It's that time of year again and Apple's in the usual record-breaking mood at the box-office. This is an S year in the Cupertino calendar but different enough - it may be that two phones instead of one account for almost double last year's record sales. We can only guess as to which one contributed how, but this is hardly the point. We have the latest flagship reporting for duty and it will be both the main course and the desert, considering the 5c didn't quite impress as an appetizer.
As with every "S" version of the iPhone the changes are subtle but not illusory. There's no new design obviously, no bigger screen or a bump in resolution - nothing to go against the conservative grain of how Apple typically delivers iPhone upgrades every other year. That said, it's not this phone's fault that the iPhone 5 wasn't the full-digit upgrade everyone was hoping for.
As usual with Apple - we need to give it that - a certain set of users just can't wait to get the next big thing. Others, though, won't just get rid of the iPhone 5 unless the newcomer is convincing enough. An iPhone may fail to meet the (usually over-inflated) expectations but it has never been a product to be displeased with.
The new OS version may be a decider as well, if more people share our experience and feel the slowdown on an iPhone 5 running iOS 7, but the rest of the new stuff may as well be just enough to tip the scales in favor of the iPhone 5s.
The first thing that makes a tangible difference is Touch ID, with a fingerprint scanner having made the iconic Home button its residence. The camera has a bigger sensor and dual LED flash, and gladly takes advantage of what's probably the most notable improvement - the 64-bit A7 chip. The iOS enters its 64-bit stage in its seventh iteration, well ahead of the competition. What this means is better memory management and more complex tasks and apps ahead. This could as well be the first step to bringing the iOS closer to Apple's dedicated desktop OS X - an early message that both platforms are due for a rendezvous eventually.
The iPhone 5s pushes the major re-design another year back - but this is something we can live with. After all, the styling of the iPhone is still relevant - to say the least. Digging a little deeper reveals that Apple has taken good care of bringing many major facets of performance to a new level on its latest flagship. The processor, the camera, Touch ID, video recording and still imagery, low light performance, and naturally, the look and feel of iOS 7.
However many things are still annoying about the iPhone - many, if not all, repeating themselves years on end. We like the premium compact and lightweight body of the iPhone but perhaps Apple is running out of excuses in terms of screen size and resolution.
And that's what makes the next point even more agonizing - the price. Apple tax or not, the iPhone 5s is more expensive than any of the competition's flagships, and by a good margin too. The bottom line is Apple is charging more and delivering less: a smaller screen, lower resolution, less storage. Oh well. Who can blame them if they can get away with it? Scratch that - make an art of it.
Anyway, an iPhone has always been more than the sum of its specs. But we're going to do the math anyway. Starting with the hardware, which may look similar but not without some noteworthy changes. Let's go.