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Apple iPhone 5S review

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A staggeringly fast processor, excellent build quality and a great operating system, what's not to like?

Review Date: 23 Mar 2014

Price when reviewed: £549

Buy it now for: £475
(see more store prices)


Reviewed By: David Ludlow

Our Rating 5 stars out of 5

User Rating 4 stars out of 5

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Updated on the 23rd March 2014, with information on iOS 7.1.

For some, the fact that the iPhone 5S looks like the iPhone 5 with a few cosmetic changes was proof that Apple had completely lost it. After all, the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z have shown that large Full HD smartphones are in vogue.

First impressions are often wrong and the iPhone 5S defies these naysayers by managing to be a better phone in practically every single way over its predecessor, and more than capable of standing up to its Android rivals.


It's fair to say that the iPhone 5S isn't an improvement over the iPhone 5 when it comes to build quality, because its predecessor was so well made. In fact, it's hard to see where Apple could improve. In our opinion, the iPhone 5S is still the best looking smartphone out there. Its precision cut aluminium rear sits absolutely flush with glass panels that sit at the top and bottom. Its neat bevelled edges are perfectly formed and the 7.3mm thick phone feels incredibly comfortable in the hand. Weighing just 112g, which still feels almost impossibly light when you pick up the smartphone for the first time, the iPhone 5S is still incredible to look at and hold.

Apple iPhone 5S rear
The build quality of the iPhone 5S is second-to-none

Honestly, it doesn't feel too small now. Yes, large screen smartphones have their place, but if you want something that's easier to carry, fits comfortably in your hand and can be slipped into any pocket, then the iPhone 5S is that phone.

For this year's models, the white model is the same as last year's, but there's also two new colours. Space Gray replaces the 'black' model of last year and is subtly different, with the case a purer grey than last year's blue-grey model. It's the Gold edition that's really different. Pictures don't do it justice, as it tends to look quite garish, but in the flesh the champagne gold finish is altogether more subtle and classier.

Gold model aside, the biggest issue of the iPhone 5S's looks is that to the untrained eye it doesn't look as though you've bought a new phone, although Apple has at least eased the burden by taking the iPhone 5 off sale, replacing it with the plastic iPhone 5C instead.

Apple iPhone 5S
It's hard to tell the iPhone 5S from the iPhone 5, but the new Home button, which holds the fingerprint reader is the biggest clue

There is one big clue that the phone you've got is the iPhone 5S: the metal-rimmed home button, which no longer has the familiar-looking square icon in it. As you're no doubt aware, this is the brand-new fingerprint reader, Touch ID. With Touch ID, rather than having to tap in a PIN to unlock your phone, you can simply hold your finger over the sensor. If that sounds like a gimmick, it's not: it's actually a brilliant time saver and something that helps enforce security.

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