And that quickly becomes noticeable in the practical use of the iPhone 5s and also the entry-level model 5c.
Among Apple’s innovations, two things stand out. First, the team around chief designer Jony Ive has decisively improved the camera function. In addition, there is a fingerprint reader under the home button of the iPhone 5s, with which Apple wants to enable users to more conveniently protect their data on the smartphone.
In the iPhone 5s, the built-in iSight camera now achieves a larger aperture of f/2.2, which allows the smartphone to take impressively good photos even in the evening in the living room by candlelight. In low light without the flash on, the iPhone 5s takes four pictures in a row and merges them into one motif. With this night mode, you don’t have to wait several seconds for the result, as with the Samsung S4, but can continue snapping immediately.
Apple presents a real innovation with the new dual flash, which consists of two different colored LEDs. This allows the 5s to change the color temperature of the flash as needed and adjust it to the environment. Other smartphones fire their flashes with a very “cold” color temperature of 5000 Kelvin, often ruining the mood of the photo. The Apple device, on the other hand, can flash between a “warm” 3200 Kelvin and a more blue-tinged 4700 Kelvin. This feature is not even available on full-blown digital cameras at the moment.
Apple also offers a premiere with a new slow motion function for video recording. In this mode, the 5s shoots 120 frames per second instead of the usual 30. Although the resolution drops to 720p in the process. However, this still falls into the “High Definition” (HD) category, while the competition switches back to VGA level for slow motion. The bottom line is that Apple claims to have developed the best camera smartphone to date with the iPhone 5s. Future tests will show how the 5s fares against Nokia’s Lumia 1020, which has just been launched with a 41-megapixel camera. The camera of the colorful 5c, on the other hand, is the same as that of the predecessor iPhone 5 and has to make do without the innovative two-tone flash.
The new fingerprint scanner, which Apple calls “Touch ID”, made headlines even before the market launch. The new feature should encourage iPhone owners to better protect the contents of their smartphones. Up to now, almost every second user has completely refrained from protecting access with a PIN code or password, because it is annoying to have to unlock the device umpteen times a day. Now the iPhone 5s can – if you want – be accessed in less than a second by placing a finger on it.
The optional fingerprint does not completely replace the input of PIN or password. Every two days and for important system settings, the 5s asks for an additional authorization via the keyboard even with “Touch ID” enabled. The device can capture the prints of up to five fingers, allowing multiple people to access one device. In the test, all attempts to lever out the scanner with adhesive films and graphite spray, wax impressions or other tricks failed.
In times when there is a lot of talk about the snooping of the Anglo-American secret services, Apple emphasizes that for “Touch ID” not the fingerprint itself is stored on the iPhone 5s, but a mathematical derivation of it. This means that the 5s can recognize whether an authorized person’s finger is on the home button or not. However, it is mathematically impossible to recover the original fingerprint from this so-called hash. “What we don’t store can’t be requested by any government agency, not even the NSA,” says an Apple manager.
Apple has also implemented additional security features in Touch ID. The chopped and reduced information from the hash is stored in a sealed-off area, which Apple calls the “Secure Enclave”. In this data vault, Apple encrypts the data with its own method, which is supposed to correspond to the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cryptosystem with a secure key length of 256 characters.
Users who are still not convinced by this long list of security features can, of course, also do without the activation of “Touch ID” altogether. When setting up the 5s, users are explicitly asked whether the scanner should be turned on or not. The 5c comes without a fingerprint reader anyway.
Particularly relevant for the German market are the overdue improvements in support for the fourth-generation mobile network (LTE). The iPhone 5 could only establish an LTE connection in the Deutsche Telekom network. The two successors 5s and 5c now also radio in the networks of the competition, because they now support 13 different LTE frequency bands worldwide. On the Vodafone network, LTE should work from day one; O2 customers will have to wait “a few weeks” for Apple to unlock use of the Telefonica network, an O2 spokesperson says.
Theoretically, you can transfer data with the iPhone at speeds of up to 100 megabits per second in an LTE network. In the practical test, we achieved values of up to 66 Mbit/s, similar to the previous iPhone 5 model. At least 20 Mbit/s still flowed with a weak LTE signal. Both new iPhone models also impressed with their battery life: the 5s lasted for over twelve hours at a stretch when surfing via WLAN, while the 5c lasted for over eleven hours (and thus one hour longer than the predecessor model). Of the competition, only giant smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 offer somewhat longer runtimes, because they have room for a significantly larger battery.
What will be interesting in the coming weeks and months is what Apple means by saying “The most forward-thinking iPhone yet” when describing the 5s model. On the one hand, Apple probably alludes to the fact that a 64-bit architecture is used in the 5s for the first time, which contributes to the fact that the A7 chip used works twice as fast as the predecessor A6 and can produce graphics in a quality that you wouldn’t expect from a smartphone.
However, the new M7 co-processor, which evaluates the data from the accelerometer, gyro sensor and compass, also has a lot of future potential. This processor not only enables new types of fitness applications, but can also help save power, for example. The new iPhone 5s no longer tries to connect to WiFi networks when you’re in the car. When navigating in a car, the chip also notices when you have finished driving and automatically guides the user the last hundred meters to the destination in the pedestrian view.
As with the predecessor model, Apple is paying well for the object of desire. Without a contract, the iPhone 5s costs 699 euros in the 16-gigabyte variant, Apple charges 789 euros for the 32 GB version, and 899 euros for 64 GB (incl. VAT). The colorful entry-level 5c, which is offered with 16 and 32 gigabytes, costs 100 euros less each. The iPhones will also be available from providers at significantly lower prices.