Mobile // Mobile Devices
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10/17/2013
11:21 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Why I Returned My iPhone 5s

The iPhone 5s is a fine smartphone -- but it's not much different from the iPhone 5.

iPhone 5c, 5s: 10 Smart Design Choices
iPhone 5c, 5s: 10 Smart Design Choices
(click image for larger view)
After using the iPhone 5s for 25 days, I returned it to Apple. Apple graciously accepted the return with no trouble, as I was just within the 30-day limit. I liked the iPhone 5s, but I had several reasons for sending it back.

I recently described what it was like to live with the iPhone 5s for a week. Those observations haven't changed. I stand by all those statements.

Some background: I paid full price for the iPhone 5s because I didn't want to extend my contract. That means I spent more than $900 on the device including Apple Care and an upgrade to the 32-GB model. That's a lot of money. I already own an iPhone 5, which I purchased last year. The iPhone 5 runs iOS 7, which is the same operating system on the 5s.

The biggest reason I returned the iPhone 5s is because it didn't offer a different experience from the iPhone 5. Aside from the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, there was no obvious change in how the device performed. Sure, the 5s has a slightly better camera and faster processor, but the difference in performance is hardly noticeable. If you look at it from this angle, I spent $900 to get a fingerprint sensor. Let me tell you something: I don't need a fingerprint sensor on my smartphone. At least, not right now.

[ More iPhone shopping advice: 5 Questions To Ask Before Buying A New iPhone. ]

Also, the iPhone 5 offers several things the 5s does not. For starters, it is free of bugs. iOS 7 runs flawlessly on the iPhone 5. iOS 7 on the 5s was a bug-ridden mess. Apps crashed constantly, and the 5s was prone to random reboots. Reboots are rather inconvenient when you're speaking to someone on the phone. Speaking of the phone, the call quality on the iPhone 5 is slightly better than on the 5s. It has a warmer sound that I prefer over the 5s.

Another gripe I have is Apple's entire concept of keeping the same design for its smartphones for two years. The 5s is identical to the iPhone 5 in size, shape and basic appearance, save for the color. The iPhone 4 and 4S were identical, as were the iPhone 3G and 3GS. I find this approach to be lazy. Don't get me wrong -- I fully appreciate how much work goes into designing smartphones and all the engineering needed to make everything fit into such a tiny space. One look at Apple's competitors, however, and it's hard for me to digest Apple's strategy.

Samsung brings dozens of new smartphones to the market each year, all of which have their own design. Samsung makes iterative updates to its products too, but when you look at the progression of hardware such as the Galaxy Note, Note 2 and Note 3, you see marked improvements year over year. Same with the GS4 and other Samsung devices. The same can be said of LG, Motorola, Nokia, HTC and other phone makers.

Surely Apple could create a unique phone each year. It simply chooses not to. I understand its thinking and strategy here, but as a consumer and as a tech journalist, I want to see Apple do more.

If I am going to pay between $500 and $900 for a smartphone each year, I want it to be different from the one I had before. With the iPhone 5s, there simply isn't enough of a difference for it to be worth the money. If you're upgrading from an iPhone 4s, it's a big step up. If you're coming from an iPhone 5, it's more of the same. If Apple decides to make an iPhone with a bigger screen or some other major alteration to the hardware, then perhaps I'll buy it and stick with it. From now on, however, I plan to skip Apple's "S" years.

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anon2910051689
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anon2910051689,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 3:08:00 PM
re: Why I Returned My iPhone 5s
Reboots in ANY respect is something we expect from microsoft NOT from apple. Things like a wonky level sensor is ALSO something you would expect from bug ridden platform like windows NOT from i0S!

ps: steve jobs is turning in his grave.
anon2910051689
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anon2910051689,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 3:05:36 PM
re: Why I Returned My iPhone 5s
If you don't mind not having NFC (receive) The CA-201L (japanese version) is the best android device you can buy. The GSM radio will still work in the USA with full 3G.
VassilisD393
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VassilisD393,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 3:04:59 PM
re: Why I Returned My iPhone 5s
First of all, the "Why-I-returned-the-popular device of the time" is a very safe kind of articles, that a new kid (or writer, will not say journalist, no) on the blog should try just to get the attention (and clicks) he needs. Let's forget that for a sec.

Now, this guy's opinion is so full of the usual cliches, it doesn't make any sense to reply in detail. I will just ask this: Did your iphone 5S really reboot while on a call as you imply? Yes or No? And if yes, can you report on how you did it? The world is listening..

All the other bull stuff, it's like he doesn't even get the essentials about smartphone evolution. iPhone 5S is the most future-proof phone ever, is chock full of technology that will serve the user for iOS versions and many apps to come, and we are all sure this guy will buy it again, after this article is about a week old.

At least, he could write about returning iphone 5C, and then many people would agree with him, because 5C is far inferior than iphone 5 and the best advice around is to get yourself a nice new iphone 5, while stock lasts. But no, nobody dares come up with such a legit issue. This article really makes Apple a favour..
anon2910051689
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anon2910051689,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 2:53:14 PM
re: Why I Returned My iPhone 5s
Excellent commentary eric. Thank you for posting this.
Now maybe apple will wake up and see they can't treat us like cattle and actual fix the problems plaguing their new "wunderphone".

For starters they should have never allowed the TouchID sensor to be able to unlock the device. TouchID should have been used for nefarious data only directly linked to parts of notification center.
As the user depresses their fingerprint longer, more nefarious data should appear.

Data that in respect is only understandable by the user them-self.
Instead apple decided to go against this approach. Apple does NOT innovate.
It excavates.

More than HALF of the new features on the 5s can be done with tweaks if you are jailbroken. More than HALF of the other new features on the 5s are completely bug ridden. This is something I would expect from microsoft. Not apple.

Apple: Its time to wake up and smell the sauce.
hippodon
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hippodon,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 2:52:15 PM
re: Why I Returned My iPhone 5s
Face it, Eric bought the iPhone 5s to write this article with full intention of returning it during the 30-day return window. Cheap way to do a review. And the review is lame - the speed increase from the A7 chip is both noticeable and significant, the "slight" improvement in the camera puts it far ahead of anything out there right now. I have not seen any iOS 7 issues with my iPhone 5s. Samsung brings out dozens of designs all of which use stolen elements of Apple's patented software. There is no creativity there.

I'd give this review an D-
mdg1019
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mdg1019,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/19/2013 | 2:44:42 PM
re: Why I Returned My iPhone 5s
Try something like the Galaxy S4 if you want something better. Android phones are so far beyond anything Apple has to offer it's no longer even funny. Plus, iOS 7 is horrible. I have nothing against a flat UI, but Apple's designers should all be fired for this very weak attempt to copy other OSes.
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