iPhone 5s Review: The Smartphone Goes 64-bit

Introduction and Specifications

For a time, Apple's annual tradition involved the unveiling of a new iPhone at WWDC. Then, things changed, and the iPhone's annual coming-out party began to happen a lot closer to the all-important holiday shopping season. But perhaps the most interesting change of late is how the iPhone line is evolving. At this year's gala, two new iPhone handsets were unveiled, marking the first event where more than a single new device was given the spotlight. The first weekend that they were available, Apple saw record sales, proving that the fire is still burning bright within their customer base.

The iPhone 5c is little more than a repackaged iPhone 5; the internals are essentially the same as those found in last year's flagship, while the rear is constructed from plastic instead of aluminum. The iPhone 5s, on the other hand, cements a consistent pattern for Apple. The company has shown no intentions of reinventing the wheel (or, the phone) every year. Instead, they seem content doing so every other year, with the in-between years offering up an enhanced "s" version of last year's phone to tide consumers over.  It's almost akin to Intel's "Tick-Tock" manufacturing model actually, though semiconductor architecture is a whole different ball of wax versus mobile consumer products, obviously.

The question then, of course, is this: is the "s" strategy enough? Early on, pundits slammed the iPhone 4S for being a warmed-over, gently-refreshed iPhone 4. The phone went on to become Apple's best-selling iPhone until the release of the iPhone 5. No doubt, those same pundits will be watching to see if the iPhone 5s can do for Apple what the iPhone 4S did in late 2011. Will consumers see the 5s as a big enough upgrade, or will they be inclined to wait until the iPhone 6 emerges?

Despite boasting a chassis that mimics the one found on the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5s actually has more than a few new tricks on the internal side that technology geeks especially will appreciate. The new A7 processor is the first 64-bit SoC employed in a smartphone design, and while it's likely limited somewhat, being paired with just 1GB of RAM (the same density found in the iPhone 5), this is clearly a move that's shows Apple's platform intentions for the future and the A7 architecture has a lot more going on other than a 64-bit instruction set and extended registers. Let's take a look at what's inside the new iPhone 5S...

Apple iPhone 5s Specifications
Specifications & Features
CPU Speed Apple A7 silicon (64-bit; dual-core 1.30GHz ARMv7 as told by Geekbench)
Platform iOS 7
Memory Flash 16GB/32GB/64GB + 1GB RAM
4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches  (LxWxT)
Weight 3.95 ounces with battery
Display 4" Retina Display with 1136x640 resolution; 326pp; Multi-Touch; 800:1 Contrast Ratio; 500 cd/m2 max brightness (typical); Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating on front, in-layer touch panel
Network GSM model A1533: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1/2/3/4); CDMA model A1543: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 3, 5, 13, 25)
Navigation All touchscreen
GPS Assisted GPS and GLONASS antennas
Sensors Digital compass, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Three-axis gyro, Acceleromete; Fingerprint Identity sensor
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0
Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz)
3.5mm stereo audio jack
Apple Lightning Connector
Camera 8-megapixel iSight rear camera with auto focus and 1080p video capture (up to 30 frames per second with audio) and Slo Mo; LED Flash; FaceTime HD front camera with 1.2MP photos and HD video (720p) up to 30 frames per second
Audio formats supported: AAC (8 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), HE-AAC, MP3 (8 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, 4, Audible Enhanced Audio, AAX, and AAX+), Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV
Video formats supported: H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per second, Main Profile level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in ulaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format
Battery Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery
Talk time: Up to 10 hours on 3G
Standby time: Up to 250 hours
Internet Use: Up to 8 hours on 3G or LTE; 10 hours on Wi-Fi
Audio Playback: Up to 40 hours
Video Playback: Up to 10 hours
Expansion Slot None
In-Box Content Main unit, Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic, Lightning Connector to USB Cable, USB Power Adapter, Documentation
$199 On Contract With AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile

The highlight features of the 5s is pretty straight-forward. There's the 64-bit A7 inside, the improved camera sensor (which allows more light to be captured while minimizing noise), and Apple's new Touch ID fingerprint sensor; but let's not forget Apple's new iOS7 operating system as well. Interestingly, it's also the lack of features that's making news -- namely, no NFC or contact-based solutions of any kind. Meanwhile, Android and Windows Phone are ushering in one new flagship after another, making it tougher and tougher for the iPhone to stand out. With that in mind, we'll explore the pros, the cons, and everything in between on the pages ahead.

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