Apple iPhone 5s review: Step by step

GSMArena team, 27 September 2013.

Tags: Apple, iOS

Powerful connectivity options

The Apple iPhone 5s supports quad-band GSM, penta-band 3G plus a plethora of LTE bands. On its A1453 model the number of supported LTE bands is a whopping 13. A CDMA version is available as well. If you want to know more about the different model versions and the carriers they support check out the table below.

Model Number

Country

Carrier

Model A1533 (GSM)
Model A1533 (CDMA)

United States
    • AT&T
    • T-Mobile
    • Verizon
    • Bell (including Virgin)
    • Rogers (including Fido)
    • Telus (including Koodo)
    • AT&T
    • T-Mobile
Canada
Puerto Rico

Model A1453

United States
    • Sprint
    • KDDI
    • NTT docomo
    • Softbank
    • Sprint
Japan
Puerto Rico

Model A1457

France
    • Bouygues
    • Orange
    • SFR
    • Deutsche Telekom
    • Vodafone
    • EE
    • Vodafone
Germany
United Kingdom

Model A1530

Australia
    • Optus (including Virgin)
    • Telstra
    • Vodafone
    • CSL
    • Hutchison
    • SmarTone
    • KT
    • SK Telecom
    • Vodafone
    • M1
    • SingTel
    • StarHub
Hong Kong
Korea
New Zealand
Singapore

The iPhone 5s supports dual-band (2.4 GHz as well as 5 GHz) Wi-Fi a/b/g/n. Some of its Android rivals come with the latest ac Wi-Fi standard, which offers faster speed transfers, but unfortunately, the iPhone 5s doesn't yet support it. Tethering, however, is supported, although it's up to your carrier if you'll be able to use it.

There's Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP support, but that's hardly any good for data transfers. We've long since given up hope that Apple will enable sending and receiving files on iOS devices through Bluetooth, but as cloud storage solutions improve we no miss it that much.

The iPhone 5s offers A-GPS and GLONASS support, just like its predecessor. Also just like its predecessor, the smartphone is impressively quick in getting a satellite lock, taking just a few seconds on most occasions.

There is one new feature in the iOS 7 connectivity department - AirDrop. It's a system-wide file sharing service between supported iDevices. AirDrop needs to have both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on to work.

AirDrop is available in every share menu throughout the iOS 7. You can send pictures, videos, App Store and iTunes links, Notes, Maps links, all kind of files from file managing apps (i.e. Filer, Flash Drive, Air Disk, etc.), Office docs, and more.

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AirDrop in Photos, Browser, Notes, Mail

If there are people with AirDrop service around you, they will automatically appear in the dedicated AirDrop field. You just mark your files, select people and hit the send key.

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AirDrop in action

AirDrop won't work with other phones and PCs, but will work on Macs running on OS X Mavericks.

Regular USB mass storage isn't available but there's a workaround using the iTunes computer software. You can transfer whatever files you want, but those are only made available to the app that you've dropped them onto. Good things is you are not restricted to files compatible with said app and you can simply drag&drop files that you would download on another computer later on.

Sadly, hardware storage expansion is still out of Apple's policy.

Apple is continually improving its Find My iPhone service. The latest iOS 7 updates it with the so-called Activation Lock. This will not only protect your personal data but also make your iDevice inoperable once wiped unless you enter your Apple ID. This means the stolen or lost iGadgets will be of no use to thieves or finders.

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Activation Lock

iCloud was an integral part of iOS 5 and is present here in iOS 7. It syncs all of your important data between all of your devices running iOS 5 or above.

You get 5 GB of free storage but you can buy more if you want. Selecting which apps to sync is pretty easy. iCloud even remembers each device you've backed up so you can restore them separately if you wish. You can naturally delete older backups to free up space.

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The iCloud menu

Apple has records on exactly what apps you've purchased, what you have installed on an iDevice and what you've deleted for some reason. Apple keeps tabs on this for each of your iDevices.

So if you chose to sync with iCloud, Apple will sync only the app's personal data, not the entire IPA file (as iTunes did). Here is an example:

Say, you have Angry Birds installed on your iPhone. It has a save data of 1.5MB. Apple will sync only this file. If you delete the game and later install it again (free, from the Purchased list), your iPhone will download the original IPA from the App Store and will get back this 1.5MB file too - a lot more natural process to sync an app rather than keeping the whole image. If you use an app as USB storage (Filer or even CineXPlayer), then, by default, the whole content will be backed up too, eating your backup quote quite fast.

There is one more thing with the iCloud app sync - when you buy a new app, it will be pushed to all of your iDevices automatically (if available and if you have enabled this feature from the AppStore settings).

Apple has announced a new connectivity mode that will be supported in a wide range of vehicles, starting in 2014 - iOS in the car. You will be able to see your iPhone screen on your compatible car display. And you will be able to control it via your car controls or just tell Siri via your car audio system what it is you want it to do for you on your iPhone.

You will be able to use navigation, dictate messages, make calls, play music or iTunes radio, and more.

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iOS in the car

Among the confirmed car manufacturers to integrate the new service are Honda, Mercedes, Nissan, Ferrari, Chevrolet, Infiniti, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, Opel, Jaguar and Acura.

New Safari with unified search field

Apple has finally updated the Safari browser. Yes, it got flat looks and 3D tab switching, but that's just the beginning.

The first thing you'll notice is the unified search/address field. It was about time, really. The next long-awaited features are the full-screen view and auto-hide. Open in background handy options premieres as well.

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The new Safari web browser

Safari finally supports more than 8 simultaneously opened web tabs. We quit trying to reach the new limit (if there is one) at around 22. The tab switching interface is a 3D arc where you swipe a tab left or right to close it. You can rearrange the tabs, you can add new ones or switch to private browsing. It's certainly looks good but it's a departure from the flat design language seen elsewhere on iOS7.

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The tab switcher • switching to Private browsing

When you switch to private browsing, you'll need to either close all current tabs or migrate them to Private as well. It's not possible to have private and non-private tabs open simultaneously like in Google Chrome. When you are browsing in Private mode, Safari switches to a dark gray color scheme.

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The Private Safari skin

When you open your History you'll find a new tab called Shared Links. Here you'll find all links from your Twitter timeline, with authors and comments.

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Bookmarks • Shared Links • Safari settings

Safari in iOS 7 supports the iCloud keychain where you can store all of your passwords and credit card info (sans the security code). There is also a password generator available, in case you are out of ideas. What's good about this setup is that all your save content from the computer version of Safari is now available straight on your phone as well.

In much the same way, iCloud syncs your opened tabs, along with offline reading. Safari also allows you access to your multimedia content without exiting the browser.

Much like before, if a page is compatible with the integrated Reader (most of the article pages out there are) you get a Reader button right into the address bar as soon as the page loads. The Reader strips the webpage of ads and makes the layout and font size more suited to a smaller phone screen. And best of all, if you are reading a multi-page article (such as our reviews) getting from one page to the next is automatic as soon as you scroll to the end.

You can set the font size via two controls at the top, and also there's a built-in dictionary to look up unknown words.

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