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iPhone 5s Announced, Knows You by Touch

Apple last week announced the iPhone 5s in three colors: gold, silver, and “space gray.” No pre-order availability was announced for the 5s, unlike the simultaneously announced iPhone 5c (see “Apple Announces Low-Cost Plastic iPhone 5c, in Five Colors,” 10 September 2013), but the phone itself will be available on 20 September 2013 in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the UK to start, with 100 countries and over 270 carriers included by December 2013. The iPhone 5s lineup and pricing remain similar to previous models, with a 16 GB model for $199, a 32 GB model for $299, and a 64 GB model for $399 (all with, of course, the obligatory two-year contract).

The iPhone 5s is a notable upgrade over last year’s iPhone 5, with identical casing but a number of significant internal improvements. It features Apple’s new A7 system-on-a-chip, with up to 56 times more graphics performance than the original iPhone. The A7 is also the first, and so far only, 64-bit CPU architecture for mobile phones. iOS 7 and its included apps have been re-engineered for 64-bit support, and Apple’s development platform, Xcode, has been updated to enable developers to develop both 32- and 64-bit versions of their apps simultaneously.

Also new is Apple’s M7 motion coprocessor. The M7 chip takes measurements from the accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope without waking the A7, presumably offering better battery life for motion-sensing apps, like fitness trackers. Apple is integrating M7 support into its Core Motion API, and Nike is already developing an app, called Nike+ Move, that uses the updated API.

Speaking of battery life, the iPhone 5s purportedly can provide 10 hours of 3G talk time (up from 8 on the iPhone 5), 10 hours of browsing over Wi-Fi, 40 hours of life when playing music, and 250 hours (up from 225) of charge on standby.

The camera system in the iPhone 5s also features significant improvements, including a 15 percent larger sensor with larger pixels to provide better color and less noise, an f/2.2 aperture (the iPhone 5 featured an f/2.4 sensor) for better low-light pictures, and a new five-element Apple-designed lens. Also new is the “True Tone” flash, which features two LEDs, one cooler and one warmer, that can be mixed for better skin tones. The camera features an image-stabilization feature that combines multiple shots to produce a sharp photo. It also boasts a burst mode at 10 frames per second, 28-megapixel panoramas, and 120-frames-per-second slow-motion video at 720p. You can even take a still photo while shooting video.

The camera’s software has also been made smarter — for example, it chooses the best of the burst mode pictures to show you first, adjusts the True Tone flash automatically depending on external conditions, and continually alters the exposure as you pan while taking panorama photos.

Perhaps the most drastic outward change to the iPhone 5s is its new Touch ID fingerprint scanner, built into the home button (see “Q&A about Fingerprint Scanning,” 10 September 2013). The capacitive sensor, which is 170 microns thick and has a resolution of 500 pixels per inch, can unlock the iPhone or authorize iTunes purchases with just the touch of a finger. The Touch ID scanner can learn up to five fingerprints and can capture a fingerprint from an angle. Should you not wish to (or be able to) use the fingerprint scanner, there is an option in iOS 7 to use a password instead of a fingerprint scan. The home button itself can still be pressed for standard behaviors, though gone is the rounded square icon that has been an iPhone standard since day one.

In terms of industrial design, Apple has traded the black and white dichotomy for three options: gray, silver, and gold. In each case, the metallic color occupies the edge of the phone and the bulk of the back. For the gray model, the face (apart from the screen, obviously) is black; for the silver and gold models, it’s white. We’ll be curious to see how the different colors sell — the gold seems pretty gaudy to our eyes.

To be released alongside the iPhone 5s is the iPhone 5s Case, a $39 leather case available in five colors: black, brown, beige, yellow, blue, and Product(RED), the last of which will have proceeds donated to the (RED) AIDS charity. Like the iPad Smart Cover, the iPhone 5s Case features a microfiber lining to keep the phone clean. The dye has been infused into the leather, so hopefully we won’t see the color rub off like it did with the leather Smart Covers. The iPhone 5s Case is also compatible with the iPhone 5, since the two phones have exactly the same dimensions. That should make accessory manufacturers happy too.

Additionally, Apple is getting back into the dock business, with docks for both the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. The new iPhone 5s Dock features a Lightning connector, a line-out port to connect your iPhone to powered speakers, and hands-free calling thanks to “special audio porting.” It costs $29 and is also compatible with the iPhone 5, but unfortunately does not include a Lightning-to-USB cable.


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Comments about iPhone 5s Announced, Knows You by Touch
(Comments are closed.)

Marilyn  2013-09-10 12:58
Do you think the white background or black background affects the view of the screen differently. (back color is ususally covered up by a case) I've only had the black screen and I'm wondering what people think about the white screen and reflections, finger prints etc.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-10 13:01
I prefer the black screen, especially when watching videos. Downside: harder to find my phone in a darkened room…
Marilyn  2013-09-11 05:51
So maybe black front and hot pink case would make it more visible in a dark room? Has anyone made a glow in the dark case?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-11 06:10
Cases, like apps, have expanded to meet nearly any idea. :-) I see lots of glow-in-the-dark cases, though mostly for the iPhone 4.
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-11 07:49
I have a white iPhone and I've never noticed the white frame around the screen making any special different to the screen. I don't, however, watch much video on my iPhone, so I defer to Michael with regard to video.

I can see a few scuff marks and fingerprints on the white backside, if I look carefully, though mostly on the silver apple logo, not the white. I don't use a case.
John Cooper  2013-09-10 13:27
Great summary—thank you. There are many details here I didn't glean from the live blog I monitored during the presentation.

By the way, the sensor is 170 microns thick, not 170 microns thin, just as a person is not 5'2" short, but 5'2" tall. The "thin" phrasing was invented by PR pros to encourage otherwise objective discussions to use their preferred marketing terms, and shouldn't be adopted by TidBITS.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-10 13:52
Thanks - it's one of those things that creeps in when you hear it so repeatedly from Apple! Fixed.
robmandu  2013-09-10 13:52
In reply to, "The iPhone 5s is an incremental upgrade over last year’s iPhone 5."

Incremental? INCREMENTAL??!?

If you're *just* looking at the outer components of the iPhone, ok. They removed the 'squircle' and came up with a new 3-color range.

But inside the iPhone? C'mon! 64-bit architecture! New M7 chip! Touch ID! New 5-piece camera lens! Better camera sensor! 2-mode flash!

What does Apple need to do to go beyond "incremental" for you guys?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-10 14:36
I think you're reading too much into that word. In the iPhone world, there are incremental upgrades, such as from the iPhone 3G to the 3GS, the iPhone 4 to the 4S, and now the iPhone 5 to the 5s. And then there are the major upgrades where the industrial design changes radically and it gets a new number. We could change the word, but the fact is that the iPhone 5s is an upgrade to the iPhone 5, not a completely new model.
Chris Pepper  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-10 14:37
Are the 'grey' back & sides lighter than the 5's 'black'? I cannot tell from product photos.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-10 15:52
Yes, they're more of a light gray.
Bruce Dumes  2013-09-10 14:49
I just wish I didn't have to wait for two years between iPhone models. ;-)
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-10 14:52
I almost feel the same way, but I figure that the 6 will contain all the advances of the 5s plus more. So, I have that to look forward to for my next upgrade; meanwhile, the 5 is no slouch.

What's really hard is to wait for the final book in A Song of Fire and Ice! C'mon, George!!!
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-11 06:13
You don't. You just have to be independently wealthy. :-) Josh did a nice piece on the early upgrade plans that all the carriers now offer, but they're mostly for the math-challenged.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-11 07:53
If you were so inclined, you could sell your iPhone 5 and buy an off-contract phone for $649. Gazelle is offering about $300 on a 16 GB iPhone 5 - you could probably do much better on Craigslist or eBay.
Dennis B. Swaney  2013-09-10 16:27
How many of my ten fingers can I program the TouchID button to recognize? I don't always use the same one to press the button. Four should be the ABSOLUTE minimum (2 thumbs, 2 index fingers)
Curtis Wilcox  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2013-09-12 04:45
I read elsewhere that it will store five fingers. I'll probably do 2 thumbs, 2 index fingers, and one of my wife's fingers.
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-12 10:11
The specs do appear to be five fingers. You could do five of your own, or give one to a trusted family member or friend. In my household of two adults and a teen, we'll probably want all three of us to be able to unlock the 5s.
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-10 19:19
Core Motion is not a new API. It's as old as the sensors themselves. Apple merely updated it to take advantage of the new M7 chip that allows your app to gather data in the background - just as they always update their APIs to match new hardware.
Marilyn  2013-09-11 06:48
Wish the new 5S cases came in earthier tones. It looks like the LL Bean palette or appeals to 14 year olds. All but the black will be filthy in no time. What about a maroon or evergreen?
Are Touch ID and four-digit passcode mutually exclusive and I have to choose or set which option I want? A common scenario for me: phone is locked, I'm driving, and we need to settle a question RIGHT NOW :) so I hand my phone to whoever's riding shotgun to unlock and search, get directions, etc. It'd be handy (fingery?) if I could set the phone such that either method would gain access.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-12 17:12
My understanding is that you'll always be able to switch to the passcode if you don't wish to or can't use the fingerprint scanner.
Dennis B. Swaney  2013-09-16 16:48
My understanding is that the passcode would/could be used when you first access the phone on power-up (or even every day?) and then you can just use the TouchID when waking from sleep, etc.
I have to admit I'm miffed we're still not getting more than 64 GB on an $849 phone for pros.

Since Apple refuses to give us an SD expansion option, we have to buy a device with enough storage to last for its entire lifetime. If I need 50 GB today, I'm not so sure 64 GB will be enough in two years from now.

Add to that Flash prices have come down considerably since Apple introduced the 16/32/64 GB options while the $649/$749/$849 price points didn't budge. More profit for Apple, less bang for buck for us.

So where's my $128 GB option - the 5s is the pro phone after all, right?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-17 08:37
We were surprised by this as well - the best explanation is merely that Apple sees this as a place where they can increase their profit margins quite easily.
Paul Findon  2013-09-19 01:52

Adam never used such big words ;-)
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-19 06:50
In fact, I have, twice! (Thank you, search engine.) Overall it has appeared seven times in TidBITS. :-)