By ROBERT EVATT World Business Writer on Sep 21, 2013, at 6:58 AM Updated on 9/21/13 at 8:54 AM
Apple Inc., always the innovator, decided to double the fun with its latest iPhone release Friday. The company gave its legion of fans a chance to upgrade with the iPhone 5S, already famous for its fingerprint technology, while also reaching out to budget-conscious consumers with the 5C.
We took both for a test drive, and here's what we found:
Apple's smartphone naming system previously gave people an idea of what to expect. A higher digit? That's a major upgrade. A new letter behind the same digit? Just a series of tweaks.
The iPhone 5S throws a monkey wrench into the system. Though the phone looks nearly identical to the iPhone 5, there are enough new features to make it a much-improved experience.
I'm glad the iPhone 5S comes in gray, silver or gold, because otherwise you'd think Apple slipped last year's model in new packaging. Nearly everything about it is the same as the 5, down to the screen size, shape, weight and color borders. The only real difference is a slightly elongated flash panel and a blank home button.
Incidentally, the gold and silver models appear to be sold out in the Tulsa area.
The phone comes loaded with iOS 7, the new operating system that seeks to dazzle you with bright colors and flatness. I wrote a full review of iOS 7 two days ago, but here's the gist - besides the new look, an easily accessible Control Center gathers frequently used functions, multitasking is better, iTunes Radio gives you free streaming music, and dozens of smaller adjustments make for a significantly improved system.
Keep in mind iOS7 can be installed on the iPhone 4 and up and the iPad 2 and up, so it's not necessary to get a new device just for that.
There are three main changes reserved for the iPhone 5S.
The marquee change is a fingerprint sensor embedded into the home button that can record up to 10 digits.
Fingerprint technology has been tried before with middling results, so I kept my expectations low. I shouldn't have. The sensor is so quick and accurate that I had to keep trying it to ensure I wasn't imagining what I was seeing.
Simply place a finger on the home button, and the phone will recognize it in half a second at most and unlock. It works in any direction - I kept trying to fool the sensor by putting my finger at all kinds of different angles, but it was always recognized.
Finally, you can secure your phone without having to take the time to type in a security code. Scanning is even a little faster than the swipe-to-open method. You can also use a thumbprint rather than a password to buy apps or media - a convenience that could be a little dangerous. If fingerprint scanning isn't your thing, don't worry - you can still use security codes and an opening swipe.
Next up is a camera that proves that megapixels aren't everything. Though it's the same 8 megapixels as the 5, I consistently took better pictures on the 5S.
The secret comes in a camera lens with a larger aperture, as well as a paired white and amber flash. Rather than bathe the scene with the same light in every situation, the 5S quickly determines which of more than 1,000 combinations of the two will bring out the best color in the current light. The tradeoff is a somewhat slower shutter speed in low-light situations, but it's well worth it.
We also have a faster, 64-bit processor. That kind of improvement is frankly an unexciting prerequisite for nearly all smartphone upgrades, though it really does make a difference in the speed of app launches, data downloads and video streaming.
Smartphones are a mature technology, and we should no longer expect regular revolutions. Even so, the 5S is a more robust and interesting upgrade than we've seen from Apple in some time.
You've probably heard the joke by now - the "C" stands for "cheap."
Yes, it's true the iPhone 5C is less expensive, with the base model starting at $99. And yes, unlike the standard anodized aluminum body the others have, the iPhone 5C is plastic.
Yet it doesn't feel like a cheap phone at all.
Let's start with that plastic body. It's actually a polycarbonate plastic, similar to what you might have on a high-end appliance. It's molded handsomely and has a nice, solid feel in the hand.
Each of the five colors is bright and pleasing, plus they're paired with a specific background in the operating system when you turn it on.
Put side-by-side with the now-discontinued iPhone 5 and there are few differences in the dimensions. The 5C looks to be a few millimeters thicker and maybe a hair or two heavier, but it's not anything that's obvious
The only other real change is in the volume buttons, which are rounded rectangles rather than small circles. That tweak might prevent some cases made for the iPhone 5 from fitting perfectly.
Compared to other smartphones in the $99 range, the 16GB iPhone 5C outperforms the majority of them. But there are plenty more phones that can outperform the $199 32GB version of the 5C, and if you're an Apple fan who really needs 64GB of smartphone storage, it seems like a waste to spend $299 on the 5C when an extra $100 will get you the significantly improved 5S.
But if you're looking for the iPhone experience on a tighter budget, the 5C is a solid experience that won't leave you feeling like you're using an antique.
Original Print Headline: iPhone 5S offers robust upgrade