Released in mid-September 2013, the iPhone 5s ($99 to $149 from the Apple Store) is a cosmetically minor but internally significant update to the iPhone 5. Featuring the same aluminum and glass design as the iPhone 5, including the same 4″ screen size, dimensions, and weight, the iPhone 5s introduced gold and space gray options to Apple’s product lines, while remaining available in the same white and silver combination as the iPhone 5.
From the outside, the most obvious change was the addition of Touch ID: a fingerprint sensor inside of the iPhone’s Home button. Ringed with metal color-matched to the iPhone 5s’s body, the sapphire-crystal coded fingerprint reader can unlock the screen by matching its scan to 5 distinct fingers, and similarly substitute a scan for a password when making iTunes purchases.
Internally, the iPhone 5s makes significant improvements over the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c in two main categories: processing and cameras. Replacing the iPhone 5’s A6 processor is a new A7 chip with twice the speed, much improved graphics, and a 64-bit architecture. The A7 enabled the iPhone 5s to be the first 64-bit smartphone, capable of enhanced gaming, video processing, and even more advanced apps in the future. It continues to support LTE cellular networks and 802.11n wireless.
The camera system benefitted from an all-new rear 8-megapixel sensor with improved light sensitivity for low-light photography. Also new is a True-Tone flash, a dual-LED flash that increases skin color accuracy when taking photos in the dark. Apple also added a Burst Mode feature to capture 10 photos per second, and a new Slow-Mo video capture mode to take 120FPS video.
As of 2015, the iPhone 5s is in the middle of the iPhone pack in performance, but still the best option available for users with small hands and/or small pockets. Everyone else should give serious consideration to the thinner, faster, and longer-running iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. The iPhone 5s is sold only in 16GB and 32GB storage capacities, the former very small. If you’re going to buy this model, we’d strongly advise spending the extra $50 for the 32GB model.