iPhone 5s Review Video
iPhone 5s Review

Key Features

    • 4in Retina display
    • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
    • A7 chip with 64-bit processor
    • M7 Motion co-processor
    • Dual LED flash
    • Price as reviewed - £549 SIM-free (Available on contract for £50 on a £58-per month deal with EE)

iPhone 5s

An iPhone is still seen by most people as the pinnacle in smartphone sophistication. It is the most desired smartphone around the world, despite it now looking puny when compared to its competitors in the Android camp - the HTC One, the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the Sony Xperia Z.

But Apple is not in any rush to supersize its smartphone, keeping the same design and shape of last year's iPhone 5 for the brand new iPhone 5s.

Instead Apple has evolved the inside of its phone adding unique features like a fingerprint sensor, desktop computing power with its 64-bit A7 chip and an updated camera for better low light shooting.

But is this enough to keep it on top of the smartphone pile?

iPhone 5s: Design

Not much to say here. If you've seen an iPhone 5 then you know the score. The iPhone 5s has identical dimensions (128 x 59 x 7.6mm) and weight (112g) to last year's model. The only noticeable differences are the removal of the square logo from the home button where the fingerprint sensor now sits, and the dual-LED flash on the rear.

The biggest design change this time around is the availability of a gold-colour model, which seems very popular if the online ordering on Apple's website is anything to go by. My review model is the space grey model which has been slightly changed from last year's model and looks great.

In short, the iPhone 5s remains a premium smartphone with incredibly high build-quality and attention to detail.

iPhone 5s: Screen

Again not much to say here. Same size (4in), same resolution (640 x 1,136 pixels) as iPhone 5.

iPhone 5s Review Video
iPhone 5s Review

It is sharp, crisp and bright, with great colour reproduction. But it is small, and coming from using a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, it felt like a toy phone. Even compared to the HTC One (4.7in), Galaxy S4 (5in) and the Nexus 5 (5in) the iPhone now feels puny, something which the iPhone 6 is widely tipped to correct.

iPhone 5s: Performance and Battery life

The performance however does not feel puny. 64-bit processors have never been seen in a smartphone before and while the benefits won't be immediately obvious in terms of navigating around the interface it is a major technical achievement from Apple.

The benefits will be in the background with the mathematics behind using 3G and 4G networks, locations services like Maps and GPS likely to receive the biggest benefit initially.

iOS 7 has been designed to work on 64-bit chips and is as slick and smooth as it has always been, with the new transparent graphics not slowing down the iPhone 5s for a second.

iPhone 5s Review Video
iPhone 5s Review

Gaming, video streaming, web browsing were all carried out without breaking a sweat, and no matter what you do with the phone it never gets significantly warm.

While Apple has done a lot to improve battery life, the fact remains that you are not going to get more than a typical day's use from the iPhone 5s.

iPhone 5s: M7 motion coprocessor

Alongside the new 64-bit chip, Apple has added what it calls a motion co-processor which gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work from the A7 for improved power efficiency.

The M7 motion coprocessor continuously measures your motion data, even when the device is asleep. This means your iPhone can now act effectively as a fitness tracker without draining your battery completely.

Apple has opened up the API to third-party developers meaning we should begin to see a slew of new apps taking advantage of this new chip soon. So far there is only one, with Nike's Move app the first to take advantage of the M7's features.

As the quantified-self and wearable tech become increasingly important, technology like the M7 is likely to spread to all our devices very soon.

iPhone 5s: Camera

Apple has kept the 8 megapixel resolution of its camera, first seen on the iPhone 4s, but this is certainly not the same camera.

The senor is now 15% bigger to improve low-light performance and the lens has a wider aperture too promising to allow 25% more light in. The other major change to the camera is the True Tone flash which consists of two differently-coloured LEDs which aims to give the light a scene more evenly.

iPhone 5s Review Video
iPhone 5s Review

As we have come to expect from the iPhone's camera, the results are excellent. Comparing images taken with this 8 megapixel camera and a 13 megapixel camera from a number of Android smartphones shows little difference.

Low-light capture may not be as good as the Lumia 1020, but it is still a lot better than the iPhone 5 and on a par with most Android smartphones.

Apple has also updated the video camera on the iPhone 5s, adding a slow-mo shooting mode, which works very well and can give you some striking results - though it's only 720p quality compared to Full HD of the regular video camera.

The camera app has been completely redesigned for iOS 7. It is elegantly simple to use - especially when compared to some Android camera apps. You can easily switch between slow-mo, regular video capture, still image, panorama mode and a new square photo option.

Overall the iPhone 5s' camera is excellent and one of its best features.

iPhone 5s: Fingerprint scanner

The headline feature of the iPhone 5s is its integrated fingerprint scanner which lies under the home button.

The sensor will allow a user to register up to five separate fingers to use with the sensor and those fingers can be used to unlock the phone or confirm purchased through iTunes or the App Store.

Apple iPhone 5s Review, Video
iPhone 5s Review

Setting it up is simple.

An on-screen guide asks you to repeatedly press you fingerprint onto the sensor to get a reading. You are also asked to put the finger on the sensor in various orientations so you will be able use the sensor even when your finger is not addressing it straight on.

And like most Apple innovations, it just works. I never had a problem with the sensor identifying any of my registered fingerprints. It takes away the annoyance of having to constantly enter a pin code, which in itself is nearly enough to include the feature.

The problem is that so far the uses are limited. Apple has not opened up the API to any third-party developers, and with the iPad Air and new iPad mini not getting the Touch ID system, it could be a while until they do.

There are obvious security issues around this, and Apple has done its best to ensure users' fingerprint data is stored securely in an enclave within the iPhone 5s, but I suspect this is the reason Apple is holding back for now.

iPhone 5s: Value and Verdict

The iPhone 5s will set you back £549 for the 16GB version direct from Apple. There are dozens of options available from networks in the UK to buy the phone for a lot less, but you will tie yourself into a two-year contract paying over £35 a month at a minimum (and a lot more for a 4G contract).

Apple iPhone 5s Review Video
iPhone 5s Review

No matter what way you cut it, the iPhone 5s is expensive - but no more than other high-end smartphones from the likes of Samsung, Sony and HTC.

The problem most people will have with the iPhone 5s is that it is now beginning to feel very small when compared to any other flagship smartphone.

The inclusion of a 64-bit chip is all well and good, but you just get the feeling that it's not really being used to its potential on such a small device.

The camera update is great, the M7 chip could in time prove to be a big hit and the fingerprint scanner works flawlessly. The build quality is unmatched and the screen - small as it is - is crisp and sharp. Performance, software and app selection are all still class-leading, making the iPhone 5s a very attractive smartphone.

If you can deal with the (relatively) small 4in screen, then the iPhone 5s is just about the best phone out there.


    • Screen 9/10
    • Camera 9/10
    • Operating system 9/10
    • Design 10/10
    • Build quality 10/10
    • Overall 9/10

The Good

    • Superb build quality
    • Excellent camera
    • Unique features like Touch ID and M7

The Bad

    • Expensive
    • Screen now seems very small