I work in the mobile telecom industry. Actually, no; I’ll explain a little. I work at the sharp end as a combination of technical support and friendly adviser within a mobile telecommunications retail store. No; I don’t sell cell ‘phones. Instead, if you go into my particular company store and your email isn’t working, or you can’t remember your password, well I’m the guy you’ll see. Or if you wander in and want my opinion on something.
I’ll give clients my honest opinion of a new product, once I understand what they need from something. And so I’m looking at the new iPhone models for late 2013 following yesterday’s announcement.
As regulars will know, I don’t dislike the iPhone 5 hardware. It is fast, fluid, has a great screen. I’m less keen on the software; I don’t find that iOS lives up to the reputation of, “it just works” and I’m used to how flexible Android is.
So what’s different with Apple’s new lineup? Firstly, the iPhone 5 is not going to be sold going forward. Instead, it’s being replaced by two new handsets, the iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S. Of these, the iPhone 5S is the more advanced, more expensive handset. The 5C is the spiritual successor to the iPhone 5.
I’ll write about the 5S as it’s easier to explain. It sits in the same chassis but has revised internals: Apple have replaced the old A6 processor with their new 64-bit A7 processor and M7 co-processor. Not unlike the Motorola Moto X, the M7 co-processor is a power saving technology, designed to handle the sensor input rather than bother the main processor. We’ll see how this pans out in real life but the idea is solid: make the iPhone aware of what’s going on around it without draining the battery. Time will tell as to how effective this is and what difference it makes to the end user.
The camera has been improved and the home button reads your fingerprint to unlock the device or access your iTunes account. The new 5S is available in silver, space grey and gold.
It has the same screen, which is a mixed blessing. Yes, it’s small if you’re using to something with a 4.3” or bigger screen, but it’s very sharp and responsive to use.
The improvements to the camera are welcome but it’s the fingerprint sensor that is the most exciting. Apple have also worked on the networking to give it greater coverage, which means you should be able to get high speed Internet connectivity pretty much anywhere. All this without compromising battery life, which is absolutely a priority. Kudos to Apple for keeping battery life a focus.
From a productivity perspective, the new 64-bit architecture has been mooted as being revolutionary. Yeah; we’ll see. It’ll allow higher performance gaming, but until games catch up we’re not going to see any difference. You’ll still be able to pull your iPhone out of your pocket, read your email and reply at the same speed as you can with the outgoing iPhone, or indeed, every other handset.
The iPhone 5C is more interesting because this is close to a reshelled iPhone 5. It’s housed in polycarbonate with steel underpinnings. It’s available in a choice of bright colours, these being white, pink, yellow, blue and yellow. Compared with the outgoing iPhone 5, it has a larger battery and a radio capable of handling more frequencies, but otherwise it looks like it’s very similar hardware. This isn’t a bad thing, as the plastic chassis ought to be less prone to scratching with a stern look.
Apple are replacing iOS 6 with iOS 7. I’ve used the beta of iOS 7 and my overwhelming impression is… it works the video hardware more, so I can expect the older iPhone models to feel slower in the hand, but it has the same issues that iOS has. I’m yet to play with iOS 7 running on the new 64-bit architecture and perhaps I will be bowled over with how well it works and how the newly rewritten applications will hang together.
Some things stay the same. Apple haven’t moved to the MicroUSB port and neither device has NFC. Oh and there’s no laser rangefinder, which I was hoping for.
I don’t imagine many readers are contemplating moving to the iPhone, but from what I have seen and read, if you are deliberating picking up the current iPhone 5 or waiting for the new iPhone 5C or 5S, I have to write that I don’t see any immediate advantage associated with the new iPhone 5S. However, this is missing the point; if you have the opportunity, pick up an iPhone 4 running the latest iOS 6. It’s okay to use, it’s not as responsive as it was at launch, mind. I anticipate that it will be a little less responsive running iOS 7, perhaps not at first, but after a few updates. If you were holding out for an iPhone, the 5S is where the sensible money is with a two year time horizon.