Apple iPhone 5S and 5C - Hits and misses

-September 10, 2013

Apple has finally announced its much-anticipated iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C models and we take a quick look at how reality matched up with expectations.

As expected, the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C are based on iOS 7 and extend the color offerings beyond Apple iPhone's traditional white and black. The iPhone 5S adds a gold color package along with silver and dark gray colors - all using Liquidmetal materials. The iPhone 5C follows the iPod with a range of colors including white, pink, yellow, blue, and green - and adds cases in complementary colors. As expected, the iPhone 5C package is polycarbonate with a steel-reinforced structure that also forms the phone's multiband antenna. According to Apple, the iPhone 5C supports more LTE bands than any other smartphone - confirming expectations that this lower-cost model will leads Apple's charge in the global smartphone market. The new models replace the iPhone 5, which is no longer listed on the Apple site or online store.

iphone 5s

Among the hits, the iPhone 5S features the 64-bit A7, featuring twice the number of general-purpose registers and floating-point registers - and at over 1 billion transistors - twice the transistors of the A6.

Although we hit on the use of the A7, we missed on the inclusion of the M7 motion coprocessor in the iPhone 5S. Designed to aggregate sensor data from the phone's accelerometer, gyroscope and compass, the M7 offloads sensor data processing from the phone's application processor - including sensor data processing while the phone is asleep. Apple's new CoreMotion APIs provide access to M7 functionality and aggregated sensor data. What is particularly compelling with this feature is the potential to achieve a more effective fusion of multisensor data needed to support more sophisticated context-aware applications. Indeed, Apple specifically cites the ability of the CoreMotion APIs to optimize contextual awareness.

As expected, both phones offer 8 Mpixel cameras but we missed on the aperture: The iPhone 5S features an f/2.2 aperture lens - an improvement over the iPhone 5 but not to the extent expected. As expected, the iPhone 5S also incorporates a dual-LED flash able to improve balance and low-light performance.

We missed on the speculation that the iPhone 5S would support 802.11/ac. As with the earlier iPhone 5, both the 5S and 5C support 802.11/a/b/g/n.

In its public announcement, Apple saved the best for last, wrapping up its press event with a description of Touch ID - Apple's new fingerprint sensor built into the iPhone 5S and designed to provide a simpler yet more secure method for unlocking the iPhone 5S. As expected, the fingerprint capacitive sensor is built into the home button and protected by a sapphire lens. Fingerprint recognition is self-trained and refined with repeated use. The sensor itself is activated only when touched to preserve battery life. Apple was careful to note that the fingerprint data is encrypted and stored securely within the A7 and never stored on Apple servers or backed up to iCloud. Right now, Apple only notes that this fingerprint capability can be used to approve purchases from iTunes store, the App store, and the iBooks store. The iPhone 5S does not include an NFC capability.

Schematic of fingerprint sensor described in Apple patent. (Source: United States Patent Application 20130181949)

The iPhone 5S and 5C will be available on September 20 as expected through the Apple online store, Apple retail stores, and wireless carriers.

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