Apple calls its iPhone 5s the most 'forward thinking' smartphone yet. The 64-bit computing architecture based A7 chip and the Touch ID sensor are likely to change the course of smartphone innovation in the near future. But this entire new technology comes with a hefty price tag, and many of you will be wondering whether it makes sense to upgrade to the iPhone 5s just yet. Let's take a look at some of the major features of the iPhone 5s that should help you make a decision.
The iPhone 5s' claim to fame is it's 'desktop-class architecture', as Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller puts it. The iPhone 5s is the first smartphone featuring a 64-bit processor. All other smartphones, including the cheaper iPhone 5c, run on 32-bit computing based systems. So what exactly does this mean for iPhone 5s users?
Twice as fast processing
The biggest advantage of 64-bit architecture is that in an ideal scenario it can offer almost twice as much computing power as a 32-bit architecture. Use of this new architecture also allows manufacturers to pack in more than 4GB of RAM on devices. More RAM makes systems faster and more efficient. However, at present the iPhone 5s has only 1GB of RAM. Braid developer Jonathan Blow has an interesting theory on virtual RAM. In an article published on GamesBeat, he said that Apple could potentially add virtual memory to iOS (whereby free storage space on the phone is temporarily used as RAM) with the new architecture. If Apple could expand something like this to all applications, users could see a significant improvement in the iPhone 5s' performance. At present, very few apps can utilize the iPhone 5s to its full potential.
Infinity Blade III, priced at Rs 390, is the first game to be released in a 64-bit version on the App Store, and reportedly shows much faster load times. Call of Duty: Strike Team (Rs 390) and Sky Gamblers: Cold War (Rs 270) games have also been updated. A few months from now we're likely to see many more 64-bit optimized games, but at present there are just not enough games at reasonable prices.
All native Apple applications have been reconfigured to run on the new iPhone 5s. But apart from these, there are only a handful of iOS 7 optimized apps on the App Store. As of now, including the games we mentioned earlier, the only third-party available 64-bit apps are Sing! Karaoke, djay 2 and Nike + Move. By next year we should see a lot of older apps getting reconfigured to 64-bit, plus many additional apps being launched.
Since the iPhone 5s is backwards compatible to 32-bit, users will still be able to use all existing apps, but these would offer a performance similar to that on the iPhone 5.
Touch ID, Apple iPhone 5s' fingerprint authentication scanner requires 64-bit architecture for it's encrypted on-chip security. Apple has said that it does not collect fingerprint data on its servers, and that this information is stored in an encrypted form on the iPhone 5s chip itself. Apple engineers are working to bring the Touch ID functionality to other parts of the operating system as well, but at present it is limited to only unlocking the device and payment systems.
iOS 7 is the most significant operating system overhaul Apple has ever undertaken. It's cleaner, faster and more visually appealing, and Apple has made it available for older devices as well, including the iPhone 4. While iPhone 5 users will experience a seamless transition to iOS 7 (given that it's almost identical to the iPhone 5c), iPhone 4 and 4s users will face slowdowns and freezes due to their older specifications. Here too, Apple has optimized iOS 7 for 64-bit architecture, so users will be able to experience it best on the iPhone 5s.
The iPhone 5s is Apple's most expensive smartphone till date. The 16GB variant costs Rs 53,500 (the iPhone 5 was launched at Rs 44,500 – that's a Rs 9,000 jump in price). The price goes up to Rs 63,500 for 32GB and Rs 71,500 for the 64GB variants.
Apple isn't known for slashing prices but small changes have been seen in the past, so we could potentially see a minor drop in price (up to Rs 3,000) in the next 6-8 months.
But sooner than that, Apple and other retailers will most likely to launch buyback schemes, like we've seen with the iPhone 5c this week. Users can expect a similar cashback of up to Rs 13,000 for their for older devices.
Plus, with Christmas and New Year around the corner, you'll find good discounts with EMI options, both in store and online. Watch out for these at your local retailers, or keep track of the best offers with our weekly top device deals.
We would advise waiting at least a few months for a decent promotion to come along before upgrading. Our blog will keep you posted with updates on this.
If price isn't a constraint for you, the iPhone 5s is one of the best smartphones of 2013. The advanced 64-bit architecture also makes it future proof, and it's likely to remain a good device for a couple of years at least. But, at present there are too few 64-bit apps, and you won't get the same performance out of existing 32-bit applications.
We suggest that it's best to wait at least a couple of months before you buy the iPhone 5s. The deals are only going to get better from here on.