iPhone 5S review

Faster, improved camera and a clever fingerprint reader. But is it starting to show its age?

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Our Verdict

The best iPhone yet, featuring a great camera and the TouchID fingerprint sensor. The high price will put many off, but you'll find a lot of joy in this phone whether you're an iPhone fan or if you've been sitting on the fence. It's more than just an iterative update.

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 64 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 8 Megapixel
  • Battery Talk Time : 10 Hour
  • Screen Resolution : 1136 x 640
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)

View full specification


  • Powerful core
  • Touch ID is a real step up
  • Excellent camera


  • Expensive
  • No screen tech change
  • Battery suspect
Scores in depth






Remember the days when phones were small? The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus take pride of place in Apple's line-up these days, but the 2013 iPhone 5S is still on sale for £459, US$549, AU$749 and above, so we thought we'd take another look and see how it stands up in 2015.

When last year's models, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus hit the scene the iPhone 5S was still reasonably fresh, so it was understandable that despite the leaps the newer handsets made, the iPhone 5S was still a good choice if you wanted an excellent Apple handset.

However now that the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus have launched, does the iPhone 5S have more of a struggle to prove that it is still relevant?

When it was first unveiled, the iPhone 5S looked a lot like the iPhone 5, even though it went much further under the hood. We'd been there before with the iPhone 'S' conundrum: a new phone comes along, taking the shell of the previous model, adds some new bits and pieces, and then claims to be an entirely new phone - and we've just seen it again with the iPhone 6S.

Which it was, of course. But also wasn't. Well, mostly was. It's the kind of move that only Apple can pull off with any kind of conviction: the notion that it can take the same chassis, have a little tinker, throw in a new CPU, slightly better battery and camera, and call it an all-conquering device.

The jump from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 5S was nowhere near as significant as the leap to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus - Apple's handsets have changed notably inside and out, and their release should give you serious pause if you're looking at buying an iPhone 5S right now.

The 5S is an expensive smartphone, even on 3G plans - although thankfully the price has started to fall.

You'll still be looking at around £30 a month to get one without an upfront fee, but Apple has dropped its SIM-free prices following the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus releases. The 16GB model is now £459, while the 32GB version will set you back £499. The 64GB variant has vanished as an option.

This means if you want a larger capacity iPhone, you'll want to either look for second hand models of the iPhone 5S, or make the leap to the iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6 Plus or iPhone 6S Plus, all of which go up to 128GB in size.

iPhone 5S review

In the USA, contract prices start at US$99 (16GB) and US$149 (32GB), with the SIM-free prices set at US$549 and US$599 respectively. In the Australian market, the 16GB costs AU$749, with the 32GB model coming in at AU$799. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cost more, sure, but not that much more considering the upgrade in technology.

For its time though, the 5S was a big jump forward, and it's still in credit now: whether it's the Touch ID home button (which is excellent, more on that later), the jump in CPU power over its predecessor or the fact the camera was, once again, improved, the iPhone 5S saw Apple attempting to bring as much as it could to the party without having to re-design the whole concept all over again.

There are many that think releasing the same design twice is cheeky, and there are others who realise that sometimes there's no need for change. It's easy to fall into the former camp, and while Apple will happily point out it's not forcing anyone to buy its phones, it's acutely aware the competition is now scarily strong and it needed to bring its best to stay relevant.


What can you say about the design of the iPhone 5S that already hasn't been said with the iPhone 5? Let's face it: there's nothing really new here that's going to help you work out if the person sitting opposite you on the train is using the more recent phone.

Perhaps that's less of an issue now that the iPhone is becoming something of a commodity, a device that is so oft-used by the middle-aged generation that it no longer carries the lustre that the exclusivity of the earlier models emanated.

That's not necessarily a bad thing either; just because it's not an 'exclusive' design doesn't make the iPhone 5S any less premium.

It's still a stunning phone to hold in the hand, coming with the all-aluminium-and-glass chassis. There's no doubt Apple has had a look at the way the iPhone 5 range (well, black and white) chipped so badly around the edges.

iPhone 5S review

But that same issue was apparent already in my iPhone sample within a week, so it looks like you're going to quickly need to stuff your new iPhone 5S in a case the second you release it from its box, lest you leave it in a pocket or bag with change and keys and it comes out looking like it's gone a few rounds with a randy cheese grater.

iPhone 5S review

The new colours, introduced with the 5S, which include champagne and space grey are a little odd, but at least promise to show up the scuffs a little less prominently.

The way the iPhone 5S feels in the hand is something impressive though, coming with the low, low weight of 112g and dimensions of 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm.

It's still got that almost too-light feeling, that the premium metal finish is somehow diminished through the lack of heft, but it's a long way from feeling cheap.

iPhones 5S review

Compared to something like the Galaxy S5 or LG G3, the iPhone 5S is miles ahead when it comes to design, although less so than the HTC One M9 or One Mini 2 which have repeated the aluminium-clad trick.

The new Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge demonstrate that Samsung has got its design mojo back, and both handsets give the iPhone 5S a run for its money in the looks department.

It's got a slightly sharper edge than other models on the market, which can make it a little uncomfortable when being pressed to the ear. But I'm not going to quibble too much there lest it makes me seem a little wimpy.

iPhone 5S review

There are only a couple of real design differences compared to the iPhone 5, and one of them really is minuscule: the camera module is flanked by a dual-LED flash, which I'll talk more about later (it's a really rather nifty piece of technology, trust me).

The other is a lot more substantial and impressive: the home button got a redesign which has been carried over to the newer handsets.

Yes, it doesn't sound like much, but consider how iconic the Apple home button has been over the past half-decade, and you'll see why I'm holding the change in such high esteem. The visual effect is impressive, taking the square off the button and putting a fancy silver ring around the key.

iPhone 5S review

The effect isn't only aesthetic either, as this area serves as the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, now well established in Apple's iPhone range. It's good to know that even on this older handset you've got the benefits that Touch ID brings.

Having bought two separate biometric security firms, Apple was likely to do something like this, but the implementation and visual effect is really something that Apple does well, and has done so here too.

Beyond that, the iPhone 5S is identical to the 5, even down to the rattle in the power button. We're still a little confused as to why a device with such a high build quality has a slightly loose part with it, but shake the iPhone 5S gently and you'll feel the key moving around.

iPhone 5S review

It's not a big deal, but every so often you'll note the motion, and it does detract somewhat.

Thankfully the rest of the phone is built impeccably. The round volume keys are easy to hit. the switch to enable volume on or off has the same sturdy feel that I've come to enjoy, and the headphone port is still welded to the bottom of the phone.

The Lightning connection port is here as well, along with the stereo speakers on the bottom of the phone. I wish these were placed somewhere else, as when cupping the phone in landscape mode it's far too easy to cover these with palms or digits, and there's not really any way to shift around them.

iPhones 5S review

You can always use headphones, but that kind of negates the point of the speakers for gaming completely.

The right hand side hasn't been left completely alone on the 5S, with Apple choosing this surface as the location for the SIM card tray - but unlike most smartphones that take microSIMs these days, iPhones now rock the tiny nanoSIM technology.

iPhone 5S review

There are also matching leather cases, which are something of an oddity for a brand that's just overhauled its whole outlook with an all-new operating system. They're slightly cumbersome, making it hard to hit the buttons, and they get scuffed so easily - all for £25.

But beyond that I'm still impressed with the design of the iPhone 5S. It's hard not to be, as if there's one thing that Apple gets totally right it's the way it assembles its devices.

The metal and glass combination does feel a little fragile, and I'd recommend a case (perhaps a third party option) to protect the aluminium, but the design is something that at least helps mitigate the higher price.

Of course, good as the design is, it's now up against the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus: sleeker, thinner, and rocking much larger screens. Whether or not these changes are for the better is up to you - you might be really attached to a phone screen that you can get your thumb comfortably across.

We're also gearing up for the expected release of the iPhone 7 (or iPhone 6S) this year, which could leave the design of the iPhone 5S feeling even more antiquated.


Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
Wireless LANYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Built-in Memory64 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotNo
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, UMTS, HSPA+
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationNo
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyiPhone 5s
Cellular Generation4G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1700, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution8 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Phone StyleBar
Operating SystemiOS
Brand NameApple
Battery Talk Time10 Hour
Screen Size10.2 cm (4")
Screen Resolution1136 x 640
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)112 g
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerApple
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Backlight TechnologyLED
Operating System VersioniOS 7
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, iMessage
Pixel Density326 ppi
Front Camera Resolution1.2 Megapixel
Height123.7 mm
Width58.7 mm
Depth7.6 mm
Radio TunerNo
Battery Standby Time250 Hour
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product NameiPhone 5s Smartphone
Processor Speed1.70 GHz
Product LineiPhone 5s
Screen TypeLCD
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Gyro Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass, Fingerprint Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberMF359X/A
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.apple.com/uk
Marketing Information

Unrealized until now. Indispensable from now on.

A chip with 64-bit architecture. A fingerprint identity sensor. A better, faster camera. And an operating system built specifically for 64-bit. Any one of these features in a smartphone would make it ahead of its time. All of these features in a smartphone make it an iPhone that's definitely ahead of its time.

The gold standard. Also available in silver and gray.

iPhone 5s is precision crafted down to the micron. And it's evident throughout. The beautiful aluminum housing. The sleekness of metal and glass. Sapphire crystal in the Home button. And more sapphire crystal protecting the iSight camera. Design and construction of this level is unmatched. As a result, iPhone 5s looks and feels unbelievably thin and light. And it's available in three elegant expressions: gold, silver, and space gray.

Package Contents
  • iPhone 5s Smartphone
  • EarPods with Remote and Mic
  • Lightning to USB Cable
  • 5W USB Power Adapter
Limited Warranty1 Year