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9/27/2013
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Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week

From iOS 7 to battery life, here's what I have noticed while getting to know Apple's iPhone 5s.

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I've spent a week using the Apple iPhone 5s as my primary device. In general, it is a solid effort on Apple's part, but it is not without its faults. Here are some of the strong points and weak points I've observed over the last seven days.

iOS 7 is a bit buggy on the 5s. I've installed iOS 7 on an iPhone 5, an iPad 3, and an iPad Mini. It runs best on the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. On the iPhone 5s, iOS 7 is prone to app crashes. Third-party app crashes aren't too awful, but when native apps such as the Settings Menu and Safari crash, you know something's not right.

The hardware is fine, if unexciting. The 5s is a solid little device. Apple designed it with care and everything about it exudes quality and class. The display is great, even if it is smaller than I'd like, and the small form factor makes it easy to carry around and use.

[ For more on the iPhone 5s and the colorful, less expensive 5c, see Apple iPhone 5s, 5c: Pros And Cons. ]

It's not the best voice phone. I've been testing an AT&T model of the iPhone 5s and am not impressed with its phone calls. I heard lots of interference and the earpiece speaker doesn't get quite loud enough. The speakerphone produces plenty of volume, but it also amplifies the interference. The iPhone is a better voice phone.

The battery hasn't given me any trouble. The first few days were a bit iffy, but that's true of most smartphones. Once the battery cycled through a few charges, it settled into a good rhythm. I routinely got a full day out of it, despite heavy use. It's worth noting, though, that the battery cannot be removed or replaced, so you're stuck with what's sealed in the iPhone 5s.

The camera is great. The new software, combined with the improved sensor, go a long way toward making the iPhone 5s one of the best camera phones available. The camera app is simpler to use and includes more features, such as burst mode and slow-motion video capture, and the results are on par with today's best devices. The improved gallery app is far more powerful when it comes to organizing photos, and some of the editing tools are a welcome addition.

iOS 7 is still inflexible. Apple's simple smartphone/tablet user interface may win usability awards, but it is nowhere near as flexible or customizable as Android or even Windows Phone. The inability to control exactly where apps are positioned is frustrating, and the lack of resizable home screen widgets and apps leaves the OS looking too homogenous. I'd love to see some truly dynamic content on the home screen.

Control Center is convenient. Apple's new dashboard for controlling some of the iPhone 5s's features is a big help. It makes simple tasks such as turning on and off the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios a breeze. I also like the fact that it includes controls for the music player as well as apps like the flashlight, calculator, timer, and camera. This is definitely a time saver, considering that it took several steps to reach many of these controls in previous versions of iOS.

There's plenty to like about the 5s, but at the end of the day it offers only a slightly different experience than last year's iPhone 5. The Touch ID fingerprint sensor is the biggest difference. The camera and processor improvements in the 5s, though very real, aren't all that much better than the iPhone 5. We can only hope that Apple will make significant changes in next year's iPhone 6.

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Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2013 | 4:25:49 PM
re: Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week
Interesting point. Anybody else have iOS 7 apps stability experiences to share here?
Eric Zeman
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Eric Zeman,
User Rank: Strategist
9/30/2013 | 5:06:47 PM
re: Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week
Sean, I've had the Settings Menu and Safari crash. Those are both native apps/services. I've seen far more third-party crashes.
Eric Zeman
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Eric Zeman,
User Rank: Strategist
9/30/2013 | 5:09:31 PM
re: Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week
All widgets are definitely not created equal, but I find value in some of them. I'm not necessarily saying Android-style widgets, but some flexibility with the home screen would be welcome.

Also, Jailbreaking voids warranties, and a lot of people are uncomfortable with that.
Eric Zeman
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Eric Zeman,
User Rank: Strategist
9/30/2013 | 5:09:54 PM
re: Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week
Should read "...the iPhone 5 is a better..."
Eric Zeman
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Eric Zeman,
User Rank: Strategist
9/30/2013 | 5:10:09 PM
re: Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week
Should read "...the iPhone 5 is a better voice phone..."
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2013 | 8:58:50 PM
re: Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week
Good point on the hardware being a relative thing. With two-year contracts, a lot of iPhone 5 users won't be upgrading, so the extent to which the new phone needs to wow them is open to debate. To those coming from iPhone 4s and below, I think both of the new iPhones, but especially the 5s, would be solid hardware upgrades. But from an iPhone 5, I tend to agree with Eric; the 5 isn't far behind the 5s, and more substantial hardware changes are probably being withheld for the iPhone 6.

Here's one wild card with the hardware, though: The iPhone 5s has some sensors in it that aren't in any other models. The M7 sensor, for example, could open up some app opportunities that will further differentiation the 5s experience.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2013 | 9:02:09 PM
re: Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week
What is a flexible phone? Do you mean like the Ubuntu Edge?
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/30/2013 | 9:48:23 PM
re: Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week
I've had no app stability issues, but have noticed power draining faster than before.
JtH833
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JtH833,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/30/2013 | 11:04:24 PM
re: Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week
If you think that the 5s doesn't offer a dramatically different experience than the 5, you don't use your phone very extensively.
JtH833
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JtH833,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/30/2013 | 11:06:03 PM
re: Apple iPhone 5s: My First Week
I have a 4, and upgrading to iOS 7 made it significantly faster in many, many ways. It was getting extremely sluggish and iOS 7 actually improved it so much that I considered delaying the upgrade I was planning on making (but then decided against it since I can get $200 for my current phone and essentially upgrade for free).

Tell your friend to turn off the 3D effects. My buddy had an iPad that wasn't performing that great when he upgraded to iOS 7, and turning the 3d effects off made it faster than ever. But that's a non-issue on the 4, because it won't even support them :p

Anyway I would definitely recommend getting iOS 7 if you're worried about speed, it definitely seems improved in that regard and I think it's just the graphical effects that are slowing down the older devices.
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