iPhone 5s, 5c, iOS 7 reviews are in: The good, the bad, and the ugly

iPhone 5s, 5c, iOS 7 reviews are in: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Summary: The critics had their time with the latest iPhone devices and software, and the reviews are out. Here's a roundup of what the tech experts and pundits are saying.

(Image: CNET)

The reviews for the latest Apple devices and software are out.

Reviewers, journalists, and critics alike have ripped the foundations and fundamentals of Apple's latest creations — the premium iPhone 5s, the low-cost iPhone 5c, and the next-generation iOS 7 software — and given their verdict. 

Here are snippets of some of the other reviews from around the Web late on Tuesday:

iPhone 5s

AnandTech's Anand Lal Shimpi gave a deep and thorough 13-page review of the premium Apple smartphone. The highest praise fell on the hardware features, notably the Apple A7 processor and M7 motion controller, which was described as "futureproof." But some criticism fell in what Apple missed out, like as a slightly larger display, which in his view had "room for another sweet spot above 4-inches."

While I don't believe the world needs to embrace 6-inch displays, I do feel there is room for another sweet spot above 4-inches. [...] If you prefer iOS for your smartphone — the iPhone 5s won't disappoint. In many ways it's an evolutionary improvement over the iPhone 5, but in others it is a significant step forward. 

CNET's Scott Stein called the iPhone 5s "easily the fastest and most advanced Apple smartphone to date" in his meticulous and lengthy review. Despite dropping some points for the lack of physical design change, he remained optimistic for what comes next.

I'm tempted to call the iPhone 5S the iPhone 5P, for "potential." This is Apple's half-step year, a rebuilding year. It's telegraphed by the name itself: adding an "S" versus giving the phone a whole new name.

TechCrunch's Darrel Etherington focused on, among other things, the iPhone 5s' flagship feature, the fingerprint sensor. 

At first glance, it's easy to dismiss the fingerprint sensor as a whiz-bang feature designed to attract eyeballs and do little else. But this isn't that. The fingerprint sensor [...] feels like a mature feature that actually enhances the overall experience of using an iPhone in a noticeable way that you encounter very frequently.

The bottom line conclusion highlighted the 64-bit processor, which more than any of its predecessors, will likely be the device that "grows more appealing as the software ecosystem catches up."

The New York Times' David Pogue had some stern words for those who criticized the fingerprint reader, in a far harsher tone than any other first-hand review. 

The best part is that [the fingerprint reader] actually works — every single time, in my tests. It's nothing like the balky, infuriating fingerprint-reader efforts of earlier cellphones. It's genuinely awesome; the haters can go jump off a pier.

But his greatest focus was on the device's camera enhancements, which he described as a feature that will "mean more to you."

Take photos side-by-side with the iPhone 5S's predecessor, and the difference is immediately obvious; lowlight pictures are far better on the new phone. Clearer, brighter, better color. [...] Flash photos look much, much better. No longer will your loved ones’ skin look either nuclear white or "Avatar" blue.

Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky was far more gritted-teeth in his review by describing how the two new phones "fail to excite." He said early on in his write-up that while the iPhone maker has never issued more than one device at any given time, "[Apple] also never changed so little from the previous generation," hinting at a lack of innovation on the company's part.

Describing the changes as "incremental," he too suggested the phones are perhaps a look ahead to the future, by "laying the groundwork for future, bigger innovations."

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg described the iPhone 5s as a "delight," calling the device "the best smartphone on the market" thanks to its combined hardware and software combination. Although, he does note a bug with how the fingerprint reader authenticates online purchases, which he says Apple expects to fix "very quickly." His glowing review aside, he criticized one particular minor, albeit prominent area:

My biggest disappointment is that there have been only minor improvements to the keyboard. Unlike in Android, Apple still bars you from substituting third-party keyboards with better auto-correction. The company says this is due to security worries.

Engadget's Myriam Joire praised the "severely underrated improvement" of the iPhone 5s' global LTE support, noting the four different versions which are designed for an array of global operators and regions. The key takeaway noted:

Is the 5s the best iPhone ever made? Yes, though that shouldn't come as a surprise. [...] Apple somehow managed to appeal to both the geek [...] and the average Joe [...] all while laying the groundwork for the company's future.

Meanwhile T3's Luke Peters put the battery life of the iPhone 5s in the "hate" category, despite having plenty of good to say about the overall hardware power and performance of the device. 

In our real-world testing, we found the iPhone 5s mimics that of its predecessor — great in standby, draining when using 3G/4G and performing graphically intensive tasks. [...] For now, it looks like you'll need a portable battery pack in your pocket if you intend on hammering your new iPhone 5s all day.

Peters called the smartphone a "stunner" but again highlighted much of the other reviewers' sentiments that much of the fun will "come tomorrow."

Slashgear's Vincent Nguyen resonated sentiments shared by Apple by describing the iPhone 5s as "magical" and a "supremely compelling device." In short, comparing the two new smartphones, the premium model clearly blew the low-cost device out of the water.

Would we pick the iPhone 5s over the iPhone 5c? In a heartbeat. The camera, convenience, and performance increases make that a no-brainer decision for smartphone power users.

iPhone 5c

Much of the focus of the iPhone 5c is its different physical aesthetic to its premium smartphone sibling. Back to David Pogue at The New York Times, who said the description of iPhone 5c's plastic backing "isn't quite fair," and compared it to earlier models.

The 5C's case is polycarbonate, lacquered like a glossy piano. Better yet, its back edges are curved for the first time since the iPhones of 2008. You can tell by touch which way it's facing in your pocket.

In similar detail, Pocket-Lint's Stuart Miles contemplated exactly what the letter in its name stood for. "[A]ny fears that you may have that C in 5C stands for 'cheap' will disappear the moment you pick up the phone," he said. Despite some initial reservations about the device, he summed up his smartphone experience in three words: "colourful, joyful, capable."

Australian news network ABC's Alex Kidman described the iPhone 5c as "an iPhone 5 in a pretty new hat." He remained unsure of which demographic might want to buy the device, considering the fact that despite the price difference it is only "marginally cheaper."

I'm honestly not sure outside of the heavy fashion crowd who, for one reason or another might just want colour and not actual features. When it was announced and outright pricing emerged, the only glimmer of hope was that telcos would take it on board in a heavily-subsidised fashion, making it a better value pick[.] 

Kidman also examined the battery of the low-end device, in which he found in tests that the older (now defunct) iPhone 5 ran "pretty much neck and neck for most of the time."

AllThingsD's Lauren Goode also took a moment to compare and contrast the iPhone 5c and its closest predecessor, the iPhone 5. She noted the battery was slightly larger in the iPhone 5c, adding that users should get "extra juice" out of the device. She explained in one real-world example:

This past weekend I used both the 5c and my own iPhone 5 at the same time, with the display on both set to about 75 percent of full brightness and their batteries fully charged. I ran the same apps, including maps apps, browsed through both Safari browsers and made phone calls on both phones. When my iPhone 5 died on Saturday night, the 5c had 17 percent battery power left.

In closing remarks, she noted that while the iPhone 5c will look and feel familiar, there are improvements over its replacement. "But its improvements are evolutionary, not revolutionary," Goode concluded.

CNET's Scott Stein gave the colorful, cheaper iPhone 5c a four-out-of-five star review. Like others, he cited greater LTE coverage and an improved camera, calling it a "perfect cover-all-your-needs smartphone." But he left off one crucial star by describing it as "2012 tech dressed up in a brighter package for 2013." 

In the end, I steered my mom to the iPhone 5S. You should too, unless you really, truly need to save a hundred dollars. In that case — or in the event you really love brightly colored plastic — get the iPhone 5C.

The Telegraph's Matt Warman called the cheaper smartphone a "great replacement for an [iPhone 4] or [4S]," and dubbed the device a "stroke of marketing genius" by rivaling "simply other iPhones." That said, he did consider the knock-on effect to existing iPhone 5 owners:

It's younger, and while it may only be slightly cheaper it will appeal to new markets perhaps just enough to keep consumers away from the temptations of rivals for a little longer. If you’ve got an iPhone 5, it's hard to see why you should buy a 5c.

iOS 7

USA Today's Edward Baig called the "biggest change" to come to the iPhone is with iOS 7. He admitted that he "highly regards" both Android and Windows Phone, he was not blind to "what Apple didn't do," noting the company's catch-up efforts in certain areas of iOS 7's feature set.

Taken in totality, the features new to the iPhone 5s make what I consider to be the best smartphone on the market even better, helped enormously by Apple owning the entire end-to-end experience.

Pixel Envy's Nick Heer writes one of, if not the lengthiest and well-considered reviews of "spectacular" iOS 7 (he subliminally warns not to "skip the rest" of the review in jumping to the conclusion).

He goes into minute detail in his 15,700 word review, examining every facet of the operating system's design and interface, from the lock screen through to animations. Heer does summate his points in a sound, simple paragraph.

[iOS 7] is a truly sublime experience which manages to preserve the familiar aspects of iOS while providing a brand new look and feel. The redesign makes the entire user experience feel brighter and more alive. It's not just a bit of trite marketing: updating to iOS 7 really does feel like getting a brand new phone.

Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky explained that iOS 7 was likely more suited for the iPhone 5c's range of back cover colors, noting the similarity in the software's schemes. On the whole gave a positive impression of the new software, but failed to go into too many details in his short column.

Though it's plastic, there’s nothing cheap-feeling about it, and the cartoon-like iOS 7 somehow feels more at home when it’s surrounded by one of the five bright new colors: blue, pink, yellow, green and white. (Even the software's background color is set to match the color of the case.)

In closing comments, he stuck to his guns: "There's nothing wrong with either phone. But there's not much that's pulse-quickening about them either."

And if you wanted to round off your iOS 7 coverage, I personally called the latest operating system "an old soul with style and substance," despite my own concerns that Apple had somehow suffered a "mobile mid-life crisis" amid its shockingly bright color schemes and vivid, almost fauvist iconography. 

Topics: Smartphones, Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad

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  • Wonder if we will see the usual launch lines

    Keep in mind that the iphone5's on sprint and verizon do not support svlte and so if simultaneous voice and data is important to you, you should consider going android and getting a Samsung galaxy s4.
    • otaddy

      I would dump both Spring and Verizon and switch to AT&T if I needed simultaneous voice and data on an iPhone.

      Oh wait, I DID! :)

      Plus I dumped Android too. FTW! :)
      • He said LTE

        The iPhone 5 (any model) can do simultaneous voice and data on T-Mobile or AT&T the way nearly all phones do simultaneous voice and data on T-Mobile or AT&T: by dropping down to 3G mode. GSM/HPSA has separate voice and data protocols that run in the same wireless mode. LTE has no voice mode, neither does EvDO (the 3G mode of CDMA2000, used on Verizon and Sprint).

        Some phones, such as my nearly two-year-old Galaxy Nexus, manage simultaneous 4G voice and data by using two different radio chips, one for 2G/3G, a different one for LTE. This is possible as long as you're using different radio frequencies for each, and of course, different hardware. Apple didn't go to LTE until they could get a single chip solution, which certainly lowers cost, but also functionality, as that chip can only be in one mode at a time.
      • no need to do either

        My Samsung galaxy s4 does svlte.
        • Umm

          Most of the newer Android phones do SVLTE on Verizon.
    • Didn't hurt last year's iPhone 5

      This is the same situation as with last year's iPhone 5 (no simultaneous voice and data on some carriers). It doesn't seem to have hurt them any (at least here in the US), I'm going to guess that this is a complete non-issue again this year.
      • It was kind of swept aside.

        If you look at the feature, it isn't mentioned at all in most literature regarding the company and when people I know, found put they didn't have it, they were already well into their contract and disappointed.

        The problem of course, why did it take them so long to realize it if they were going to be upset.

        For me, I have to say, I knew it didn't exist on Verizon 3G phones bit, it wasn't as important as signal quality so I settled for Verizon and one of their phones.
    • Chances are, if I'm using data,

      I'm not using voice. And with my current iPhone 4 (yes, I'm old school like that), I'd just fire up Talkatone and do VoIP over 3G while running a web browser, because chances are I'd be calling someone that I didn't want to have my actual phone number anyway.
      • iphone: it just workarounds

        so you've got your tablet tethered to your phone, a call comes in and your tablet is disconnected.
        The REF: it JUST WORKS!
        The reality: it just workarounds
        • er, REF=RDF

          Um, yeh
        • Hmm

          Works on my carrier fine. Stop being dumb and choosing crappy services.

          Oh never mind, you're an Android user, you're known to make lots of dumb decisions.
          Brock Leham
    • Nope

      This morning the local TV station had a camera at the Apple store to see the "crowd". There were three people.
      • nothing new

        Since the iPhone 4s the phones haven't drawn the lines but, they do pretty well in sales. People slowly trickled into Verizon stores and such today. A friend of mine bought one and she got there about a half hour after the store opened. She ended up being #47 and a couple dozen more people came while they were all being activated. By the time she left there were about 70 people who purchased or were waiting to purchase the phone (She was on her way about 9:30) and the store claimed to have 300 of these phones on hand.
      • Yet the two local stores here

        Had lines of 150, to 200 people, on a Friday. One store sold out in an hour, later in the day, they got a second shipment, and sold out again.
        I hate trolls
  • So the one negative review

    Is hardly even partially quoted and spun as gritted teeth. Nice job, fanboy!
    • There's no career in saying anything negative about Apple

      First, the iPhone is a good experience, but mostly because Android and WP8 are so bad. Its so obvious what those other two need to do to "finish" the job, yet they don't. Given that, if you are a tech writer, you need to be on Apple's side. its the same with being a musicians. The fact that I recorded my last album on Sony's ACID 7 on a PC instead of a Mac had most of my "friends" saying the ambum was worthless before they even heard it.

      Technology is now pop culture, like cars were in the 50s. We are defined by what phone we carry. Drive a 30 yr old rust bucket? Who cares. Pull out a flip phone and people will literally step away from you.
      A Gray
      • Bad? Ugly?

        I'm with you, but I do believe the article was mis-labeled. These aren't reviewers, they are cheerleaders. There's "good," but no one quoted above dares to mention any significant "bad" or "ugly," so lets call the article what it is.
      • oh brother

        Go and play a bit with a Win 8 phone and a Newer Android phone before making such idiotic comments. If they were so bad half the fanboi reviews wouldn't have said Apple caught up. Instead it would have been Apple increases its insurmountable lead.

        Anyway it seems like you are basing your comments on way out of date info.
      • Thats not true

        There are plenty of people out there who dislike apple and would read and comment the same amount on an article showing just how bad the iPhones are. Honestly if you have ever used one, and you can say its good, then there is either a serious issue with your head, or you have never used anything but simple phones beforehand.
        iPhones and iOS in general lack so many features that the experience is just plain bad. Even the way Apps and music is handled is just archaic.
        And multi-tasking is still basically non-existent.
        • What?

          You have the right to hate Apple, but you don't have the right to defend a cheap copy cat. Don't bash your creator. Without Apple you wouldn't have a cheap look alike to distort your reality.