Without much surprise but with plenty of expectations, Apple has unveiled the iPhone 5S to the world. The smartphone uses. This time, most rumors were exactly spot-on and overall it looks nearly identical to the iPhone 5. The noticeable external differences are the ring around the Home button and the dual-LED flash in the back and the updated “gold” color.
Of course, the inside is another story. Apple has updated the main chip from an A6 to an A7 custom processor designed by Apple. Apple points out that A7 uses a more modern 64-bit chip (vs. 32 previously), which can probably bring a few benefits right off the bat by executing more instructions per second and by having more internal registers (a 15% performance boost right there, in many situations)."64-BIT DOES NOT REALLY MATTER AT THIS POINT AND 2X IS ENOUGH TO STAY IN THE RACE"
Overall, Apple claims a 2X gain on both the CPU and GPU performance – this is higher than the 31% gain rumored before the launch. Keep in mind that in some benchmarks, even 200% of the iPhone 5 performance will end up being significantly lower than what Android phones can score. This is obviously speculative, since we’ll need to benchmark the actual phone under controlled conditions, but for the sake of discussion, let’s visualize it.
The 64-bit part is mainly about memory and storage addressing, so given the 1GB-3GB of RAM and the 16GB-64GB of flash that smartphones have, it shouldn’t matter at all. Apple seems to be laying down the foundation for future generations here and I wouldn’t pay more attention to the “64-bit” part than that, for now.
The graphics performance has been improved by quite a bit according to the specs, and although we do not have actual numbers right now, Apple asked the guys from Epic to vouch for them by showing demos of Infinity Blade III, which is always a great crowd pleaser. Given Apple’s history of having oversized GPUs, I have no problem believing that graphics performance is much better. Apple can afford the bigger chip. Also, since the iPhone 5S is not 1080p, it will have to render less pixels, so I expect games to run at very high framerates frequently. Games are really one of these apps (with video) that don’t need to be super high PPI to look good.
Camera improvementsThe camera sub-system is one of the most important aspect of the iPhone, and Apple has integrated a new five-lens camera with an f2.2 aperture. They say that the sensor has a 15% larger surface area and instead of adding more pixels, Apple wants to have “bigger pixels”.In theory, this leads to a 33% increase in brightness, says Apple. This is a similar choice to what HTC has opted for in its HTC One smartphones released earlier this year."THE IPHONE CAMERA APP IS TRULY WHAT MAKES THE EXPERIENCE GOOD"
The camera app itself has seen its share of improvements too. This is probably the better part of Apple’s camera system since the lens itself isn’t as ground breaking as Apple would like us to believe. However, the iOS Camera app has always been pretty snappy, easy to use and quite good with the automatic settings. Now, the camera will snap many pictures and choose “the best one” for you that can be done either in the background, or in a specific 10FPS burst mode.
It will also use 15 zones of light metering (vs. 8 in the LG G2) to set the capture parameters in auto mode. Finally, the LED flash can reproduce about 1000 tones from cold to warm. This could be interesting – we’ll have to see how it performs in the real world.
In terms of video recording, there’s a new 120FPS slow-motion mode (in 720p), which is nice for all kinds of situations, but mostly for action shots. Of course, Apple has shown a number of shots during the live event, but we really need to check this out for ourselves. Apple says that the iPhone’s camera is still the one to beat, and that’s true in many ways, but the iPhone 5S arrives right on time because the iPhone 5 gets obliterated by the LG G2 (check this side by side low-light photo) and some Nokia phones, especially in low-light situations.
The new camera seems promising, so we’re looking forward to testing it.
Security: Touch IDOf course, the rumors of a new fingerprint sensors were also true (is it possible to keep any secrets these days?). Named Touch ID, the iPhone 5S new sensor will be placed in the home button and protected by a sapphire glass, just as it was revealed in earlier leaks. It can read with a 500ppi resolution and basically scan fingerprints. The ring around the button is in fact a sensor that will turn Touch ID on. Once activated, the phone should read your fingerprint and let you in."A QUICK UNLOCK BRINGS REAL VALUE"
If this is fast and fairly reliable, it could remove a lot of friction that comes with a password, especially a strong one. It would be faster to securely unlock a phone, and that’s real added-value there. The device will support multiple fingerprints per user, since you probably press that button with more than just your thumb.
Apple promises that your biometric data will be securely stored and available only to iOS. “It’s never available to other software.” Says Apple. Of course, the joke on the web is that the NSA is already all over that, but for now, I’m comfortable putting my fingerprint in there. Are you?
13 LTE bands: if you travel worldwide, the additional LTE bands will increase the odds that your phone will work in LTE mode abroad, or cross-carrier in your own country. Since there more than 40 LTE bands worldwide (and growing), be mindful that 13 still not enough, but it’s much better than the 4-6 that many phones do support today. Expect to see this show up in more phones as well since this is not a technology that is specific to Apple’s devices.
M7 Coprocessor: this is a tiny ultra-low power processor whose job is to keep an eye on all the internal sensors (it’s not unlike what Motorola is doing with Moto X). With this, the phone should be able to provide apps with a great deal of context. For example, M7 should know if you are static, walking, running or driving, just based on the motion sensor. It can probably tell if it is on a table or in your pocket as well. In time, this should produce new apps that are geared about self quantization (measuring yourself)."M7 MAY ENABLE A WHOLE NEW CLASS OF APPS"
Battery Capacity: Apple has not mentioned the battery capacity at all, but they did mention a 250 hours of standby time, which is a bit higher than the official 225 hours of the iPhone 5. the improvement could come from system-level optimizations, or it could come from a slightly bigger battery — we’ll have to wait for the tear down. Since the iPhone 5S body is relatively similar to the iPhone 5 one, any change can’t be all that drastic, unless the battery raw materials have been changed. In the meantime, both scenarios would probably look like this:
Pricing and availability
As usual, the new iPhone 5S will cost $199 and $299 in 16Gb and 32GB versions, that is with a new 2-year contract. In terms of regions, the U.S, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan (KDDI and DoCoMo), Singapore and the U.K will get it on September 20 and pre-orders start on September 13 for the iPhone 5C, but there are no pre-orders for the 5S. By December 2013, Apple will serve 100 countries and 270 carriers worldwide.
Nearly everything had already leaked, so there were no huge surprises today. As expected, the iPhone 5S brings some performance improvements, and a new fingerprint reader which holds some interesting promises. The camera app update may prove to be very good, but it’s clear that the photographic quality difference between the iPhone and the competitors isn’t what it used to be. We’ll take any improvements though because photography remains one of the top usage for smartphones.
The display remains unchanged which in itself isn’t a big deal since the screen size remains small anyway. The fact that there was no mention of the battery capacity would indicate that it remains very similar to the iPhone 5 one. After all, it’s not like there is more internal volume to accommodate a huge battery anyway.
All in all, this is a fairly regular upgrade of the iPhone line up. If you had been sitting on the fence with your iPhone 4S, maybe it’s time to cash in your upgrade eligibility. If you have an iPhone 5, it’s not obvious why you would spend the money. Finally, if you were on Android or Windows Phone, there is little reason to switch since the parameters that prompted you to make that choice have not fundamentally changed since iPhone 5. What do you think?
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