Review: Apple iPhone 5s

I pull my iPhone out of my pocket, tap the home button, and let my thumb linger an extra second longer than I normally would have. The lock screen fades away and the iOS 7 home screen zooms into view, each icon landing neatly on the display. It’s an instinctive gesture iPhone owners have been doing for the better part of six years, and yet it still feels like magic: I just unlocked my phone with my thumb.

While Apple’s iPhone 5s brings a number of improvements and new features to the table, its Touch ID, the company’s fingerprint-based identity sensor, catches your attention first.

Yes, fingerprint sensors are nothing new — I had one on a Toshiba Satellite X205 purchased back in 2007 — but the implementation on the 5s feels like the technology is finally taking a step into the future. And it’s not the only thing in the phone that feels that way.

But first, the present. The iPhone 5s looks almost exactly like the now discontinued iPhone 5. It has the same 4-inch Retina display and brushed aluminum backside, and the same chamfered bezel that gives the otherwise rounded rectangular device a gem-like appearance. Unless the gold version is in your hand, the metal-ringed home button and an elongated dual LED flash on the rear are really the only subtle physical differentiators from its predecessor.

Use the phone for even a few seconds though, and the difference is immediately apparent. The 64-bit A7 processor inside makes every action on the device blazingly fast. I thought I wouldn’t be able to notice the upgrade — after all, the iPhone 5’s A6 processor was no slouch. But apps on the 5s load instantaneously, whether from a click on the icon or tap from iOS 7’s new multitasking bar. Games like Infinity Blade III render with extraordinarily detailed graphics, with nary a stutter in the fast-paced, sword-swinging gameplay, and with good reason: The iPhone 5s is twice as fast as the iPhone 5 according to both Apple and third-party benchmark tests. Every tap, swipe, and animation in iOS 7 just feels amazingly snappy.