By John Seiley
I haven’t ever used an iPhone for a duration longer than a few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I admire Apple’s hardware and software, so much so that I am a hard core iPad user. But I’ve never found myself apt to use a smartphone all that much. At the time I bought my first iPhone, the iPhone 4, I found the screen too small to accomplish what I wanted and returned it and bought an iPad 1st-generation a few months later. So I am a unique case – a person who has been living in iPad world and using a simple, inexpensive go phone for calls.
I guess it was a feeling of just not being with the times as much as it was recognition that I didn’t need to carry my iPad constantly. But I bought a smartphone again, this time Apple’s iPhone 5s. This time, the playing field among competitors in this space is much tighter. I chose the 5s chiefly because I wanted to download developers’ universal iOS apps I had already bought on my iPad, to my phone. That was the simple deciding factor. I happen to prefer, at this current point in time, the aesthetics of Windows Phone OS, and the visual appeal of an OS matters a lot to me. But still, the 5s won out. I like iOS 7 enough, but it was the fact that I had already invested hundreds of dollars in iOS that led me to buy an Apple phone.
Before I get into the review of the phone itself, I think it’s important to recognize that this is the issue most people face when buying a new tech product. Tech companies have worked hard to lock their customers into their ecosystems, and once you commit, it’s very expensive to start fresh later. I wish it weren’t this way. I’m fortunate that Apple has kept their ecosystem relatively seamless across devices and maintains a distinct advantage over competitors in key areas.
Now, the 5s. The phone itself, and the software too, are beautiful pieces of work and compliment each other well. The screen size and enclosure are relatively unchanged from the previous generation, but that’s okay, because they are just about right. The phone is light and comfortable to hold, the display size is perfect for one-handed use, and the software is optimized for that size. It’s a pleasure to use. The designer in me admires the beautiful details as well that make the whole thing an artistic marvel.
Phone or tablet experiences are really all about what 3rd party apps are available. And iOS’ App Store has the most and best. If you’re tempted to go with another platform, keep this in mind. In addition, apple is giving away all their own apps free with purchase, which includes useful productivity and creativity apps that other companies would charge you for.
The baked-in, pre-installed features are nice too. The camera software enhances what could otherwise be considered an uncompetitive hardware feature. There are several modes, including burst photo taking, panorama shooting, and slow-motion video that just work well and produce beautiful shots.
One last thing about hardware – the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. It’s right in that familiar home button and it works pretty much all the time. I expected it to be finicky, but it’s near perfect. One of the great improvements in hardware that fortunately makes your phone more secure and has a lot of potential too.
The iPhone 5s is the best smartphone I’ve ever used . . . Out of just a few (in extended use). But I feel comfortable recommending it regardless. This is also a good jumping in point for someone who would like to get into apple’s iOS ecosystem. The phone has a new desktop class architecture going on, which makes it an exceptionally future proof phone.