Yesterday, Apple introduced two new iPhones, the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c. The iPhone 5s is the flagship model. It will be available starting September 20, 2013, and it costs the same as the iPhone 5 that it replaces: $199 for 16 GB, $299 for 32 GB and $399 for 64 GB. The iPhone 5s includes some great new features, and the more I read about this device, the more I am sure that lawyers are going to love it.
Before I get to the phone itself, I have to be a technical lawyer and comment upon the typography of the name. To my eyes, it looks wrong for the "s" to be lowercase. Apple used an uppercase letter for the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 3GS; why is it different this year? Back in 2009 when Apple introduced the iPhone 3GS, some parts of Apple's website called it the "iPhone 3G S" but then Apple realized that the space before the S was silly and removed it. The chance of a change this year seems smaller, especially since there seems to be an argument for using a lower case "s" in the Helvitica family font used by Apple, but I'm still holding out hope that the anti-e.e. cummings crowd at Apple prevails.
On to the phone itself. For many years now, Apple has had a "tick tock" cycle in which they introduce a bold new design for the iPhone one year, and then the next year they use the same design with improvements. Thus, we had the iPhone 3G, followed by the iPhone 3GS that used the same form factor; the iPhone 4 followed by the identical-from-the-outside iPhone 4S. In 2012 we had the new design of the iPhone 5, and this year, the iPhone 5s looks almost exactly the same, and has the same dimensions, weight and battery life. If the iPhone 5 was the "tick" what is the difference in this "tock"? The changes include a speedy new processor, a fingerprint sensor, a better camera and a few more features such as new colors.
1. New Processor
The iPhone 5 used an A6 processor. The iPhone 5s uses an A7 processor with a 64-bit architecture. The A7 is twice as fast as last year's A6 and is 40 times faster than the original iPhone introduced in 2007. This will make the iPhone itself seem more responsive, reducing the friction between you and getting things done. More importantly, apps can use the faster processor to include features that were previously impossible. Yesterday, Apple showed off a game — Infinity Blade 3 — that looked incredible thanks to the A7 processor. I'm not a big gamer (although I did play and enjoy Infinity Blade 1 and 2, so I suspect I'll buy the sequel), but I look forward to seeing what app developers can do with this new processor to make more powerful apps.
2. Touch ID
Apple is combining the power of the A7 chip with some new hardware inside of the home button on the iPhone 5s to add a fingerprint scanner, technology that Apple calls Touch ID. If you are an attorney using an iPhone, then I certainly hope you are using the passcode lock feature so that someone cannot simply pick up your iPhone and start reading your email and other confidential information. But of course, it is a pain to have to type in that passcode every time you go to use your iPhone. With the iPhone 5s, you won't have to type in that passcode. Simply place your finger on the home button and the iPhone will scan your finger, confirm that you are really you, and then unlock the phone. Similarly, you can use your fingerprint instead of typing your Apple ID every time you download a new app.
Touch ID can store up to five fingerprints, so you can choose your thumb, your index finger, fingers on left and right hands, etc. And they can be from different people, useful if you want your spouse to be able to easily unlock your iPhone while you are driving.
At first I assumed that the iPhone 5s is taking a picture of your finger, but that's not how it works. Security expert Rich Mogull explains in an article at Macworld that it uses a "capacitance fingerprint reader [that] leverages a handy property of your skin: The outer layer of your skin (your dermis), where your fingerprint is, is non-conductive, while the subdermal layer behind it is conductive. When you touch the iPhone’s fingerprint sensor, it measures the minuscule differences in conductivity caused by the raised parts of your fingerprint, and it uses those measurements to form an image."
According to folks who tried it out yesterday, it works really well. For example, John Gruber of Daring Fireball wrote: "It’s fairly quick to train, and once trained, it is really fast, and in my brief hands-on testing, very accurate. The optimal way to use it to unlock your phone seems to be to tap the home button once to wake the phone, and then just keep your thumb or finger on the button for just another moment. Boom, unlocked. It’s very impressive technology. I already feel silly tapping in my passcode to unlock my iPhone." David Pogue of the New York Times wrote: "I got a few minutes with the 5S at Apple’s event introducing the phone. I trained it to recognize my finger, then used it to unlock the phone a couple of times. It worked perfectly, which is a welcome advance. And the placement on the Home button is ingenious." By the way, I see that Pogue and the Times seem to agree with my opinion that "5S" looks better than "5s".
For now, third party apps cannot use Touch ID, but I'm sure (or at least I hope) that will change in the future. For example, I'd love to be able to simply use my fingerprint to unlock the 1Password app on my iPhone.
Security is incredibly important to lawyers — especially in this age of mobile devices — but it always involves a trade-off between protection and ease of use. Using a password of "1234" is easy to remember and easy to enter, but provides horrible protection. Complex passwords provide more protection at the cost of convenience. Touch ID has the potential to provide both high security and high convenience at the same time, a juxtaposition that was previously impossible. I'm very excited to try it myself and see future enhancements to Touch ID.
3. Better camera
Every year, Apple finds a way to improve the camera in the iPhone 5, and I'm incredibly glad that they do so. Since your iPhone is always with you, it is the camera that you are most likely to use, whether you are taking pictures of your kids or photographing a document to scan it.
The iPhone 5s combines the A7 with new camera hardware — a larger sensor and an improved flash — to take even better pictures. And the faster processor lets the camera do things like take 10 photos a second in a burst mode, provide auto image stabilization, and improve the color balance. The camera also supports slow motion video, something that I don't think that I'll use in my law practice but will be fun while taking videos of the kids.
4. And that's not all
Colors. The iPhone 5 came in black and white. The iPhone 5s has a white-and-silver model, a black-and-gray model (Apple calls it "space gray" whatever that means) and a new white-and-gold model. There have been rumors of a gold iPhone for a while now and I feared that it would be tacky and gaudy, but this is Apple after all so it is no surprise that their version of gold looks tasteful and rather nice, even if it is a bit too much bling for me.
Free apps. When you buy a new iPhone, you now get some great apps designed by Apple — Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iPhoto and iMovie — for free. The first three cost $10 each while iPhoto and iMovie cost $5 each, so that's $40 in free apps, all of which I use on my iPhone and recommend. (I use them even more on my iPad, so hopefully they will also be included with the 2013 version of the iPad that I expect Apple to introduce next month.)
Motion data. The iPhone 5s comes with a new M7 motion data processor that measures data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass much more efficiently, using less power, than prior iPhones that used the main processor for that task. As a result, the iPhone can monitor your motion all the time and react accordingly. Apple explains on its website: "Since M7 can tell when you’re in a moving vehicle, iPhone 5s won’t ask you to join Wi-Fi networks you pass by. And if your phone hasn’t moved for a while, like when you’re asleep, M7 reduces network pinging to spare your battery." Fitness apps such as the Nike+ Move app will be able to take advantage of the M7 to better monitor your exercise.
Improved LTE coverage. If you travel internationally with your iPhone 5s, the improved LTE coverage will give you faster speeds on more networks around the world. This isn't something that I plan to use because international roaming charges are expensive, but if your job takes you around the world, you might appreciate this feature.
The iPhone 5s only adds a few more things to the iPhone 5, but they look like features that most any lawyer would appreciate. The security and ease-of-use improvements of the Touch ID would be enough of a reason for me to upgrade, and when you add the faster A7 processor, the better camera and all of the other improvements, there is no doubt that I will be getting one — and that would be true even if I didn't publish this website. If you currently use an iPhone 5, the upgrade to an iPhone 5s is certainly not essential, but it will make your constant companion even more useful. (If you are not eligible to pay the subsidized price because you bought an iPhone 5 within the past year, you might be able to use a subsidized upgrade available to someone else on your wireless plan such as a spouse; that's what I did last year.) If you currently use an iPhone 4S or older model of the iPhone, then you get all of the improvements noted above plus the improvements of the iPhone 5 such as the larger screen and the thin, light design — so you are in for a treat. And if the iPhone 5s will be your first iPhone, then welcome to iPhone J.D., and I hope that you stick around.
A few words about the iPhone 5c
Yesterday, Apple also announced the iPhone 5c. It is $100 cheaper than the iPhone 5s, but you lose almost all of the advantages of the iPhone 5s. For the most part, the iPhone 5c is just last year's iPhone 5 with some bright colors added to the back. If you are trying to get a less expensive iPhone for your teenager who wants a cool color anyway, the iPhone 5c is a fine choice. But I think that most attorneys would be wise to spend the extra $100 to get a much more powerful device with better security and an improved camera.