After spending some time with the iPhone 5s, there are a number of features that stand out. Here's what we like best.
Side-by-side comparisons with the iPhone 5 demonstrate that the 5s is much, much faster. The 64-bit processor inside the 5s has incredible computing power, and it delivers a profound effect on tasks such as loading photos and videos and processing iMovie and GarageBand files. It was also noticeable when loading content, such as music files and movies, onto the 5s via iTunes. The 5s is quick to perform every task.
Apple's fingerprint scanner might be the target of a hacking contest, but it's the most consumer-friendly piece of biometric technology that I've used.
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The software that controls the scanner is very easy to set up and walks you through the process of creating a usable print. You can store a couple of prints, such as your thumb and forefinger. Once a print is stored, the reader is quick to recognize it no matter how you touch the scanner. There's no swiping, and it works the first time. Well done, Apple.
The iPhone 5s might not have a big screen, but there's no denying that Apple knows how to make quality hardware. The aluminum design of the 5s still has plenty of appeal, even though it is practically identical to last year's iPhone 5. The 5s is thin, light and easy to hold and use. The Retina display, despite not having 720p or 1080p HD resolution, still looks very, very good. There are no visible pixels, and text looks razor sharp. The buttons and controls all have an excellent feel to them, and the simplistic industrial design is in a class all its own.
I took a few sample images with the 5s camera and came away impressed. The iOS 7 camera application itself might be oversimplified, but under the hood Apple knows what it is doing. The 5s is very good at determining the right settings automatically to get the best possible shot. Although it doesn't have a dedicated macro mode, some close-ups I took of flowers showed an impressive amount of detail. Further, the accuracy of variables such as white balance, ISO and aperture to get the correct exposure is beyond reproach. The iPhone doesn't offer all the fancy features that devices such as the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG G2 include, but the results make up for it.
Since its launch two years ago, Siri, Apple's voice-guided digital assistant, has been the butt of many jokes (and deservedly so). Apple made improvements to Siri in iOS 7, and they really shine on the iPhone 5s. In particular, Siri has a redesigned user interface that is cleaner and easier to decipher. Siri's voice has been improved and sounds more natural and less robotic. Siri is dramatically faster at answering questions and does so even though it's checking more sources (Bing, Twitter, Wikipedia) for information. Siri is better at understanding natural language requests, and can handle more actions (playing voicemail, controlling iTunes Radio, etc.). The improvements, coupled with the faster processor of the iPhone 5s, make for a more rewarding and less frustrating experience.