Apple gives iPhone range a touch-up with 5S
Fingerprint unlocking and an all-new interface in 64-bit powerhouse
Apple Inc’s “special” press event in Cupertino yesterday yielded no great surprises. The company, as expected, wheeled out both the iPhone 5S and budget iPhone 5C.
The 5S is powered by a new A7 chip, which according to Cupertino, makes the 5S “the world’s first smartphone with 64-bit desktop-class architecture”.
“The 5S redefines the best smartphone experience in the world with amazing new features all packed into a remarkable thin and light design,” Apple said in a statement.
One new addition is the main camera, which is a reworked 8-megapixel iSight component with True Tone flash. Also as rumoured, Apple has introduced Touch ID, a fingerprint unlock system operated by a single touch.
The 5S comes with iOS 7, which Apple described as “the most significant iOS update since the original iPhone”. The new platform employs 64-bit technology and comes with “hundreds” of new features, including Control Center, Notification Center, improved Multitasking, AirDrop, enhanced Photos, Safari, Siri and iTunes Radio.
“[The] iPhone 5S is the most forward-thinking smartphone in the world, delivering desktop class architecture in the palm of your hand,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.
“[It] sets a new standard for smartphones; packed into its beautiful and refined design are breakthrough features that really matter to people, like Touch ID, a simple and secure way to unlock your phone with just a touch of your finger."
The A7 chip in iPhone 5S brings 64-bit desktop-class architecture to a smartphone for the first time, Apple claimed. It is designed for “twice the CPU and graphics performance… all while delivering great battery life”. Apple also engineered iOS 7 and all the built-in apps to maximise the performance of the A7 chip.
“[The] iPhone 5S is the best mobile gaming device with access to hundreds of thousands of games from the App Store… and delivers incredibly rich and complex visual effects, previously only possible on Macs, PCs and gaming consoles,” Apple said.
The handset includes the new M7 motion coprocessor that gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work from the A7 in an attempt to improve power efficiency. Developers can also access new CoreMotion APIs that use M7, so they can create enhanced fitness and activity apps that “go well beyond what other mobile devices offer”. The M7 motion coprocessor continuously measures motion data, even when the device is asleep, and is said to save battery life for pedometer or other fitness apps that use the accelerometer all day.
Touch ID allows the unlocking of the handset with one finger touch. Built into the home button, Touch ID uses a laser-cut sapphire crystal, together with the capacitive touch sensor, to take a high-resolution image of a fingerprint and analyse it to provide readings from any angle. While Apple claimed the setup of Touch ID is easy, the company also said its performance improved every time it is used, suggesting a training process for the system that may frustrate users.
The Touch ID sensor recognises the touch of a finger so the sensor is only activated when needed, which is intended to preserve battery life. All fingerprint information is encrypted and stored in the Secure Enclave inside the A7 chip and never stored on servers or the iCloud, according to Apple. Touch ID can also be used as a secure way to approve purchases from the iTunes Store, App Store or iBooks Store.
The 8-megapixel iSight camera features a larger f/2.2 aperture and a new, larger sensor designed for better sensitivity and low-light performance.
“These improvements, along with the Apple-designed image signal processor in the A7 chip and the new Camera app in iOS 7, provide up to two-times faster auto-focus, faster photo capture, automatic image and video stabilisation, and better dynamic range,” Apple claimed.
The iPhone 5S also introduces the new True Tone flash, said to be the world’s first for any camera. The system variably adjusts colour and intensity for over 1,000 combinations, so photos taken with a flash appear more natural. The handset also includes a new Burst Mode, Slo-Mo video with 120 fps, a new FaceTime HD camera for enhanced low-light performance and audio-only FaceTime calls with iOS 7.
The handset’s body is anodised aluminum with diamond-cut chamfered edges, a 4-inch Retina display and glass inlays. The 5S is available in three metallic finishes including gold, silver and space gray. To complement iPhone 5S, Apple has released leather cases in six colours: beige, black, blue, brown, yellow and red.
Connectivity includes support for up to 13 LTE wireless bands, dependent upon carrier, which Apple claims is more than any other smartphone in the world. Also included is dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi support for up to 150 Mbps and Bluetooth 4.0. The handset is said to deliver 10 hours of talk time on 3G networks, up to 10 hours of Web browsing on Wi-Fi and LTE networks and up to 8 hours on 3G networks, and up to 10 hours of video playback and up to 40 hours of audio playback.
After the problematic launch of iOS6 industry eyes will be fixed on iOS 7, which Apple regards as the most significant iOS update since the original iPhone. The OS has been specifically tailored to support the A7 chip’s 64-bit architecture, the new iSight camera and Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Apple stressed that the OS is based on a completely redesigned user interface with “functional layers and subtle motion that make it feel more alive”.
The iPhone 5S comes in gold, silver or space gray. Cases will be available in beige, black, blue, brown, yellow and red. Regional availability and pricing are not available at this time.