This article was published on September 18, 2013

Roundup: Here’s what the first reviews say about the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c

Roundup: Here’s what the first reviews say about the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c
Jon Russell
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Jon Russell

Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.

The first reviews of Apple’s new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c are out.

With the devices going on general sale in the US, China, UK and other initial markets this Friday, let’s take a look at what the pundits make of the two new smartphones.

Related: Watch: Apple publishes its first iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c videos

iPhone 5s reviews

Apple Introduces Two New iPhone Models At Product Launch

Walt Mossberg, AllThingsD – iPhone 5s

Mossberg calls the iPhone 5s “the best smartphone on the market” and highlights the fingerprint scanner as “a potentially game-changing hardware feature.”

In my scores of tests, with three fingers, the reader never failed me and none of the 20 or so people I asked to test it was able to unlock the phone. If a finger match fails three times, the phone offers you a chance to type in your passcode instead. After five failures, it requires the passcode. Apple says the odds another person’s finger would work are 1 in 50,000, versus 1 in 10,000 for breaking a four-digit passcode.

He’s also impressed by the camera — which “worked seamlessly” — and found call quality to be excellent and battery life of the device improved, lasting a full working day.

Anand Lal Shimpi, Anandtech – iPhone 5s

Shimpi’s review is epic in length and detail, as you’d expect from the tech-focused site, and it concludes with an admission that he is “blown away by the level of innovation” that Apple has put into the device.

In particular, he praises the faster 64-bit processor, improved camera and fingerprint scanner. He believes the device is a must-have for those who didn’t upgrade to the iPhone 5 last year:

At the end of the day, if you prefer iOS for your smartphone – the iPhone 5s won’t disappoint. In many ways it’s an evolutionary improvement over the iPhone 5, but in others it is a significant step forward.

The review is long, but goes into more depth and technical detail than any of the rest.

David Pogue, New York Times

While he calls the fingerprint scanner buggy, Pogue focuses on the updated camera which he picks out as the most obvious improvement for Apple fans:

The new camera will mean more to you. Its sensor is 15 percent bigger, and the individual light-detecting pixels are bigger. Take photos side-by-side with the iPhone 5S’s predecessor, and the difference is immediately obvious; lowlight pictures are far better on the new phone. Clearer, brighter, better color.

Myriam Joire, Engadget

In a detailed and multimedia rich review, Engadget’s Myriam Joire calls the boosting of the device’s LTE compatibility “one severely underrated improvement” and says the fingerprint scanner a “a clever move” that Apple manages to pull off despite other companies’ failures in the past.

Here’s the key takeaway:

Is the 5s the best iPhone ever made? Yes, though that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Apple took a good product and made it better through hardware upgrades, new features and a completely revamped operating system. In what would otherwise be considered a mundane update to the iPhone 5, Apple somehow managed to appeal to both the geek (64-bit support, M7 coprocessor, Touch ID) and the average Joe (a fresh, colorful iOS 7), all while laying the groundwork for the company’s future.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball

Noted Apple blogger John Gruber pens a long, analytic review of both devices with a central focus on the iPhone 5s, since it represents the more significant technical achievement for Apple.

Hitting a critics who claim Apple can’t innovate — “What a pile of crap.” — he provides a deep explanation as to why, in his mind, the new 64-bit processor is a significant step for the iPhone.

There are applications today — imaging, gaming, cryptography, video and photo filters — that will benefit from 64-bit despite the fact that the iPhone 5S has just 1 GB of RAM. It should prove faster overall, even if only slightly, than a hypothetical A7 that had switched to ARMv8 but remained 32-bit only.

But the big win is laying the groundwork for the future. iOS developers should have few problems recompiling their apps for 64-bit.

On the real-world speed of the device, he notes:

To put that in context, the iPhone 5S beats my 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro by a small measure in the Sunspider benchmark (with the MacBook Pro running the latest Safari 6.1 beta). The iPhone 5S is, in some measures, computationally superior to the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro from just five years ago. In your fucking pocket.

Gruber has praise for the camera fingerprint scanner — though he notes that Google Now is still someway better than Siri — but he reserves his highest praise for the camera technology:

But the real innovation — there’s that word — is software, right there on the device itself, that makes it easy to select only the shots from those bursts that you really want to keep, and to throw away the rest.

This is what innovation, real innovation, looks like.

Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch

In his review, TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington calls the iPhone 5s “a new smartphone market king”:

With the iPhone 5s, Apple once again wins the right to claim the title of best smartphone available. The hardware may resemble its predecessor in many key ways, as with the 4-inch Retina display, but it improves dramatically in areas like the camera where it makes the most difference to every day users, and in the addition of the fingerprint sensor, which is already a feature I miss when I switch back to older generation devices or the iPhone 5c.


Jim Dalrympe, The Loop

Dalrymple says the fingerprint censor is an “unequivocally” excellent addition from Apple. He goes on to point out some of the benefits, which include time and hassle saved by no longer needing to enter a passcode.

His overall thoughts:

The iPhone 5s is a brilliant phone with some great new features that help you in work and play. The fingerprint sensor, camera, and improved speed and architecture, make the 5s my favorite iPhone to date.

Oh, you’ll be wanting to check out this review if you like videos of dogs — especially using the new slow-motion feature.

Scott Stein, CNET

Stein put emphasis on the potential of the iPhone 5s, calling it a phone that “introduces technologies that could transform the future of iOS as a computing platform, and maybe pave the way for future products in 2014”.

All you can really count on for sure with the iPhone 5S is that it has a noticeably better camera, is faster, and has better graphics punch. The rest is “future stuff.” Odds are that Apple will make good on many of these claims, but it’s never a guarantee. For the immediate now, the impact is incomplete.

Gareth Beavis, Techradar

Beavis finds the Touch ID to be an innovative feature, and he particularly appreciates the way it can be used to replace an iTunes password. Buying items or downloading apps is now made easier with a simple fingerprint scan.

The camera is improved impressively, taking some excellent shots with minimal backlift needed from the user, and the Touch ID sensor is the first real step into biometrics on a smartphone, and one that Apple has succeeded in implementing.

iPhone 5c reviews

Apple Introduces Two New iPhone Models At Product Launch

Lauren Goode, AllThingsD – iPhone 5c

Lauren Goode reviewed the iPhone 5c for AllThingsD, calling it a “a solid premium phone,” despite Apple departing from its standard aluminium build. Comparing it to the iPhone 5, which has the same internals, she concludes it is an “evolution not a revolution”:

This past weekend I used both the 5C and my own iPhone 5 at the same time, with the display on both set to about 75% of full brightness and their batteries fully charged. I ran the same apps, including maps apps, browsed through both Safari browsers and made phone calls on both phones. When my iPhone 5 died on Saturday night, the 5C had 17% battery power left.

David Pogue, New York Times

Pogue keeps his mention of the iPhone 5c brief, but he is full of praise for the concept that Apple has delivered:

It’s a terrific phone. The price is right. It will sell like hot cakes; the new iPhones go on sale Friday. But just sheathing last year’s phone in shiny plastic isn’t a stunning advance.

Rather than describing the case as plastic, Pogue likens it to being “lacquered like a glossy piano”.

Myriam Joire, Engadget

Joire also tackles the iPhone 5c in another review that includes a substantial number of videos and photos to give additional insight. She notes that, like other reviewers mention, iOS 7 is a key part of the iPhone 5c:

With the iPhone 5c, Apple’s crafted something that’s more than just the sum of its parts. It’s easy to be cynical and dismiss this handset as just an iPhone 5 in a colorful plastic shell, but that’s missing the point. There’s no doubt that the 5c looks gorgeous and feels wonderful in hand. It inherits tried-and-true features from the iPhone 5 and also gains a few new ones, like the improved 1.2MP front-facing camera. Still, that’s only half the story.


Anand Lal Shimpi, Anandtech

Shimpi is full of praise for the device’s screen — which is “incredibly bright, has the best color reproduction of any other phone we’ve tested and has more than enough contrast” — and he says that the plastic case doesn’t feel cheap. The battery life performs well over benchmarking tests, actually outdoing the iPhone 5s over WiFi and matching it for cellular.

His closing words include:

The iPhone 5c is a well built device. For all intents and purposes it is a perfect replacement for the iPhone 5. If you were planning on buying a cost reduced iPhone 5 once the 5s came out, the iPhone 5c should have no problems filling that role. Its performance, battery life and camera quality are all on par with the 5.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball

Gruber focuses his analysis on the iPhone 5s, but he does have comment for the cheaper iPhone 5c. Like others, he found the device to be nearing identical to the iPhone 5 in terms of performance, although the branding is clearly much different.

There’s not much more to say about it. I predict it’s going to be a huge hit, and that if anything, the iPhone lineup was overdue for something other than monochromatic color options. (It is interesting to me that Apple went with a black face for all the iPhone 5C colors, but last year went for a white face for all but the gray iPod Touches.)

And if I’m right, and the 5C proves popular, there’s an operational win for Apple as well. The 5C’s components are mostly those of the year-old iPhone 5 — a phone Apple already knows how to produce in very high volume. Though the case is new, surely plastic cases are easier (and cheaper) to fabricate than aluminum ones. The iPhone 5C could be the first new iPhone for which Apple has no problems meeting demand — not because demand is low, but because supply is easier to achieve.

Incidentally, he says he was given a pink review unit — Pink is the last color I’d choose for myself — but he believes this color will be the most successful model.

Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch

Etherington calls the iPhone 5c a “refreshing change” to Apple’s product line. He notes that the device largely mimics the technical specs of the iPhone 5, but has some significant improvements, particularly when it comes to its camera.

Focusing on its target market, he believes it can compete with Android to bring Apple devices into the hands of new customers:

The phone feels ‘young’ overall, and it’s likely that’s the kind of consumer that’s going to enjoy this device; the youth market and those just getting their first smartphone or moving up from their first budget Android device to the big leagues.

Jim Dalrympe, The Loop

Dalrympe says his reservations about the device’s plastic case were more than covered at the launch event, where, after seeing it for the first time, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on it.

Of the build quality, he says:

The iPhone 5c doesn’t actually feel like plastic. It’s strange when you first pick it up, but it almost feels like ceramic or a similar material that is glossy and hard. The manufacturing process that Apple used to make this phone and the metal reinforcement it used in the plastic casing certainly worked on making this phone tough.

Like others, he believes the iPhone 5c will compete with Android to reach consumers who are buying a brand new Apple phone for the first time.

Scott Stein, CNET

Stein feels that the iPhone 5c is basically “an iPhone 5 with a new paint job” and while it is a good choice for those who love the colors, it may be wiser to invest a couple of hundred dollars more for the iPhone 5s:

The iPhone 5C feels like a perfect cover-all-your-needs smartphone, offering the average person a complete set of tools to get everything done.

Gareth Beavis, Techradar

Beavis finds the phone to have similar functions as the iPhone 5, with the added iOS 7 a boon. However, the hefty price tag is unlikely to attract an upgrade from current iPhone 5 users and the plastic body lacks the premium feel usually associated with iPhones.

His overall thoughts:

The iPhone 5C is a great phone, it’s just a shame it’s last year’s great phone wrapped in a less appealing shiny plastic body and slapped with a still-premium price tag.

– – –

That’s what the experts are saying, what’s your take on the new devices at this point?

Are you planning to buy one of the new iPhones — if so, which one and why?

Also read: iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c vs. iPhone 5: What has Apple changed?

Images via Justin Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images, CNETCNET and Justin Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images

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