world, the screen is just fine and looks great and clear - but woe betide anyone that sees one of the larger devices out there.

I do want to applaud Apple for sticking to its guns and offering up a decent choice for those that like a smaller display, but this is already too big for one hand, so a little more real estate wouldn't go amiss. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are evidence that Apple agrees.

And then there's the price. Some reviewers don't seem to think this should be taken into account, that the mere fact Apple can command such a high cost for its phones, both on contract and SIM free, and still sell millions shows this is a moot point.

Perhaps it was less of an issue when Apple was such a market leader, but now there are at least four worthy competitors out there, and they all cost less. Even taking the price drop into account the iPhone 5S still looks pretty expensive.

I can't see what lives in the iPhone 5S to justify being the most expensive phone on the market at release, although I do recognise the effort that's gone into the premium design and spec list for the 5S.

Battery life is also a too suspect for my liking, and I'm already considering buying a second charger to carry around when using the iPhone.

Verdict

The iPhone 5S was, predictably, the best iPhone ever from Apple - but what's intriguing is just how much
I enjoyed using this evolutionary device.

There's always an apathy with any kind of 'S' device from Apple, as it's historically just the same thing
made a little bit better. It's true the advances on the iPhone 5S are few, but the ones that are there are
very impressive indeed.

64 bit apps have been slowly trickling out (although not really making use of the chip thanks to a lack of
RAM), and the A7 processor is clearly capable of some very heavy lifting.

Although we're past a year since launch and there still aren't that many high power apps available to take advantage of this chip - which makes sense given there's not really enough RAM to support it.

The camera is improved impressively, taking some excellent shots with minimal backlift needed from the user, and the Touch ID sensor is the first real step into biometrics on a smartphone, and one that Apple has succeeded in implementing.

The new iOS 8.1 has helped things a great deal, adding features here and there, fixing bugs, and opening up possibilities for Touch ID and the M7 co-processor.

It's no longer the best iPhone on the market, that would have to be the iPhone 6, but the iPhone 5S still has a place in the Apple eco-system. For fans of smaller phones this is still the best option Apple has to offer.

The combination of iOS 8 to freshen things up with a powerful core and great camera mean that this phone should be considered on its own considerable merits, and while the relatively high price will continue to put many off, anyone already wedded to the iPhone bandwagon, or even if they're just on the fence, will find a lot of joy in a phone that's a lot more than an iterative update.

First reviewed: September 2013

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