iPhone 5s: The Closest Any Smartphone Comes To Being Perfect [Review]

Performance

Image courtesy of iFixit.

Image courtesy of iFixit.

We really thought Apple’s A7 processor would be a quad-core chip, but it’s not — it’s so much more than that. It’s the world’s first smartphone processor with a desktop class 64-bit architecture, and it blows its predecessors out of the water.

It’s twice as fast as last year’s A6 chip, both in processing power and graphics, and when combined with iOS 7 — which is already optimized for 64-bit — it’s blazing fast. The iPhone 5 is certainly no slouch, but the iPhone 5s is noticeably quicker at lots of things.

Take the Camera app, for example — there’s no stutter or lag no matter what you’re doing. You can quickly switch between different modes, apply live filters, record 1080p video at 120 frames-per-second, and tap to focus and it’s all instant — even if you use HDR mode. And thanks to the A7 chip, we now have slow-motion video recording (there’s more on this in the Camera section of this review).

We won’t really get to appreciate the 64-bit A7 until third-party developers start taking advantage of it. Only the iPhone’s built-in apps do at this point, and they were already pretty snappy anyway. Give it a few months until your favorite apps and games have been optimized and you’ll really feel the benefit of it.

iPhone-5s-gaming

In GeekBench 3 tests, the iPhone 5s achieves a score of 2558, which is more than double the iPhone 5’s score. It’s also better than the 1408 points achieved by the latest iPad. When you compare it to its Android-powered rivals, the iPhone 5s beats the 2078 points scored by the Galaxy S4 with an eight-core Exynos 5 Octa chip, the 1799 points achieved by the Galaxy S4 with a quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor, and the 1718 points scored by the quad-core HTC One.

The iPhone 5s on GeekBench.

The iPhone 5s on GeekBench.

Benchmarks like these aren’t everything, of course, but they certainly count for something. A score of 2558 is pretty incredible for a smartphone, and it proves that even though the iPhone 5s doesn’t have a quad-core chip, it’s perfectly capable of outpacing its biggest and best rivals.

That’s already evident in new games like Infinity Blade III, which looks incredible on the iPhone 5s. Its developers are famous for pushing the boundaries and redefining what’s achievable on a mobile device, and the third and final installment in the Infinity Blade trilogy certainly continues that trend.

The game plays exceptionally well; it loads quickly, the transitions are smooth, and it plays without a stutter. And the visuals are on par with what you’d expect from a high-quality PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 title. This really is console-quality stuff in the palm of your hand, and if you’re a gamer, you’re going to love it.

Call quality on the iPhone 5s has been just fine so far — exactly what you’d expect from a high-end smartphone. I’m yet to get a dropped call, and every conversation I’ve had so far has been loud and clear. Even in busy environments, the iPhone does a great job of blocking out background noise and making your caller easier to hear.

I wasn’t able to test the iPhone’s LTE connectivity, unfortunately — LTE networks are still pretty hard to come by where I’m based in the U.K. — but I’ve been impressed with the 3G speeds I’ve been getting so far.

Wi-Fi performance has been even better. I did several speed tests with the iPhone 5s and the Galaxy S4 — both one after the other in the same room, connected to the same server via the same Wi-Fi network — and every time the iPhone returned a lower ping and better download speeds. The Galaxy S4 did show better upload speeds, however.

iPhone-5s-speedtest

Next: Camera

Related

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  • iOS_TV

    I like what Jonathan Ive said, “new is easy, getting it right is difficult”. They certainly got it right with the 5s. It will be interesting to see what Samsung will copy from the 5s. We already know they plan on going 64 bit, they all upgrade the camera, but they will probably keep bumping megapixels. As popular as the gold color is it’s almost a given they will do that.

    It may be easy for Samsung to add a fingerprint scanner, but it will be extremely difficult for them to get it right in the way Apple has with the 5s.

  • cflorez6768

    Everything about this article was great. I have an Iphone 5S myself in black ( couldn’t get gold )… In my opinion there’s something wrong about that photo though… who the hell uses the BBM app??? so ridiculous. I wouldn’t insult my 5S installing that crap.. even if I was going to delete it a moment after. I wouldn’t even dare….

  • NHTeaParties

    This is the worst move and worst product of anything Apple has ever tried. Many unhappy people are defecting to Android because they may as well now that Apple acts and looks like a cheap PC. Sayonara Apple, I just sold $500K worth of your stock… as it is going to plunge as people defect from your defective unusable product that is so hard on the eyes. UGLY!!!!!

  • Bulldogger123

    This is the worst move and worst product of anything Apple has ever tried. Many unhappy people are defecting to Android because they may as well now that Apple acts and looks like a cheap PC. Sayonara Apple, I just sold $500K worth of your stock… as it is going to plunge as people defect from your defective unusable product that is so hard on the eyes. UGLY!!!!!

    You just proved why most people think Tea Party Members are idiots!

  • iSteve

    As Steve said ” I skate where the puck is going to be and not where it has been”… This sums up what Apple has achieved with the 5S. ==> Forward thinkig..

  • trudderham

    Really nice review, great to see some real-life photos of the space grey color. Anyway this is a great place to start if anyone’s looking for iOS 7 tuition: http://iosguides.net/ios-7/

  • Andrew John
    This is the worst move and worst product of anything Apple has ever tried. Many unhappy people are defecting to Android because they may as well now that Apple acts and looks like a cheap PC. Sayonara Apple, I just sold $500K worth of your stock… as it is going to plunge as people defect from your defective unusable product that is so hard on the eyes. UGLY!!!!!

    You just proved why most people think Tea Party Members are idiots!

    I think he just proved why most people think fandroid trolls are idiots!

  • rmbourbon

    Like you I have been using android for about 6 months with the Xperia Z. A very nice phone but android is buggy, laggy and annoying at times and I have been waiting for an excuse to get back to iOS and this phone has convinced me. I ordered one on the weekend and i have a grin from ear to ear. I am no fanboy given that i have tried android, windows 8 phone, Blackberry in the past and iOS but i think iOS still has the best OS and with iOS7 and the 5S I am really very excited. Now all Apple has to do jus make a 4.7″ phone and that will be the cherry on the cake.

  • Paul Burt

    You and everyone else are delusional if you think Apple is going to increase the display size again. Keep dreaming.

  • Bulldogger123
    This is the worst move and worst product of anything Apple has ever tried. Many unhappy people are defecting to Android because they may as well now that Apple acts and looks like a cheap PC. Sayonara Apple, I just sold $500K worth of your stock… as it is going to plunge as people defect from your defective unusable product that is so hard on the eyes. UGLY!!!!!

    You just proved why most people think Tea Party Members are idiots!

    I think he just proved why most people think fandroid trolls are idiots!

    You must be a Tea Party idiot.

  • MrsCleaver

    Good review, Killian. However I find your oft-used phrase “cream your jeans”, offensive and sophomoric. As I’ve posted before, I think using such language here is in poor taste.

    But thanks for a fairly in-depth view of the new iPhone.

  • MrsCleaver

    I misquoted your writing. The phrase was “cream their pants.”

    It’s fffensive either way, but I wanted to be accurate.

  • dcj001

    As Steve said ” I skate where the puck is going to be and not where it has been”… This sums up what Apple has achieved with the 5S. ==> Forward thinkig..

    Actually, Wayne (Gretzky) said it before Steve did.

  • dcj001

    You and everyone else are delusional if you think Apple is going to increase the display size again. Keep dreaming.

    It will happen one year from now with the iPhone 6.

  • Adrayven
    You and everyone else are delusional if you think Apple is going to increase the display size again. Keep dreaming.

    It will happen one year from now with the iPhone 6.

    Agreed. Fairly obvious the next step is to offer a ‘c’ class iPhone, then a ‘pro’ class iphone with 4″ and 5″ sizes.. I susect we’ll see 2 sizes like we see with their Pro laptops, which have 13″ and 15″. I think we’ll see a 4″ stay around and a 4.5-5″ phone added to the high end category and the iPhone C will say as the colorful option for mainstream users.

    I don’t think they will go over 5″ though.. under that probably. They’ve a space issue because of the large round fingerprint button to deal with.

  • DJBabyBuster

    As with all the incremental s updates, I’ll wait for a proper new phone with the 6.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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