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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.


From → Electronics

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