- SMB Spotlight
Apple's iPhone 5S is the firm's latest flagship smartphone, and brings a range of new features to tempt users to upgrade or move over to the iOS family. We've put the 5S up against its predecessor, the iPhone 5, to see if it's worth upgrading from the 2014 premium model to its 2013 sibling.
Users of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5 are now able to upgrade their devices to run the latest mobile operating system from Apple, iOS 9. The latest software update was rolled out in September 2015.
iOS 9 offers improved battery life, bolstered security, context-aware search and a reduced file size to make installing the operating system an easier process for devices upgrading from iOS 8.
Key features include a smarter version of Apple's virtual assistant Siri, which gains a new user interface and the ability to be more proactive when handling the one billion requests it receives every week. Siri is able to deal with requests in a more contextual way, making suggestions based on a user's location or what is currently on the screen of an iPhone or iPad.
The new iOS also gives the native Maps app an overhaul, adding a new subset feature called Transit that provides specific information on public transport.
Enterprise users of iPads can rejoice at the addition of split-screen multitasking for iPads which, as one would expect, allows two applications to be squeezed on a single screen.
To make installing iOS 9 more practical, it has also been given the ability to delete apps then reinstall them automatically to make updating from iOS 8 a smoother process.
The iPhone 5S, shown above left, houses the new dual flash
Design and build
The iPhone 5S is pretty much identical to the iPhone 5 in terms of design and build, as you can see from our video below.Both iPhones have an aluminium case and glass screen, retaining the premium look and feel for the latest model so you're not faced with downgrading to the plastic iPhone 5C. Both devices are also comfortable to hold, with the same thin and light build, measuring 124x59x7.6mm and weighing only 112g.
On the outside, both iPhones feature a power button, with a SIM card slot on the right, a ringer on/off button and volume controls on the left (the plus button can also be used to take pictures from the camera app). There's a headphone jack, microphone, Lightning charging port and speaker on the bottom of the device. On the back, you'll notice the flash has changed and is now egg shaped rather than circular. This houses the new dual flash, which Apple has added to improve image quality in poor lighting conditions.
The only other difference is the home button, which stays in the same position and retains its circular shape, but it is now edged in stainless steel with a sapphire crystal. This change is due to the new home button housing Apple's new fingerprint scanner technology, which we'll come to later.
The iPhone 5S, shown above left, has a new home button
The only other difference in design is colour choice. While the iPhone 5 was only available in black or white, the iPhone 5S is available in three colour options: with gold or silver backs and a white front, or with a grey back and a black front. The gold option will no doubt prove popular with those posers out there who like a bit of bling in their lives.
Winner: Draw (unless you're from Essex, in which case the gold option edges it for the 5S)
The iPhone 5S and iPhone 5 both feature a 4in Retina display with 1136x640 resolution at 326ppi. While the 5S doesn't offer an upgrade in terms of display, the iPhone smartphone screen is still a high quality display. The colours on webpages, games and video are bright and vibrant, while text is clean and crisp. The high-quality in-plane switching (IPS) panel is also evenly lit and the impressive viewing angles mean you can see what's on screen whether looking down from the top, up from the bottom, front or side on, or anywhere in between.
However, some 5S users or those who have upgraded their iPhone 5 to iOS 7 have complained about the new fonts, which are thinner and smaller, and the removal of boxes around menus, making text hard to read for those with visual impairments. So if you've got an iPhone 5 still running iOS 6, you might want to hold off upgrading if you're put off by the new pared-down interface.
The iPhone 5S has a major advantage over the iPhone 5 when it comes to security: the addition of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. This could be a selling point for firms considering rolling out iPhones as part of a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programme, or for workers using their iPhone for corporate data, making it much harder for unauthorised users to get access to information stored on the device if it's lost or stolen.
You can set up a fingerprint either when first accessing your iPhone 5S or via the General option in the Settings menu after entering your four-digit passcode.
It's pretty easy to set up by gently tapping the home button until the phone has gathered enough data to save your fingerprint. It will tell you if you need to move your finger, adjust your grip or keep it on the sensor. You can set up the sensor to recognise prints from different fingers on your own hands or someone else's, which is handy if your partner or friends often check things on your phone for you.
Once set up, all you need to do is tap the home button to unlock your phone, which saves you from typing in your passcode dozens of times a day.
The addition of the fingerprint scanner should see more iPhone users setting up this extra level of security on their phones. According to Apple, only around half of iPhone 5 and earlier handsets have switched on their passcode lock, while the firm expects the Touch ID scanner to prove much more popular due to the shorter time required to access the device, with just a touch of the home button, and also the fact that you can also use your fingerprint to make iTunes and App Store purchases.
While the 5S has the advantage of the fingerprint scanner, both handsets include the Find My iPhone, which is also aimed at making it less likely that people will be able to access your data if your phone is lost or stolen. If you try to turn off the Find My iPhone feature or erase the iPhone's content, you need to give your Apple ID and password, and even if the device is reset it will still require your login details to access anything.
Apple has also added per-app virtual private network (VPN) support for corporate rollouts via the iOS 7 upgrade, meaning firms can ensure any business apps accessed via iPhones are controlled by the IT team.
Winner: iPhone 5S
Apple has made major changes to the internal organs of the iPhone, upgrading the iPhone 5S to its new A7 chip, based on 64-bit architecture, along with a second M7 coprocessor. The iPhone 5 has the A6 chip and no secondary processor.
Performance on the iPhone 5S is smooth and nippy. Webpages were quick to open, apps were easy to access, and video and games were easily handled by the A7 chip. However, we didn't notice any huge performance improvements over the iPhone 5, which also offers a smooth and speedy experience.
Apple also boasted about OpenGL ES 3.0 support for graphics performance, offering more texture and shadows when playing games, although again we can't say we noticed a huge improvement over the visual effects found on the iPhone 5. This is largely because developers haven't yet released titles taking advantage of the new OpenGL ES 3.0 support.
Screenshot from Airplane! game on iPhone 5S
The addition of 64-bit architecture to the iPhone 5S is really about future-proofing the iPhone. It will allow Apple to increase the RAM, or on-board memory, on its smartphones, which in turn will speed up performance, or at least ensure that the heavier-duty apps and tasks of the future can run as swiftly and smoothly as they do now.
The A7 has more general-purpose registers than previous chips, and they are also larger. This means that it spends less time dealing with comparatively slow main memory, speeding up an app, whether it's 32-bit or 64-bit.
The coprocessor on the 5S offers an advantage around battery life compared with the 5. As someone who travels down to Cornwall regularly – not the best part of the UK in terms of mobile signal – we know how annoying it can be when your phone battery is wiped after a few hours as it's been busily wasting its time and power searching desperately for a non-existent mobile signal.
The M7 reads data from sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses that will tell the phone if it's moving or not. This means if you've left your iPhone 5S on the table overnight as there's no mobile service, it won't be dead when you pick it back up again the next morning.
Apple said the M7 coprocessor is also able to tell if you park your car and get out to continue your journey on foot, and will switch Apple Maps navigation from driving to walking. However, this didn't work when we tried out the feature. We set Apple Maps to navigate during an eight-mile trip, driving the first seven miles and then parking to continue the last mile on foot. When we got out of the car and walked for a few minutes, while the turn-by-turn navigation continued, it didn't update the remaining journey duration to reflect the longer time required on foot.
But aside from this glitch, the coprocessor and A7 chip have given the 5S a decent battery boost compared with the 5 – more on this later.
Winner: iPhone 5S
Apple has made a number of improvements to the iPhone 5S that make the camera a much more appealing option. We've never been that impressed by the camera on the iPhone 5 and its older siblings, mainly due to the poor quality of images in low lighting conditions, the lack of a decent zoom, and a paucity of different shooting options. With the 5S, Apple has gone a long way to answering the former and latter of these complaints.
The firm has increased the pixel size on the iPhone 5S's 8MP sensor by 15 percent to 1.5 microns, which along with the f/2.2 aperture is designed to let more light and colour into images. The iPhone 5S also has a dual-LED flash, designed to apply exactly the right colour combination to your photo's subject. The new flash works really well: the image below was taken in the dark with no lighting, and the colours are as natural as if it were taken in daylight.
Taken on the iPhone 5S
Compare this with the image below, taken in the same lighting conditions as the above picture, and you can see how much of an asset the dual flash is.
Taken on the iPhone 5
Via the iOS 7 upgrade, both the iPhone 5 and 5S feature a number of new photography tools, such as automatic image stabilisation and a new camera user interface in iOS 7 that enables users to add filters such as Noir, Chrome or Fade.
But our favourite additions to the camera are restricted to the 5S: the Burst and Slo-Mo modes. Burst lets you hold down the shutter button and take 10 shots per second, so you can then pick the best photo. We're not sure how many shots you can take in all, we got past 200 and gave up. Apple has also handily decided to group these burst photos as one shot in your Photos folder, so you won't suddenly be faced with 108 pictures of your cat in the same position.
Slo-Mo lets you shoot video at 120 frames per second at HD 720p, then choose a section to slow down to a quarter of the speed. For example, you could film somebody jumping from a window, or running down the street, and slow down a section to highlight their movement; or film a car driving towards you, and then slow it down to see the passengers in detail.
While the upgrades to the camera software via iOS 7 offer some improvements to the iPhone 5, we'd say the results from the new dual flash on the 5S make it worth an upgrade alone for anyone who uses their iPhone regularly as their standard camera.
Winner: iPhone 5S
Next: Software, apps, battery and storage
Software and apps
The iPhone 5S ships with Apple's latest mobile operating system iOS 7, but iPhone 5 owners can also upgrade to the latest iOS 8.3 version for free as mentioned previously. This update has been heralded by many as a flat design due to the lack of texture on app icons, the bare-bones fonts and the minimalistic menus.
While there have been many criticisms and complaints about iOS 7, the latest operating system does bring a few handy additions, such as the new Control Center, which can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen to get quick access to basic functions, including turning WiFi on and off or setting the phone to Do Not Disturb. There's also a new AirDrop feature for easy sharing of content with other iOS 7 users.
But while all the above are available on the latest and older handsets, Apple has thrown in an extra exclusive to 5S owners. The firm is offering its five core productivity and multimedia apps free with the iPhone 5S, which means a saving of £26.95. These include document app Pages, spreadsheet app Numbers and presentation app Keynote, all normally priced at £6.99, and video production app iMovie and photography app iPhoto, which normally cost £2.99 each.
The free iWork and multimedia bundle gives another advantage with the iPhone 5S for business users, as the apps store content in iCloud, meaning workers can access their spreadsheets or presentations across any Apple desktop or mobile device.
Winner: Draw (the iPhone 5S would nudge it for the free iWork bundle, but the iPhone 5 gets a mark up for those who hate iOS 7 and are still using iOS 6 on their older handset).
Battery and storage
Apple quotes up to 10 hours of talk time over 3G, online use over WiFi or video playback for the 5S, compared with eight hours of talk time or browsing over a mobile network, and up to 10 hours of video playback for the iPhone 5, both on unspecified batteries.
With both devices at full charge and set to full brightness, we downloaded a 725MB two-hour long programme from BBC iPlayer. This process took nine percent of the iPhone 5's battery compared to five percent from the iPhone 5S' capacity. We managed to play the video on a loop for 4.5 hours on the iPhone 5 before it ran out of juice; at this point, the iPhone 5S still had 14 percent of battery left. While there's a definite improvement with the latest model, you'll still find yourself needing to recharge each evening with medium to heavy use.
Both models come in 16GB/32GB/64GB storage options, but you'll be paying more for that extra battery on the 5S. The cheapest 5S is priced at £549, while the iPhone 5 was available at £529. The 64GB version will set you back £709 SIM-free, compared with £699 for the same size iPhone 5. However, as Apple no longer sells the iPhone 5, the pricing here won't be relevant as you'll be choosing whether to upgrade from your iPhone 5 to the 5S, rather than deciding which of the two to purchase.
For those wanting to upgrade, we hope you're not in a major hurry to get your hands on one of these premium models, as Apple is quoting a shipping time of two to three weeks.
Winner: iPhone 5S
Overall winner: iPhone 5S
While the iPhone 5S isn't radically different to the iPhone 5, it's a definite improvement regarding the camera, security and battery life. So for those using your iPhone for work purposes and as a camera replacement, we'd say it's worth an upgrade as early as possible. For anyone else, the updates aren't vital enough to merit rushing to upgrade and we'd instead suggest waiting until the next iPhone is out as this will likely offer a broader range of improvements.