REVIEW: Fingerprint sensor, dual-tone flash keep iPhone 5s interesting [Tulsa World, Okla.]
(Tulsa World (OK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 20--Apple's quirky smartphone naming system had previously given people an idea of what to expect. A higher digit? That's a major upgrade. A new letter behind the same digit? Just a series of tweaks.
The iPhone 5S throws a money wrench into the system. Though the phone looks nearly identical to the iPhone 5, there's enough new features to make it a much improved and surprising experience.
I'm glad the iPhone 5S comes in gray, silver or gold, because otherwise you'd think Apple slipped last year's model in new packaging. Nearly everything about it is the same as the 5, down to the screen size, shape, weight and color borders. The only real difference is a slightly elongated flash panel and a blank home button, both of which I'll get to in a minute.
Incidentally, the gold and silver models appear to be completely sold out in the area. If you're looking to upgrade, be prepared to stick with gray or settle in for a long wait.
The phone comes loaded with iOS7, the new operating system that seeks to dazzle you with bright colors and flatness. I did a full review of iOS7 two days ago, but here's the gist -- besides the new look, an easily-accessible Control Center gathers frequently-used functions, multitasking is better, iTunes Radio gives you free streaming music and dozens of smaller adjustments make for a significantly improved system.
Keep in mind iOS7 can be installed on the iPhone 4 and up and the iPad 2 and up, so it's not necessary to get a new device just for that.
There's just three main changes reserved just for the iPhone 5S, but they're big ones.
The marquee change is a fingerprint sensor embedded into the home button that can record up to 10 different digits. Fingerprint tech has been tried before with middling results, so I kept my expectations low. I shouldn't have. The sensor is so quick and accurate I had to keep trying it ensure I wasn't imagining what I was seeing.
Simply place your finger of choice on the home button, and the phone will recognize it in half a second at most and unlock. It works in any direction -- I kept trying to fool the sensor by putting my finger at all kinds of different angles, but it was always recognized.
Finally, you can secure your phone without having to take the time to type in a security code.
Scanning is even a little faster than the swipe-to-open method. You can also use a thumbprint rather than a password to buy apps or media -- a convenience that could be a little dangerous. If fingerprint scanning isn't your thing, then don't worry, you can still use security codes and an opening swipe.
Next up is a camera that proves that megapixels aren't everything. Though it's the same eight megapixels as the 5, I consistently took better pictures on the 5S.
The secret comes in a camera lens with a larger aperture, as well as a paired white and amber flash. Rather than bathe the scene with the same light in every situation, the 5S quickly determines which of over 1,000 combinations of the two will bring out the best color in the current light . The tradeoff is a somewhat slower shutter speed in low-light situations, but it's well worth it.
Finally, we have a faster, 64-bit processor. That kind of improvement is frankly an unexciting prerequisite for nearly all smartphone upgrades, though it really does make a difference in the speed of app launches, data downloads and video streaming.
Smartphones are a mature technology, and we should no longer expect regular revolutions. Even so, the 5S is a more robust and interesting upgrade than we've seen from Apple in some time.
(c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)
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