iPhone 5c, 5s and iOS7 put to the test

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IMG_4342Apple’s been busy maintaining their perceived lead over other mobiles by updating the design of iOS and releasing new phones that aren’t particularly innovative, but have the beautiful finish and smooth operation that will keep the faithful happy for a while to come. I’ve combined my experiences with the new iPhone 5c and 5s, and delved into what sets iOS 7 apart in one review; so get comfortable and read on.

 


The iPhone 5c tested was provided by Vodafone UK – If you’re considering a top smartphone then take a look at their offerings!

 

 

External – 5c

Last year’s iPhone 5 was a step in the right direction for Apple.  A bigger, wider screen made the handset a lot more usable for watching videos, and gave iOS a whole extra row of icons. Yes, I know.  The 5C takes all that made the original 5-series good, but presents it in a rather more comfortable and (slightly) more affordable package.

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The dimensions are very much the same save for a millimetre or so in every direction, though gone is the rear anodised aluminium and glass combination in favour of a (in Apple’s own words) “beautiful” polycarbonate shell.  It actually feels more tactile in most respects than the original 5 and the 5s, retaining that feeling of solid build, despite the cheaper finish.

Nothing has changed from the the 5 in terms of button layout, and indeed everything else on the outside is kept the same, apart from a few of the holes being omitted on the bottom edge of the handset.

iPhone5models

 

External – 5s

The 5s is (apart from the two-tone colour scheme) almost identical to the original iPhone 5. There are only two other alterations which sets it apart, firstly the fingerprint sensor built into the home button, which forgoes the dimple and adds a slight bezel. Apple claims the sensor is capable of reading whether the digit you apply is indeed attached to your beating heart, and it sure does give impressively quick access to home-screen. Secondly there’s now a dual-LED flash rather than the single LED. Apple promise realistic colour reproduction thanks to the combination of two slightly different colour temperatures – though how much effect this has in the real world was difficult to discern.

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touch-id

The 5s I had the chance to look at was in the new “space grey” colouring, however the it’s is also available in a rather garish gold and of course silver. Apple claim that the finish of the new 5s is designed to avoid the easy scratching that ruined many original iPhone 5s and left some rather disgruntled customers. Have a read of Kieron’s experience to get an idea of just how bad this was to start with.

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IMG_4333 copyThe Internals

The 5c stays content with identical internals to the first iPhone 5. That’s an A6 dual-core processor at 1.3gHz coupled with the PowerVR SGX 543MP3 triple-core graphics processor and 1GB of RAM.  Internal memory options come in the form of 16 or 32GB, and it goes without saying that there’s no removable storage options.

The 5s takes the same boost that has also been recently given to the new iPad Air in the form of the more advanced 64-bit A7 processor.  There’s still ‘only’ 1GB of RAM and the processor is clocked at the same speed as the A6, but its ARM-V8 architecture is combined with the quad-core PowerVR G6430 for prettier visuals.

Both of the new models sport the 1136*640 resolution 4″ LED-LCD screen producing a ppi of 326.  As I found with the 5, the screen is incredibly close to the touch panel which makes for a very pleasant touch experience, and despite it not being anywhere near the highest resolution screen on the market, the relatively small 5th generation phones still look great.

8MP /1080p rear and 1.2MP /720p front facing cameras are identical in the 5 and 5c, whilst the top-of-the-range s-class manages to cram in some slightly larger pixels on to the 15% larger sensor, bumping up from 1.4 to 1.5µ and acquires auto image stabilisation , burst mode and slow-mo to boot. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS.

 

The Cameras

camera

First a couple of confessions. After I’d reviewed the iPhone 5c, I managed to wipe it before retrieving all the photos I’d taken with it – argh.  The 5s you see in the above pictures belongs to my friend, who got it on day one.  Because of this I don’t have my own photos to share with you in this review. :sadface:

If you want to see the quality of the photos taken on the 5c, take a look at my iPhone 5 review.  The sensor & optics are the same, so it’ll give you an idea of what to expect.

The 5s on the other hand has the bigger sensor which gives a slightly larger field of view and gives better low-light performance with an f/2.2 aperture only bested by the HTC One. The A7 processor is put to good use with the welcome capability to combine three snaps together for the best possible picture and get some excellent results.  The dual-LED flash backs things up with its “Truetone” capabilities.  As I previously mentioned this is essentially two slightly different colour LEDs; one is a warmer white, whilst the other a brighter white with blue tints.  Apple claims that they allow the camera to get a more accurate reading of the colours in the scene, though despite the extra brightness the difference was hard to notice in anything other than almost total darkness.ios7-camera

The updated camera UI in iOS 7 looks simple but is mostly well executed, however the options to turn on the flash, enable HDR or switch to the front facing camera aren’t quite as responsive as I would have expected, making it more difficult to adjust things when you’re in lower light or trying to capture that arty shot. You can easily swipe between modes such as Panorama or HDR, and there’s also a ‘square’ option which makes photos more suited to social networks.

Video shoots at 1080p, unless you’re trying the new slow-mo mode which still manages to shoot at an impressive 720p which allows you to easily choose when to speed up or slow down the action.

Here’s a selection of Photos taken with the 5s that I’ve stolen unashamedly from other corners of the web and can only credit with my love and appreciation:

photosample3       photosample2       photosample1

 

iPhone5-ios7iOS 7

After Jonathan Ive took over the reins of the Apple design collective from the toppled Scott Forstall, it was clear that Ive was ready to take the ideals laid down by Jobs allowing him to continue to create relevant, modern and class-leading interfaces.  For Apple to stay in command of the UI crown, they needed to stave off recent criticisms driven by some truly excellent Android and Windows Phone alternatives. When Ive and his compadres unveiled iOS6 in late 2012, there was an awful lot of underwhelmed reactions from press and public.

iOS7 had to bring radical changes, and in a number of ways it has.  Gone are many of the tacky skeuomorphic effects that adorned Apple’s core apps – the stitching in the leather, abundance of chrome, wood and other materials that the designers believed made for a human interaction.  In their place are a bright colours, gentle gradients, no more black lines at the top or bottom, a new system font and overall UI simplicity that is in many ways more reminiscent of the flat design of Android JellyBean than the previous version of iOS.

ios7-unlock       ios7-multitask       ios7-newsstand

ios7-notificationsThe 7th generation mobile OS brings with it more gestures – upwards swipes will bring up the Control Center complete with connectivity toggles, volume and brightness, music and some app shortcuts (which you can’t edit). Swiping downwards gives you the revised notification area; it’s now divided into three sections which you can glide between.

Firstly, the Today panel presents a summary of your calendar and tells you what the weather’s doing. ‘All’ keeps a tally of background notifications, app updates and more, whilst the ‘Missed’ pane shows the alerts you may not have not seen. It’s certainly prettier than the more cluttered notifications area of old, and despite borrowing so much from Android manages to pull off that transformation elegantly.

Moving between apps and other homescreens has been given extra panache with fancy 3D parallax effects and some queeze inducing bouncing and zooming.  Luckily Apple has more recently updated the OS to allow you to tone down the effect, which with its refinement feels much improved.

Thankfully, the Messaging app has dropped the glass balloons in favour of green (text) or blue (iMessage) flattened ones; the most recent message is the darkest, with earlier ones fading to white. One slight niggle I found is that timestamps are hidden by default, requiring a swipe left to see them.

The browser has taken on a more unified approach with the address and search bar being combined in to one, whilst the bookmarks are represented by icons rather than lines of text.  Mail has cut down and improved too; you can delete messages with a swipe, and move others to the junk mail folder.

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iOS Music has perhaps the most dramatic changes, with cover-flow being dropped in the process of simplification.  Replacing the fun and iconic carousel is a faster, but rather less inspired grid of album artwork – which is replaced by some dodgy angled text if there is none. The Video app gets the flat treatment too, with more grids of thumbnails and pretty semi-transparent overlays you start a video or bring up the controls.ios7-home

Siri has had some subtle improvements, and now supports toggling of connectivity and searching of Bing without having to dive back to the browser. It still under-performs in the UK compared to its US counterpart, failing to give quite the same level of knowledge on people and places of interest.

Apple’s Map app is still largely lacking, and it’s most likely you’ll download Google Maps instead.  Though turn-by-turn walking directions are now available, everything else still feels thoroughly Beta.  The search is pretty awful, the lack of points of interest is almost laughable, but I didn’t experience quite so many of the graphical glitches that plagued the experience I had on the original iPhone 5.

I’m not alone in my main criticisms of iOS 7.  Whilst there’s been some great improvement to the interface with the cleaner style bringing it right up to date, the array of vivid colours against a clinical white background can make some apps feel a little underwhelming.  Icons are edging on the side of Fisher-Price simplicity, and rather than feeling like a fresh start for Apple it all feels like Jony’s designed his own theme that appeals to a much younger audience than it was supposed to.

Overall, against Microsoft’s tiles and Google’s widgets, there’s still a lot of room for improvement of iOS.

 

think-differentConclusion

Apple’s restrained and somewhat predictable strides forward in hardware are praised as genius by some, and whilst I’m not totally disappointed by the latest updates to their mobile lineup, I see a lot more innovation from the HTC and Nexus camps.  Even the apparently ailing Nokia has stepped-up and pulled some unique features out of the bag.

Apart from the impressively fast TouchID sensor on the 5s, hardware-wise I struggle to celebrate the safe refinements that Apple seems content with making.  Although there’s still a core fraternity that would disagree, the lack of larger screen sizes is a sticking point for many new smartphone buyers which I can only hope is addressed in their 6th throw of the dice.  The 5c is a reasonable progression of the original iPhone 5, but with the only change being the new plastic clothes, I’d have expected a cheaper starting price.

One cannot deny they’re both excellent phones in many regards.  The 5s camera is as good as I’ve found in the competitors so far (Lumia 1020 discounted), the speed and fluidity of every application and interaction shows that the A7 is a very capable processor and the build quality and material choices are only rivalled by the HTC One.

iOS 7 brings a lot of improvements over the dated skeuomorphism but in the process has become a little condescending in its child-like appearance. The improved notification and control centres are hugely welcome, and if they can tone down the icon colour palette without loosing any more of the Cupertino-brand flare they’ll prove to be heading in the right direction.

 

iPhone 5c

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Price: 16GB – £469 / 32GB – £549.
More InfoApple
Operating System: Apple iOS 7.0.3.
Size: 124.4 x 59.2 x 8.97 mm at 132g.
Extras: LTE (all modes), Wi-Fi (802.11 A/B/G/N + Dual Band), GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, 1.2MP/720p front facing, 8MP rear with 1080p video.
Battery Life: 1510mAh.
Memory: 16/32GB onboard storage, 1GB RAM.
Processing: 1.3gHz Dual-Core Apple A6 chipset.
Screen: 4″ IPS-LCD capacitive touch-screen, 1136*640 resolution, 16M colours.

 

iPhone 5s

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Price: 16GB – £549 / 32GB – £629 / 64GB – £709.
More InfoApple
Operating System: Apple iOS 7.0.3
Size: 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm at 112g.
Extras: LTE (all modes), Wi-Fi (802.11 A/B/G/N + Dual Band), GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, 1.2MP/720p front facing, 8MP rear with 1080p video.
Battery Life: 1560mAh.
Memory: 16/32 /64GB onboard storage, 1GB RAM.
Processing: 1.3gHz Dual-Core Apple A7 chipset.
Screen: 4″ IPS-LCD capacitive touch-screen, 1136*640 resolution, 16M colours.

 

iOS 7

75

About: Free update for iPhone 4, 4s, 5, iPad 2, 3 and 4 and preloaded on iPhone 5c, 5s, iPad Air and Ipad Mini (2013).
More Info: Apple

 

Thanks to Vodafone for providing this handset to review – If you’re considering a top smartphone then take a look at Vodafone UK’s offerings.

 

 

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Posted in: Mobile, Reviews

This article has 1 comment

  1. John 11/21/2013, 10:45 pm:

    Great review mate! if you fancy doing one of MacBook Pro’s and their competitors, would be hugely grateful hah.

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