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    September 11, 2013

    Thoughts on Apple’s New iPhones

    Apple’s yearly release of new iPhones typically has the technology press in a full frenzy, and justifiably so. As one of the best selling phones in the world, the iPhone has become somewhat of an icon, and 6 years later is still the bar against which all other smartphones are measured against. But these days the competition is stiffer than ever, and some analysts report that Apple is not holding up innovation wise to companies like Samsung. So has the new iPhones impressed us enough?

    First off – the iPhone 5C

    The big news with new iPhone 5C is obviously the new colours – it look like Apple took some tips from Nokia’s Lumia range, and built unibody polycarbonate bodies for the new lower priced (but not cheap) iPhone 5C. Specs wise, the 5C is very similiar to the older iPhone 5, except for a slightly larger battery. The A6 processor inside is no slouch, so I would not be too worried about the 5C being a lower end phone.


    The 5C might be lower end, but it is by no means a cheap feeling device. Most reports indicate it is much closer in feel to the higher end Nokia Lumias – and nothing like old iPhone 3G  / 3GS bodies. It is sturdy, with a metal frame inside, so there is almost no case flex. This drives home the point that the 5C is a midrange phone, and I would argue more people will prefer the 5C over the 5S once it arrives.

    Cost of the 5C? $549 for 16GB, $649 for 32GB. Like I said, not cheap.

    The 5S

    This is the phone Apple uses to show off their latest high end technology. “S” models always improve the innards, and leave the outsides well alone – and this time is no different. The phone does come in three colours – Gold (actually champagne), Space Gray, and White.The 5S ships with the new A7 chip – which is apparently 40 times faster than the original iPhone (which is a silly metric to use in my opinion). In typical Apple fashion, there was no talk about how many cores it ships with, how much RAM it has etc. They simply stated how much faster it is, which I think is a good thing. As someone who reviews many phones, I can tell you the specs race is mostly nonsense – it is all about how efficient software runs on a phone, not how much brute force the phone has.


    Apple did however mention that this is the first 64bit processor in a mobile phone, something which I honestly never thought was necessary. Apple kind of glossed over how apps would harness this new instruction set – I would like to see how Apple keeps it simple for developers who want use this. Hopefully it does not mean massive AppStore downloads which hold all builds of software (like they are doing with current universal compiled apps).


    Almost every single thing in this event was leaked ahead of time – except for the “M7 motion co-processor”. This is essentially a second processor that handles all movement related activity for the phone, without touching the main processor. The M7 actually runs 24/7 in the background, then logs your movement. Once you fire up an app like Nike Move, it simply goes and reads those log files. No need to run it in the background – smart.


    The camera is the other area that got a lot of attention – instead of more megapixels, the increased the actual size of photosites on the sensor. The main benefit is better photos in low light, which is something anybody would appreciate. What is interesting is how this is the polar opposite of what Nokia is doing with their PureView camera on the new high end 1020 with 41 megapixels. The camera now also has 120fps slow motion features, with which Apple made some great software features. There is also a 10 fps burst mode – handy for those high speed shots.

    Apple also updated the flash system with something quite innovative. It now uses two LED’s with different levels of warmth (colour wise) – this means the camera can increase or decrease specific colour warmth once a photo gets taken. No more washed out photos because of a cold white flash. This pretty smart stuff – not only for phones, but for any camera.


    The biggest difference between the 5S and the 5C comes down to one new feature – the fingerprint sensor. The new “Touch ID” feature uses a new fingerprint sensor built into the home button. Instead of typing passcodes and password on the new 5S, you simply hold your thumb (or any finger) over the home button. This is not like the “swipe down” fingerprint sensor on your laptop though. You simply put your finger down. Apple did not go too much into the technology behind it – and rather focussed on the fact that it simply works. We will see once we get our hands on it.

    Cost? $649 for 16GB, $749 for 32GB, $849 for 64GB.

    So which one to get?

    There is an interesting shift happening with the new iPhones – it looks like Apple is moving most of its marketing to the lower priced 5C, and reckon it would become their volume seller. People seem to be familiar with the design of the 5, and the 5S looks almost exactly the same, so its understandable. I reckon the 5C vs 5S argument would simply be answered by “do you want to use your fingerprint?” which is not at the top of everyone’s want list. If the 5C feels high end enough, why spend more on the 5S then? There is still the iPhone 4S which will land at $100 cheaper than the 5C. The 4S is still a very capable phone, and in our testing runs iOS7 without any issues. It does still have the outdated 30 pin adaptor though, which is a odd move by Apple.

    High end users will obviously go for the 5S (or might have switched to a different phone already), but you can be sure that the Vodacom, MTNs and Cell C’s of the world would focus all their efforts on the 5C.

    But the bigger question is – which one will you get? Let us know in the comments.

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    • jason du toit

      i will get neither. i can get an android – superior, and cheaper!

    • Sudhir

      I love my Iphone, but will wait for the iphone6. I generally ignore the “S” range. The Samsung is a good phone in terms of Android, but thats the only reason. I would not say Samsung puts alot of thought in terms of usability and quality. My wife has a S4, but I still prefer the ease of use and quality of a Apple product. Software works well with the hardware.

    • Christo

      Impressive and to the point review..5S my choice!

    • Shiv179

      Does anyone notice how Apple fanboy sites (like this) never refer to the 5C’s exterior as plastic, instead they use polycarbonate?

      • Darryl Le Roux

        polycarbonate is a superior version of plastic, and guess what, it’s the exact same material as an S4. Have you heard of the S4 being referred to as plastic? No. Therefore your comment is null n void.

      • Polycarbonate is quite a bit different from standard old plastic.

      • Shiv179

        @minnaarpieters:disqus @darrylleroux:disqus You guys are missing the point.
        Polycarbonate is a versatile, tough plastic.
        Plastic is still plastic.
        My point is that Pro-Apple sites will never use the word “plastic”, it is beneath them so they use the word “polycarbonate”.
        GSMArena uses the word “plastic” to describe the 5C.
        Darryl, Minnaar did refer to the S4 as plastic in his hands-on review of the S4: “It is a plastic phone with almost no texture to it”.

        • Good point Shiv. I did say that.

          However – I stand by the fact that the S4 does feel cheap. Not all plastic (or polycarbonate) phones feel cheap – Nokia Lumia is a case in point. They are also polycarbonate, and feel decidedly more high end.

          I must admit that the S4 actually stands up to wear very well, despite me thinking it feels cheap.

    • saneman

      why are they so big in the pictures and so small in real life

    • Clintie

      The problem with a nice free open source operating system is that you also open the door for dodgy developers to develop nice free exploits and other threats. Apple have the most secure mobile OS platform on the market. end of story.