Archive for October 8, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

iPhone 5s First Impressions

I’ve been using an iPhone 5s for four days now. Overall, I really like it.

I was worried that, coming from a 4S, the increased height would be a problem. It’s actually been a pretty easy adjustment. The extra screen real estate makes a significant difference, yet the phone feels lighter. I wonder where the “too big” line is; a little extra width would make an even bigger difference in what I could see on the screen, but I suspect it would be less comfortable to hold and to stow.

It’s way faster than a 4S but nowhere near fast enough that performance stops mattering. I’m really glad I didn’t get a 5c. It still feels like I’m often waiting for the phone, though sometimes this is for animations or the network. Either iOS 7’s background fetching doesn’t work that well or many of my apps don’t support it yet.

The camera is terrific. It launches much faster, burst mode works well, and even HDR photos are pretty quick now. The photo quality is also improved.

Touch ID is nice, but it needs improvement. On the plus side, it has never accepted a finger that I didn’t train it with. However, it often fails to accept the two thumbs that I did train. My guess is that it only works 75% of the time on the first try. When trying to test it, it worked 20 times in a row several times. But in everyday use, it often fails three times in a row. If my thumb is sweaty, lotioned, or even slightly dirty, it often doesn’t work at all and I have to type my (now longer) passcode. It doesn’t seem to mind a bit of dampness from hand washing, however.

With the 4S, I only had to enter the passcode a few times per day—based on idle time, I suppose. With the 5s, I have to use Touch ID (or type the passcode) every time. When it works, Touch ID feels slower than swiping to unlock. I’m pretty sure it’s not actually slower, but that second or so where it’s scanning my thumb feels like a long time because I’m not doing anything. The delay is long enough that I feel like there should be some visual feedback that it’s actually scanning.

The Compass app’s level always shows 3-4° on known level surfaces—I keep a real level handy—and this is not consistent on the those same surfaces from day to day. I can also rotate the phone on a level table and have it vary by 3°.

Siri is still pretty much unusable when I’m out, even in areas with supposedly high signal strength. Either it waits a while before reporting that Siri is unavailable, or it takes a long time to process and then requires enough correction that it would have been faster for me to perform the task manually. It does work OK for setting timers when I’m at home on Wi-Fi.

Update (2013-10-09): Garrett Murray concurs on Touch ID:

Because I’m usually home all day every day, in the past I rarely had passcode turned on, and when I did it was set to a 2- or 5-minute delay, which meant infrequently passcode entry. With Touch ID, every single interaction with the phone requires the aforementioned touch, hold, wait pattern. Feels very slow.