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5s

The iPhone 5s is a minor update to the iPhone, but it feels surprisingly significant after just a couple of days of use. The speed increase of the A7 is far more important than I had expected; the camera, interface effects, and overall experience are dramatically improved because of the increased speed.

Below are some of my initial thoughts and observations about minor details of the 5s update that I haven’t seen explicitly mentioned elsewhere. Some of the points below relate only to the Space Gray iPhone 5s, and all of my experience is in comparison to a black iPhone 5.

For the first two points to make sense, you should know that the new home button has two parts: the inner area, which is where the touch ID sensor is, and then an outer area which is a small chamfered metal border that connects the inner area of the button with the external case. You can see the structure here.

  1. The outer part of the new home button is exactly the same size as the Phone app and passcode keypad number circles in iOS 7, which are in turn also identical in size to the holes in the back of the new iPhone 5c rubber case.

  2. The inner part of the new home button is exactly the same size as the circle template for icons (e.g, the circle around the “A” in the App Store icon), minus the exact size of the button chamfer. That is, you need two widths of the chamfered border, plus the icon circle, to be precisely the same size as the outer part of the home button.

  3. The microphone hole on the back of the phone is now a perfect circle instead of an oval.

  4. The “iPhone” text on the back of the phone is now Myriad Light. [Update: This used to say the typeface was Helvetica Neue Light, but that was wrong.]

  5. The glass on the front and back of the Space Gray 5s is far blacker than the black iPhone 5. It’s almost pitch black, making the iPhone 5’s glass look more of a dark gray in comparison.

  6. The metal edge casing pieces and chamfers around of the screen are much lighter, and more of a gray color than on the black iPhone 5.

  7. The 5s camera is significantly better than the 5, but it’s not entirely due to the camera itself; because the A7 is about 200% as fast as the A6, taking a photo feels even more instant than it did on the iPhone 5 (and it felt instant before!). HDR photos take about 500-800ms to process on the 5s compared to about 2-4 seconds on the 5.

  8. Starting the camera from the lock screen takes less than 1 second on the 5s, and sometimes up to 2-4 seconds on the iPhone 5. I anticipate this will have a dramatic effect on how many photos people take. If you can pull the phone out of your pocket fast enough, you won’t ever miss a moment due to the hardware.

  9. When in Camera, the live view that displays on the screen updates much more quickly than it did before; there is no lag as you move the phone around while trying to find the perfect composition.

  10. Though Apple’s technical specs claim both the iPhone 5 and 5s weigh exactly the same, the 5s feels lighter. It’s very, very subtle, but I can tell in a multiple blind tests (I don’t have a scale).

  11. The metal border around the camera on the back is significantly smaller than it was on the iPhone 5. The lens elements themselves, however, appear to be identical in size (but this may be an optical illusion).

  12. While the iPhone 5 flash looks aesthetically like a perfect piece of curved glass exposing an LED below, the 5s flash LEDs are are behind Fresnel lenses that remind me of old disposable cameras: a bunch of concentric lines around the light source that help with focus and diffusion.

  13. The exclamation point regulatory icon on the back of the phone appears to be about 2-5% larger on the 5s. I assume this change is to make the circle a mathematically perfect fraction of the other circles used throughout Apple’s new design language.

  14. Touch ID works well, but there’s a 1-2 second delay. When the phone is locked, using Touch ID to unlock is kind of unwieldy; you have to place your finger on the home button sensor, press the button, and then release the button–while still resting your finger on top of it–before Siri activates. It works, but feels strange.

  15. “Slide to unlock” on the lock screen no longer makes sense when you’re using a fingerprint to unlock, and the glistening left-to-right motion is distracting.

  16. The home button icon is no longer on the home button of the 5s, even though every other iOS device, oddly, retains it.

  17. The edge chamfer leading to the top of the screen is no longer as easy to scratch as it was on the iPhone 5 (some black iPhone 5 phones look very worn), and the plastic border around the screen is now recessed about 1mm further than on the 5.

  18. Surprisingly, Touch ID is only 5x more secure than a 4-digit pin. [Update: this is actually misleading. Touch ID requires 5x more attempts to reach a “false positive,” meaning it would require 50,000 different and distinct fingers. With a 4-digit pin, you can use the same finger over and over again for each attempt. Thus, it would appear that Touch ID is monumentally more secure than a 4-digit pin or even a simple/common complex passcode.]

  19. As far as I can tell, the screen is absolutely identical, but the 5s screen appears to attract fingerprints more easily; this could be due to a change in the oleophobic coating application, formulation, or design.

  20. The Touch ID sensor does not work when your hands are wet/sweaty.

  21. The headphone and lightning port chamfers are shiny on the 5s, whereas they were matte on the black iPhone 5.

  22. The vibrator motor appears to be identical.

If I missed something interesting that you think should be included, send me a quick note and I’ll add it.

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