Apple’s iPhone 5s and 5c: Review Roundup

Scott Stein, senior editor for CNET, discusses Apple's new iPhone 5c and 5s, which will be released Friday.
September 18, 2013

The first full reviews of Apple’s new phones are up, ahead of their retail availability on Friday. Here’s a look at what at reviewers are saying about the new phones and Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 7, which is due to release sometime Wednesday. Here are bottom line takes from the reviews out there Wednesday morning:

Walt Mossberg, WSJ: Mossberg has only put up a review for the iPhone 5s, Apple’s higher-end model, which comes with a fingerprint scanner and improved camera sensor. He says, overall, that the phone is a “delight” and that its software and hardware make it the “best smartphone on the market.”

David Pogue, NYT: In his review, Pogue gives a somewhat negative take on the phones, not necessarily because of quibbles with quality, but with what the models mean for Apple.

He actually reviews the phone fairly favorably, calling the 5c a “terrific phone,” but notes that just “sheathing last year’s phone in shiny plastic isn’t a stunning advance.” His highest praise is for the software on the phones, which he said has been redesigned for ease and functionality. Even Siri, he said, can do way more with this OS than she could before.

Rich Jaroslovsky, Bloomberg: In his review, Jaroslovsky gives the phones high marks, but makes it clear that he’s not that impressed with the latest generation of phones from Apple.

“There’s nothing wrong with either phone. But there’s not much that’s pulse-quickening about them either,” Jaroslovsky concludes.

Anand Lal Shimpi, AnandTech: AnandTech is one of the best technically focused review sites out there, and Shimpi has turned out two monster reviews there. His much-more extensive iPhone 5s review is definitely worth a read. In the final analysis, he says that he is “seriously impressed” by the A7 chip in the iPhone 5s, which he says is “capable of competing with the best Intel has to offer in this market.”

He also has high praise for the Touch ID fingerprint reader, saying he was initially skeptical about how well it would work. But the phone has won him over: “I originally expected Touch ID to be very gimmicky, but now I’m thinking this actually may be a feature we see used far more frequently on other platforms as well,” he said.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: Over at Daring Fireball, John Gruber has a lot of great thoughts about what the iPhone models mean for Apple’s future and its ability to innovate, which are well worth a read. Gruber speaks well of the iPhone 5c and how it feels, saying that the plastic feels good in hand — and much slimmer than Apple’s last plastic phones, the 3G and 3GS — and that the buttons feel good with “nice crisp clickiness.” He goes into detail about how much faster the iPhone 5s is than others on the market, and says that he not only likes the fingerprint scanner but also sees tons of potential in what it could do in the future.

Jim Dalrymple, The Loop: Jim Dalrymple focused his reviews on function rather than form by focusing on everyday use. He explains: “I’m all for new features, but if they don’t actually help me get things done more efficiently, then you have to ask, ‘what’s the point?’”

When it comes to the iPhone 5s, he finds that the fingerprint scanner is certainly something he plans to use on a regular basis by adding convenience without taking away security. As for the 5c, he said that it hits a “sweet spot” of being a powerful device with a sense of fun at a good price. He also encourages Apple devotees to give the new look and feel of iOS 7 a chance, saying that it didn’t take him too long to adapt.

“Nobody likes change, but sometimes change is for the best. iOS 7 is one of those changes,” he concludes.

Myriam Joire, Engadget: At first blush, it seems strange to call the new iPhone 5s “forward-thinking,” Joire says since it’s so physically similar to last year’s model. But further examination, she notes, turns up more differences that you may expect.

Overall, she says the iPhone 5s is probably the best iPhone Apple’s ever made, but that its innovations may not exactly be worth rushing out to the store for.

“If developers come up with clever ways to take advantage of the M7 coprocessor and the 64-bit support in iOS 7, the 5s will truly shine. If not, many people might just wait it out another year,” she concludes.

Scott Stein, CNET: Scott Stein has loaded up his review of the iPhone 5s with photos, showing off the new camera sensor in the phone and its performance in the field. He said that blurriness, particularly in lower light, has been improved over previous models and that much-needed improvements to the flash were well-executed.

As for the iPhone 5c, Stein also says that it mostly packs last year’s tech, but that it’s a fine alternative. “[For] everyday people who aren’t following every evolutionary step of the iPhone, the 5C covers most of the important bases,” he writes. But, he adds, consumers should “make sure you set your expectations to ‘last year’s iPhone 5.’”

Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch: Etherington, in his reviews, says that the iPhone 5s “gets the gold” and his bottom line is that the phone will only get more popular as more developers create apps that take advantage of its unique chipset.

With the 5c, he says that it is a slight improvement over last year’s model, and that he particularly likes the “color, personality and sort of ‘lightness’ of its design.”

Vincent Nguyen, Slashgear: Slashgear reviewer Vincent Nguyen isn’t so bothered by the fact that the new iPhone 5s is an incremental upgrade either. “The iPhone 5s may be Apple’s evolutionary stage, but the combination of usable technological advances and the benefits of iOS 7 add up to a supremely compelling device,” he writes.

As for the iPhone 5c, he determines that the “c” stands for “cheerful” rather than “cheap,” thanks to the new colors, but makes clear that he would always pick the 5s over 5c if given the chance.

“The power users should look to the iPhone 5s, but for the mass market, the iPhone 5c will open doors that only a colorful, playful device can,” he said.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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