Everything you need to know about the iPhone 5S

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So you’re thinking about getting an iPhone 5S? Maybe you’re just interested to see what all the fuss is about? You’ve come to the right place. Here’s the (not so) quick and dirty rundown of everything you need to know about the latest wonder from Apple. What’s new, what’s hot, and when you can get your hands on it.

New Phone, Same Great Design

At first glance, the iPhone 5S could easily be mistaken for an iPhone 5. The overall design of the device hasn’t changed at all. It features the same high-quality aluminum build and 4-inch Retina display as its predecessor, and measures in at an identical 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches. The handset weighs in at 3.95 ounces.

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When you won’t mistake the iPhone 5S for an iPhone 5 is when you see its new-look color options. The silver/white version appears identical, but Space Grey is a new take on the all black look, featuring an aluminum finish more akin to graphite than slate. But that’s not all. This time around Apple is offering the phone in gold — a premium color to match the premium design.

The only other area where design differs is the Home button. Gone is the familiar icon adorning the button, replaced by a silver ring as part of Touch ID. What’s Touch ID you ask?

Touch ID

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What will easily be the most talked about new feature of the iPhone 5S is something called Touch ID. It’s Apple’s name for the so-called “fingerprint identity sensor” build into the Home button of the device. This is the reason for the missing logo, as Apple redesigned the button to accommodate this advanced sensor.

Through a combination of metal ring, sapphire crystal lens and capacitive film layer, the iPhone 5S is able to read a users fingerprint, comparing it to a data set stored locally (and never on Apple’s servers or in the cloud), granting access only when a match is made. Yes, it’s exactly like the fingerprint scanners we have seen in movies like Mission Impossible and James Bond.

This form of biometric security offers users a means to bypass the typical lockscreen, and its location in the Home button means Touch ID is already located in a familiar place. What’s more, it will be integrated deeply into iOS, allowing users to confirm App Store purchases with fingerprint authentication instead of a traditional password.

We’ve seen biometric security spoofed before, you say? Well Apple is doing its best to make Touch ID truly secure. All data is encrypted locally on the phone’s processor, and resetting the phone or leaving it locked for longer than 48 hours will prompt a user to enter a password in order to access the device. Now…moving on to that processor we just mentioned.

Apple’s A7 processor

While Touch ID is the flashiest addition to the iPhone 5S, the A7 processor is perhaps the biggest. Moving up from the A6 chip of last year’s model, the iPhone 5S features true 64-bit processing and an optimized version of iOS 7 to boot.

But performance! You want to hear about performance. Apple is notoriously mum on clock speeds, but claims the A7 is twice as fast as the A6, and 40 times faster than the processor found in the original iPhone. Graphics process is even greater at 56 times that of the original iPhone. How do you manage this? You pack over 1 billion transistors into an area about the same as that of the A6.

On top of the blazing fast A7 CPU, Apple has tossed in what they dub the M7, a co-processor designed to handle motion calculations (hence the M) from the various sensors found in the iPhone 5S, including gyroscope and accelerometer. It means an easier workload for the A7, allowing its power to go to more important tasks like processing Slo-Mo video and capturing Bust Mode photos. Wait, you don’t know about the improved camera of the iPhone 5S?

Camera

On paper, the 8MP camera of the iPhone 5S might read as a rehash of the iPhone 5. Wrong. It’s a completely new sensor, despite the same megapixel rating. It feature pixels measuring 1.5µ pixels, larger than previous iPhone models. The larger pixels mean the camera can take in more data, allowing for better overall images in all lighting conditions.

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The camera also features an f/2.2 aperture and True Tone flash. That flash is quite the enhancement, as well, promising photos that won’t look washed out or bizarrely colored. It uses dual LED bulbs with different color temperatures and smartly configures their lighting pattern based on external conditions.

But the optical hardware isn’t the only way the camera has improved. New features built into iOS 7 on the iPhone 5S add a whole new layer to photo and video. Slo-Mo allows for video to be played back at a crawl using 120fps, all at 720p definition. Slo-Mo can be applied creatively so only certain segments of a video. Burst Mode will rapidly fire off a series of shots and offer to choose the best for you, or you can save as many snaps as you like.

The rest…

Touch ID, Apple’s A7 processor, and an enhanced camera make up the bulk of what’s new with the iPhone 5S, but there are other changes worth nothing. A battery that is about 10 percent larger than that of the iPhone 5 is one. An improved FaceTime HD camera is another.

So when can you get all this? The iPhone 5S will be available on September 20th for $199 (16GB), $299 (32GB) and $399 (64GB). If you want the low down on how it differs from other available models, you can read more about how it stacks up to the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C over at our full comparison.



  • Stewart Christie

    I think that Bust feature you describe will be more popular than the Burst feature that you mention later. That’s my favorite typ0 of the day so far..