HOT: Fingerprint scanner for fast logons and purchases; slow-motion video
NOT: Battery life
TECH SPECS: 4G, 64-bit A7 processor, 8 megapixel rear camera, 1.2 megapixel front camera; 4-inch Retina Display; 123.8x 58.6x 7.6mm; 112g. Full tech specs here
PRICE: 16GB: $1049; 32GB: $1199; 64GB: $1349
NETWORKS: Telecom and Vodafone are official carriers; 2degrees does not offer contract plans specific to the new iPhones but sells a compatible Nano-sim card for $5
The iPhone 5s’ hero feature is its fingerprint scanner, which doubles as the Home button (the 5s' body is otherwise a carbon copy of the iPhone 5, bar two new colour options, grey and gold).
NBR sometimes struggles with biometric and clever sensor features, which often suffer patchy performance, or address a problem that didn’t particularly need solving (the pause video when you look away from the screen function on Samsung’s Galaxy S4 smartphone is guilty on both counts).
The iPhone 5s’ fingerprint scanner solves an immediate problem: you’ve got your email and lots of sensitive files on your smartphone, but it’s a hassle to constantly enter a PIN (and a personal identification number is guessable, while your fingerprint is unique to you).
And it works - fast, and every time. Fingerprint scanning is not new, but Apple’s Touch ID is by far and away the slickest implementation NBR’s ever seen.
It takes about a minute to enrol a finger, and you can enrol multiple fingers, so it doesn’t matter how you’re griping the phone when you want to wake it up. You can also enrol, say, one of your husband or wife’s fingers but not the kids (a feature that could be useful if Touch ID is extended to iPads and MacBooks).
ABOVE: You can buy a song by typing your iTunes password, or with a touch of your finger.
Plus, you can also use Touch ID to buy something from Apple’s iTunes or App Store. NBR bought a song playing on iTunes Radio using a finger swipe (pictured above) – it’s a much easier way to part with your cash than typing in an iTunes password (Bloomberg says iTunes Radio will be officially launched in NZ in the New Year; Apple won't comment).
Touch ID isn’t perfect. If you press the Home button (rather than just lay a finger on it to scan), then you inadvertently activate voice assistant Siri. But overall, it’s very smooth.
There are two new colours, space grey and gold. NBR plumped for the gold (above), which is a subtle champagne rather than a blingy shade. And only the rear is gold. The front face is white. NBR added Apple’s optional camel-coloured leather case ($55), meaning the gold disappeared.
Under the bonnet, the iPhone 5s is the first smartphone to feature a 64-bit processor. There was no particular need to speed up the interface or apps on the iPhone 5 (and regardless, there are only a tiny handful of apps optimised for 64-bit at this point). But the faster chip, coupled with better graphics hardware, allows the 5s to take 120 frame-per-second video, which in turn allows for a very cool, user-friendly slow-motion option - and one that looks like smooth, true slo mo when it's played back at 30 frames-per-second (around the normal frame speed for video). It’s a lot of fun. Clips can be exported from your 5s to Facebook, YouTube or Vimeo at HD resolution (or lower) with the slo-mo effect intact, but I found you lose it if you export video to a Windows laptop (a MacBook with iMovie is fine).
The 64-bit processor, coupled with a better camera, also means you can shoot faster, smoother panoramas. The better hardware also enables a new continuous burst shooting mode. Hold down the button and your iPhone 5s keeps taking photos until its memory runs out. Some clever thumbnail trickery makes it easy to discard the pics you don’t want.
Apple says the 64-bit processor setup also allows for smarter power-saving features, giving the 5s slightly better batter life than its predecessor. Overseas reviewers have had mixed results. I found the iPhone 5s the same as the 5, and equivalent Android smartphones – which is to say a lousy half day if you use the handset intensively, or close to a day with light-to-moderate use.
ABOVE: The 5s' slo mo video feature has spawned a number of viral videos showing off the new feature. Here's one.
16GB: $899; 32GB: $1049
Apple has also introduced the slightly cheap iPhone 5c, which has very similar specs but loses the Touch ID scanner and 64-bit processor, and features a plastic case rather than the aluminium that has housed recent Apple handsets.
NBR was worried it would look and feel cheap. But it in real life the 5c has an ultra-glossy finish, and feels very robust.
The 5c comes in a variety of bright colours, and there’s a bunch of different $45 sleeve options too. Apple supplied NBR with a green 5c wrapped in a pink sleeve. If nothing else, it'll wake you up in the morning.