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Impressions of the iPhone 5s from a long time iPhone 4 user

November 12, 2013

Last week, I finally upgraded to an iPhone 5s (32GB, Space Gray). This is my third iPhone; the first being a 3G and and the second the venerable 4. As a looooong time iPhone 4 user, I wanted to offer a few first impressions.

My upgrade had both push and pull aspects. The battery on my 4 was on its last legs – two to three hours of heavy use would exhaust it. If that were the only issue though, I could have just added an external battery pack. It was the Touch ID sensor that really got my attention, so let’s start there.

  • Touch ID
    I work for IBM and we are a very security conscious company (which should make all of our customers happy). However, being security conscious comes with a cost. Specifically, I am required to have an 8-digit alpha-numeric passcode on my phone and change it every 90 days. It is i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-y cumbersome to enter this every time I need to use the device and it takes all the joy out of this always-on, instant availability technology. I know many IBM’ers that carry two devices so that they don’t have to put the passcode on their iPhone. But Touch ID has changed that. I can still have the complex, strong, secure passcode that IBM requires… but the instant access that I want. This is a huge plus. It’s such a plus that I may wait to replace my iPad 2 until the Mini gets Touch ID too.
  • The Weight
    Yes, the 5s is a lot lighter than the 4. Interestingly enough, I prefer the feel of the 4 in my hand. It was incredibly solid. I carried that device for the last year without a case and it survived several drops without material damage. The downside was that I always felt the 4 in my pocket. It was heavy enough that it would tug my suit jacket to one side and I knew whether it was in my pants pocket. In contrast, I barely even notice the 5s. Even though the 5s doesn’t feel quite the same in the hand, the tradeoff is worth it. This is a strong positive… at least until the first time I leave it behind.
  • Siri
    I don’t get all the jokes about Siri. This is incredible technology. The only problem is I want more. I was driving today and asked Siri for directions. It was spot on fantastic! I wouldn’t have had to take my eyes off the road at all if Siri could toggle settings for me. I normally leave my Location Services off to conserve the battery and Siri can’t turn them on. While It’s smart enough to know it can’t do that, and told me so, I hope it gains the ability in the future.
  • The Battery
    So far, I’m not all that impressed. Remember, I’m coming from an iPhone 4 that only gave me a couple of hours of decent usage. During my early usage of the 4, I could charge it every other day so that’s my benchmark. On my new 5s, I can literally watch the battery meter drop a percentage point every 15-30 minutes. And this is with just about every bell and whistle turned off – background app updating, background app refreshes, Location services, etc, etc. I finally cranked down the screen brightness to 30% and that seems to have had a positive impact. Fortunately, the screen is more than bright enough for this to work fine. Right now, battery life is a minus.
  • Screen Size
    This is one I find fascinating. I think I agree with Apple that the screen size on the 4 was the optimal experience for one-handed operation. The 5s is just tall enough that I cannot comfortably work the controls at the top of the screen without repositioning my hand. (I have to ask my wife her impression as I have reasonably large hands.) I expect this will be less of an issue over time as I retrain my muscle memory to hold the phone ‘correctly’. Although I also have a Galaxy Note 2 – with a screen larger than the entire 5s itself – I never noticed this problem. I’ll have to pay attention more when I use the Note 2, though. Since it is so large, I doubt I’ve even tried to use it with one hand.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased. This is a strong upgrade and with the big A7 chip, I’m hopeful my new 5s will have enough of horsepower to keep pace for the next couple of years.

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3 Comments
  1. We design interfaces that are immediately understandable and full of great little details that make users smile iPhone

  2. iPhone We design interfaces that are immediately understandable and full of great little details that make users smile

  3. We design interfaces that are immediately understandable and full of great little details that make users smile

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