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Apple iPhone 5s review

 Review: September 2013  

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The iPhone 5s. It's such a nice phone. It's the fastest, the most beautiful, has arguably the best OS and one of the best cameras. But in some areas Apple is still playing catch-up, which is why the almost unbelievable price tag makes us think twice before fully endorsing it.

Today's best buy: Apple iPhone 5S 16GB from Laptops Direct (£149.97)



Every time we write an iPhone review we get people on here calling us haters. But we don't hate. We really don't. It's because we love our users that we want to give them the benefit of our 12 years' experience reviewing phones. We want them to buy the phone that's best for them. So, if you've already decided you want to buy the iPhone 5s, just don't read this review. Then you won't get annoyed by it. If you're open-minded and want to get the best phone for your money, then please read on.

Design & looks

2013 is clearly the year that Apple decided to flirt with the concept of colour. While the iPhone 5c has fallen head over heels with pastel shades, the more reserved 5s is experimenting with different metallic options. There are three choices - gold, silver and space grey.

No one would doubt the stunning, restrained elegance of the 5s. It has changed only subtly from the iPhone 5. The aluminium and glass body is much the same as before, with only the new two-tone colours and the metallic ring around the home button to distinguish the new model. It's still sensuously slim and lightweight and small enough to slip into your pocket.

We'd probably rate it as the most beautiful phone in the world. You may want to invest in one of Apple's iPhone cases that are leather and come in a choice of colours. But only if you want to risk uglifying your beautiful phone.

But the compact design of the iPhone comes with a cost. This cost is measured in inches and sadly there are only 4 inches spanning the iPhone's Retina display. If you're upgrading from an old iPhone, this will feel like a step up, but for anyone who's spent any time with a premium Android smartphone, 4 inches is going to feel very cramped. Similarly, the 1136 x 640 pixel resolution won't impress anyone who's used to a 1080p display offering 3 times as many pixels, such as the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4.

Biometric security

The key innovation for the iPhone 5s is the fingerprint scanner built into the home button. Touch the home button with your finger and the phone instantly recognises your fingerprint and unlocks. By default, the scanner is enabled and replaces a passcode. This new security feature, called Touch ID, can support multiple users, and can also secure iTunes purchases.

There's been plenty of debate around the internet about how secure this system is. Within three days of launch, the system had been decisively hacked by lifting fingerprints off surfaces and using them to unlock the iPhone. We have no desire to enter that debate here. We'll confine ourselves to observing that no system is completely secure, and the fingerprint scanner is probably no more or less secure than a passcode. Guessing someone's passcode is probably a lot easier than stealing their fingerprint, but the advantage of a passcode is that it can be changed. Once your fingerprint has been stolen, there's nothing you can do about it.

64 bit A7 processor

While the iPhone 5c sticks with the A6 processor previously used in the iPhone 5, the 5s moves forward rather decisively with the new 64 bit A7 processor. Also present is a new motion coprocessor called the M7. This incorporates an accelerometer, gyroscope and other motion sensors.

So, what exactly is the benefit in moving from a 32 bit processor to 64 bits? One advantage is that it allows more than 4GB of RAM to be accessed, although since the 5s uses less than 4GB RAM, that's not going to make any difference here. The second benefit is that 64 bit processors deliver better battery performance for the same performance. The power consumption of the processor is just one part of the phone's overall power consumption, but every little helps.

But the best bit about the A7 is that it it's twice as fast as the A6. That makes it the fastest phone out there, beating even the 8-core version of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Not only is it fast at number crunching, but it's fast at graphics, and that makes it superb for games.

iOS 7

The latest iOS 7 is a big step forward, as we discussed in our iOS 7 review. The new look and feel takes iOS confidently forward, and improvements such as better multitasking, more camera features and the Control Centre are all very welcome.

New iSight camera

The iPhone 5 already had one of the best cameras on a phone, and the 5s has an even better one. It's still an 8 megapixel camera, but the aperture size has been increased to f2.2 to let in more light and the sensor has been made 15% larger.

The new camera is equipped with a "True Tone" flash that produces more realistic colours. Stripped of Apple marketing speak, that means a dual LED flash that can be varied in intensity, much like other manufacturers have been using for some time.

These are evolutionary improvements to an already excellent camera, and the fact that it's now twice as fast when shooting pictures is the icing on the cake. If you want the ultimate in camera phones, you'll choose the Nokia Lumia 1020, otherwise you can be assured that the 5s delivers one of the very best camera performances.


One of the small but important changes is that the 5s supports a wider range of LTE bands than the iPhone 5. That means you can operate it on the 4G networks of EE, O2 and Vodafone.

Battery life

The battery life of the iPhone has never been strong, but the 5s improves slightly on the iPhone 5 by delivering 10 hours of continuous use.


We love so many things about the iPhone 5s. It's the fastest phone in the world and the most beautiful too. It has a fantastic OS and one of the very best cameras in any phone. Biometric security is cool, although perhaps more cool than secure. There are so many reasons to love the iPhone 5s.

But there are rational reasons why we aren't going to give it 5 stars. It's not only expensive - it's extraordinarily expensive. Vastly expensive. Too expensive. The 16GB version is available free on contracts starting at £40+. 16GB is probably too small, so add £100 for the 32GB version, or £200 for the 64GB.

And there's the screen. 4 inches really doesn't do it for us, and no 720p HD, let alone 1080p HD? A joke, surely?

Apple iPhone 5s features include:

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Apple iPhone 5s user reviews

Love this product? Hate it? Please share your experiences to help other people choose the product that's best for them. Please do not review this product if you have not used it, and please ask questions in our User Questions section above. Please do not use swear words or offensive language, and please, no advertising!

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Average rating from 28 reviews:

Reviewed by Paul from England on 27th Mar 2016
This is my first iPhone after years of Android phones including Samsung Sony and Nokia. This phone is great, really smooth running system no lag which i even had on my Sony Z3 compact. I would had given 5 stars if Apple had made their phone waterproof.

Reviewed by Chaychay66 from Uk on 16th Mar 2015
My first smart phone was a iPhone 3gs then the 4s, loved them both, but then decided to move to Android to see what I was supposed to be missing. Purchased Samsung note 3 great Phone did enjoy it for all of 9 months. I do understand why people like that operating system but the pull of iOS was always there for me! So I gave my note 3 to my daughter and purchased iPhone 5s. I love this phone it looks amazing works so well, everything is just so less complicated, You would think that coming from a large screen back to the smaller iPhone screen would be an issue but I never even noticed! Really happy to have my iPhone and for me i will never have another make of phone. Thanx Apple

Reviewed by steve from uk on 4th Mar 2015
Wanted a Z3 compact but all local retailers told me to stay clear as it is too easily damaged . Got a 5s instead and I am very glad that I did - its excellent.

Reviewed by Ella from England on 16th Jan 2015
Love this iPhone i ad 3GS then went to 4s then 5 then 5c then changed to Samsung s4 and s5 so glad gone back to Apple not changing again build and quality brill not plastic great op system no lag performance of Apple products brilliant built in anti virus not like android phones u av t find the app and a lot of redirects on android fones don't rate there software love iPhone steve jobs really did change the world of technology x

Reviewed by Anon from UK on 26th May 2014
Oops pressed submit to early.

I guess what I mean is, stick with what you know. I've had every version of the iphone and always seem to get another after trying others. The only other phone/OS I've liked a lot is Lumia 1520 running WP8(8.1 upgrade as developer) but found the phone just to big for every day use. But for build quality, ease of use, performance, reliability and does what it's meant to I just cant think of anyother phone other than the iphone 5s.

Reviewed by Anon from UK on 25th May 2014
I recently left the Apple tree for the Android world. Safe to say Android wasn't as great as my mates made out. I had the HTC One M8 which got returned after a couple of days due to a faulty handset overheating. Getting very hot to handle. Once bitten twice shy and exchanged for a Xperia Z2. First impressions were great. But even with a fast processor etc the phone had serious lag issues. Opening the camera took 5 seconds at times and when you have a 16 month old daughter you want to capture moments as they happen and not miss them due to a slow phone. A friend then rooted it and flashed a custom rom. What an idiot I was to let him. The phone was ten times worse. He explained there aren't that many custom roms yet for the xperia z2.

I'm due an early upgrade and an iphone 5s is on its way but could stick with the xperia so I purchased a Lumia 1520 thinking a big phone would be cool. Jesus it's big. Just too big for everyday use. I do however like the WP8 os and would definitely consider

Reviewed by LB from USA on 2nd May 2014
Have been a loyal Apple products consumer for several years, but, my recent iPhone 5S purchase left me wondering why ?
Not impressed, and after having upgraded, for the first time I actually feel as though I'm being held hostage by Apple's closed environment.
"Quality", is a relative term, and yes, the fit and finish of the 5S are very good, Apple's OS and the lack of the ability for the user/owner of the device the freedom to "choose" how and what the UI looks and feels, has caused this devotee of their products, too look elsewhere for my next device, sorry Apple, but it might behoove you to actually listen to your customers...

Reviewed by Tris from UK on 16th Mar 2014
Just been upgraded to the 5s from my company. We had blackberry 10 before. I liked blackberry so much I bought one as my personal phone. I have a space grey 5s and I have to say the build quality and camera are second to none. It runs butter smooth and content is outstanding. As an every day consumer product it's unbeatable. As a business device.......... Not so great. iOS lags behind big time in features. Email is basic. Contacts are not well intergrated, multitasking isn't really live and can struggle. Keyboard is very basic. Call quality can be dubious and it still suffers from dropped or blank calling. iOS itself is becoming a bit stale now. It's very refined and smooth but the features on other platforms are leaving it behind. As an every day phone it's fine..... But as a business phone my blackberry is wey ahead apart from consumer content.

Reviewed by David from UK on 4th Mar 2014
I have a Sony Xperia Z but I was kinda hoodwinked into the Iphone 5s as a company mobile and I about to return it as although yes its fast and easy to use I find the restrictions are really holding it back, cant use Bluetooth to send pictures or data... only way I found up to now is to email it , cannot set ringtones without hooking up to iTunes, most things are chargeable even accessories are extortionate the android system I find is easier to use and as for the cost.... wow could have a holiday for the same and have change no doubt.
Android all the way, as a phone I rate 4 stars but as the items I mentioned above ...sorry its no stars

Reviewed by Northd from UK on 18th Jan 2014
I agree with Graham below, I was the same I absolutely loved everything Apple, they could do no wrong. How wrong was I, and it took me years to realise. Now I have a HTC one, been using it for 6 months and no regrets at all. Everything about the HTC blows the iphone out of the water, it does everything that the iphone does, and more, much, much more. Don't get me wrong iphones are good, its just other manufacturers have passed them by miles.

Reply by Tonyz from UK on 23rd Jan 2014
Just wanted to voice my opinion, I agree with both Northd & Graham here, I have done the same. Been an avid Apple fan right from the outset with the iphones. Very sad to admit, but I have been the same, enclosed in their bubble, and being tunnel visioned. I changed sides September last year, and now I am so glad, got two phones Sony Xperia Z1 personal, and a Nokia Lumia 1020 and these phones are way ahead of any of Apples offerings.

Reviewed by Graham from UK on 8th Jan 2014
You could say I have been, or I am an Apple Fanboy, I love their products, I have their computers a desk top touch screen and a Mac Book pro. Me and the wife have an iPad each, so we do like Apple. However, now it has come to our attention of the restrictions that Apple impose on us their customers. The reason being, that my son got himself the HTC One some weeks before xmas, and wow what an eye opener, now we feel we have been in the Apple bubble, totally blinkered. I say this as I feel a majority of iphone buyers are like what we were.
Compared to the HTC One, sorry to say the new improved iphone 5s is lagging way behind. Fair enough the iphone works, and works well. However, when you charge a premium price for a product, then that product should be a premium package. After weeks of playing with the HTC,it honestly makes the iphone seem old fashioned, and that's hard for me to say. I have sold my iphone 5s, and my iphone 5 & 4, and not to copy my son went for a sony, the xperia z ultra, and what a machine. Reading your review of that phone it sums it up, the most powerful smartphone of 2013. Sorry Apple but you have lost a loyal customer, unless, you can change, less restrictions, and get your phones back to being state of the art again. Now you are lagging years behind other manufacturers!!

Reviewed by Rob from England on 6th Jan 2014
Just bought an iPhone 5s and it's my first ever iphone. I've been using blackberrys and samsungs until now. Have to say I am really not impressed. My partner has an lg g2 and that is leaps and bounds above the iPhone. The iPhone screen is nothing to write home about at all, the g2 has an amazing screen, the camera is good but still the g2 is better, especially for video recording. Then there is the dreaded rattle that every 4out of 5 iPhones have, I mean every reviewer goes on about the amazing build quality And materials used, but the g2 is plastic and but a lot more solid. The htc one is a lot sturdier and even the s4 which is known to be creaky feels on a par. In the end I am disappointed that after finally buying an iPhone and expecting to be blown away, I have just been blown back to android.

Reply by Paul P from UK on 2nd Feb 2014
I agree with the above comments. Had an iphone 3, 3g and 4s. Six years of Apple, and i enjoyed their phones. Was going for a 5s last November but saw the LG G2 next to the Nexus 5 in the phone shop. Went home and did a bit of research on them, but still went back to the phone shop with the intention of getting the 5s and the extra Applecare stuff too. However when i got there i decided to take a punt on the LG G2 instead. I have not been disappointed. Android takes a bit of getting the hang of! But apart from that... Tut ta iPhone.... !

Reviewed by Mint from England on 2nd Jan 2014
Got the I phone 5 s 32 g for Xmas To be honest the I phone 4 s I had before was just as Good ,In away I prefer it as its a little smaller and fits in your pocket better , Ok it's still the best phone out , But apart from the finger print & Camera not much differents .

Reviewed by Paul Laters from UK on 7th Dec 2013
Here are my views, is it the biggest phone that you can get and does it have the biggest screen? NO.
Is that a bad thing?
In my view no. Ive had my share of large screen phones that started with the Dell Streak 5 which at the time I was laughed at with the size of my phone, I moved onto the Samsung phones as soon as the Dell started showing its age all great phones but I feel I have done the large screen thing and need a more normal sized phone and hence smaller screen. Have I missed the screen real estate yes at the start but not now and the biggest thing for me is that Apple are one of the few people who offer real hearing aid support on a phone that is a normal size and best of all. It works.

Reviewed by Gayan from Italy on 4th Dec 2013
I have 32GB 5s. using it from 1 month and have to say it's the best iphone I've ever used. as everyone knows you cant expect too much from the battery of any smartphone.

Reviewed by Terrible Terry from Spoogeland on 2nd Dec 2013
Had it
Didn't like it
Sold it

Reply by Ianj from GB on 14th Dec 2013
Thank you for a useful, informative and helpful reply. Something to really add to the knowledge base.

Reviewed by Mark from Scotland on 1st Dec 2013
I have just upgraded from 4s and I must say the 5s is a vast improvement. Faster, lighter and oozes quality. The phone is a perfect size,not overly cumbersome like some large screen phones currently available. The camera takes excellent pictures and the phone responds very quickly whatever function you use. The only negative is the price, it's very expensive but if you like the iphone range then it's a price worth paying in my opinion.

Reviewed by Monica from UK on 29th Nov 2013
I love 5S. It's thinner, lighter, faster and it has better camera. A big improvement from the first iPhone! Battery life could be slightly better. I now have a lovely case from Mr Nutcase to protect it too.

Reviewed by Dawn from UK on 14th Nov 2013
Loving my 5s. It's gorgeous and super fast. IOS 7 is great and a real improvement. Coming from the 4s, the speed difference is dramatic. Battery is much better than the 4s too. Ideal for small hands. Not everyone wants a phone the size of a house brick. One handed use is important to me. Only negative is the high price tag. Highly recommended otherwise.

Reviewed by ram from india on 2nd Nov 2013
I have nothing to cause...its is the best phone in the world...an iPhone 5 s is to to to good

Reviewed by Monica from UK on 25th Oct 2013
Really good phone and its beautiful. I've had iPhone since the very start and I can see massive improvement. The phone is slim, lighter and has better camera. However make sure you are careful. Case it up! My mate dropped it and the screen smashed straight away.

Reviewed by Salle from sweden on 17th Oct 2013
But just 4inches and still not all, LG and Samsung are coming with big plans, bigger screens and thinner phones with watches, they play in a another leauge.

Reviewed by LM1980 from UK on 15th Oct 2013
Having had every version of the iphone since the first you could say I'm an apple fanboy. I'm not. I just like apples products. They just work. They do what I require with ease.

Since apple changes the screen size to the current 4" makes the phone ideal for my usage. Lack of HD or massize screen doesn't bother me. I'd prefer a HD TV over a small device.

The only negative I have, this goes for smart phones in General is battery life. Nothing can be done about this unless you increase device size to fit a larger battery. Until the day comes where a new technology for batteries has been found we will always have this problem. I personally feel that the iphone 5/5c/5s have the perfect form factor/battery life balance.

I'm really focused on the transition to being 64bit and what the future holds for this.

Reviewed by karl from luton on 14th Oct 2013
At last I'm back with iPhone. I had a Samsung Google nexus phone and I've had nothing but issues with it from day one. In the first month of owning it, it crashed 3 times and I had to buy 3 batteries for it over its lifespan as it was awful.

Just upgraded to the iphone 5s and its brilliant. The build quality is fantastic, and EVERYTHING WORKS. ok the battery life isn't brilliant but no phone I've ever owned has had a brilliant battery life.

Ios7 is fluid and really well laid out, the iPod music player is done better than its Samsung counterparts and the phone fits nicely into any pocket I have. I don't have to rethink my wardrobe by getting a 5 inch monster device.

And yes it is expensive, but no more expensive than the pile of junk I used to own. I had the top end Google phone, it always let me down. So far the iPhone has been spot on.

Reply by Russ from Uk on 18th Oct 2013
Karl, I've had the Samsung Galaxy Nexus from day one, haven't changed battery once and would never bother comparing a phone which offers you freedom with software compared to Apple which are control freaks. You clearly didn't know how good you had it!

Reply by karl from luton on 23rd Oct 2013
Well, I didn't have it good at all as my phone was rubbish.

Reviewed by Pete from England on 9th Oct 2013
seriously, with only customer 3 reviews for the iPhone 5s, what has happened to this site, doesn't anyone use it anymore?
It used to be so informative but now the staff reviews are skewed, are you seriously stating that the iPhone 5S has an 'almost unbelievable price tag' if you can't see that people accept the price if it's a better product and are quite capable of absorbing a price difference of say 100 over a two year contract. Christ you can pay up to 5.00 a pint if you go into expensive bars so whats 100 over two years? I suggest you start reviewing a product properly and don't forget that if you don't like the price but millions and millions accept it, it could be you that's out of touch.

The iPhone 5s is a brilliant phone that improves on an already great iPhone 5 and IOS7 is a major improvement on IOS6. Maybe a review of a product shouldn't be a comparison at all, simply put, is this a 5 star phone? Yes it is. Is the Galaxy S4 a 5 star phone? Yes it is. They are different it's true but they are both 5 star.

Reviewed by LA from UK on 27th Sep 2013
Whilst I agree with the issues around the HD aspects, you have to understand not all of us want a tablet sized phone to lug around and actually like a smaller screen. The iPhone 5s is a good phone, lacking in the HD quality of a Samsung maybe but I much prefer the smaller phone to that thing.
So how about a bit more objectivity rather than just sticking with your own personal view?
However the price - that does take a star off of it for me too.

Reply by S21 from UK on 27th Sep 2013
LA, we totally understand your point. But when consumers are given the choice they invariably opt for the largest screens possible, as the Android (and to a lesser extent the Windows Phone) market demonstrates. Apple doesn't offer its users any choice.

Reviewed by Adam from UK on 25th Sep 2013
I have to say although I agree with many of your reviews knocking a star off for screen size or hd is harsh. the fact is its a stunning phone, very user friendly and touch id is very useful especially when your busy doing something and dont need to spend time typing an unlock code, its hard to go back to that after using touch id.
its a 5 star phone and you pay a 5 star price, its not a cheap feeling samsung.

Reply by Nik from UK on 9th Oct 2013
Gosh, how long would your unlock code need to be if you need to take a time out to enter it?

Reviewed by KDM from UK on 25th Sep 2013
LOL you gave it 4 stars because "the small screen size doesn't do it for us" but you gave the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini 5 stars and they both have practically the same screen specs and size... biased much? Genius, pure genius LOL

Reply by S21 from UK on 25th Sep 2013
KDM, thanks for your comment, but as you are well aware, the Galaxy S4 Mini costs half as much as the iPhone 5s. We compare all phones against objective criteria, and cost is one of the most important criteria. And by the way, the S4 Mini has a bigger screen.

Reply by Rob from UK on 29th Sep 2013
The s4 mini is not meant to be the high spec phone the 5s claims to be. The 5s is going head to head with the s4 not the mini version so using it as a comparison to hate on this review is a pointless exercise. The iPhone has a ridiculous price not only for the screen size but also the resolution falls short of many of its competitors.

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