Knowing that the iPhone 5s is currently in limited supply, I arrived at my local AT&T store early Friday morning to get in line. Supplies were indeed limited, and about 30 minutes before the store opened at 8 am I was reminded of the quote from Henry Ford that "Any customer can have a [Model T] car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black" when the AT&T employees announced that they were not provided with any white or gold iPhones. I wanted a 64 GB black model anyway — technically called "space gray" — so the announcement did not affect me, but others in line were disappointed. Indeed, according to ifo Apple Store, no carrier stores received any gold iPhones, and even Apple-owned stores only received two to five gold phones per store. I understand that no store currently has an iPhone 5s of any color in stock, and it will be October before orders start to be filled. So that is a long way of saying that if you don't already have an iPhone 5s, you may have to wait a few weeks to get one — especially if you want gold.
But let me tell you, the iPhone 5s is worth the wait. After three days of extensively using mine, I love it. It combines everything that I loved about the iPhone 5 — the great size and weight, the longer screen, the speedy 4G LTE — and adds three great new features.
Security and Convenience
The marquee feature of the iPhone 5s is the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Apple has managed to take a very complicated technology and make it work so well that it seems like magic. The scanner always works, and it works so quickly that I find it hard to believe that my finger was scanned at all.
One advantage is convenience. I cannot even count the number of times that I pick up my iPhone every day to use it. In the past, I would have to first press a button to wake the screen and then swipe to unlock the iPhone, and then if I had not used the iPhone in 15 minutes I would have to enter the four digit pin. But with the iPhone 5s, I just press and release the home button and leave my finger on top of the button for the shortest of time — like a quarter of a second — and my finger is scanned and the iPhone is unlocked and I can use it. Even if you never use a password on your iPhone, it is faster to use the home button plus fingerprint scanner than to first press a button to wake up the screen and then swipe to unlock.
But of course, you should use a password on your iPhone (and if you are a lawyer, I would say that you MUST use a password on your iPhone) and yet the iPhone 5s manages to combine convenience with security, concepts that are virtually always at odds with one another. As I just mentioned, in the past I would only require a password on my iPhone every 15 minutes because it was just too inconvenient to have to enter a password every time. I knew I was giving up some security, but I hoped to be lucky. But with the iPhone 5s, I now tell my iPhone to require a passcode immediately every time someone tries to use it (Settings -> General -> Passcode & Fingerprint) because it never slows me down to have my fingerprint scanned so why not have the most security. This gives me much more protection if someone else were to accidentally or maliciously pick up my iPhone and try to use it. And given the amount of confidential information on my iPhone, making a passcode/fingerprint a constant requirement makes me feel much better about satisfying Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6(c): "A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client."
I also love the fact that I can use my fingerprint to buy apps or music on my iPhone. Apple now has strong security requirements for an Apple ID password: "Your password must be at least eight characters including a number, an uppercase letter, and a lowercase letter. You cannot use spaces, the same character three times in a row, your Apple ID, or a password you've used in the last year." I support the idea of strong passwords, but we all know what a pain they are to type. It is infinitely easier to simply place my finger on my home button for a fraction of a second to approve a purchase. I cannot wait for Apple to expand this feature to other iPhone apps that have a username and password requirement.
In short, the Touch ID fingerprint scanner is a great feature for anyone who uses an iPhone, but it is an especially great feature for anyone who keeps private information on their iPhone, which of course includes all attorneys. You get both greater security and greater convenience at the same time.
I have a nice Nikon SLR camera that takes beautiful pictures and video, but I still take a large number of pictures and video with my iPhone just because I always have it with me. One of the secrets to taking great pictures with my Nikon camera is to take a ton of pictures. There are always going to be some bad ones because a subject blinks or looks to the side, but if I take a bunch in a row, I usually get at least one that works well. My Nikon 5100 can take 4 frames a second in burst mode if I hold down the button, which helps to get the perfect picture. The iPhone 5s can take an amazing 10 frames a second when you hold down the button (either the on-screen virtual button or the physical volume button, which is what I prefer to use). I'm sure that I will get used to this over time, but right now, every single time I hold down the button I am again astonished at how quickly the iPhone 5s can take pictures.
The Camera roll keeps all of those burst mode pictures together in a bundle so they take up just one square on your grid of pictures. You can do nothing more and simply keep all of those pictures, which makes sense if you want to look at all of them on the large screen of your computer at a later date to select the best one. Or you can tap on the bundle and then tap on the word Favorites to select the one or more that you want to save (the iPhone 5s helps you by selecting the one that it likes best, and in my tests it usually made good picks) and then delete the rest of the pictures in the bundle all at once.
I tested this burst mode over the weekend with the toughest subjects I know — my kids. Having a five and seven year old both look at the camera at the same time without making a goofy face can be one of life's greatest challenges, but with 10 pictures snapped every second, it was far, far easier to get a picture worth keeping. And when I took pictures of my son playing soccer this weekend, the burst mode made it so much easier to get just the right shot when there was a lot of activity. The burst mode is amazing and I'm going to use it all of the time. The new slow motion mode is also really fun, resulting in some ESPN-worthy videos of my son kicking the soccer ball.
Apple has some amazing sample pictures taken by an iPhone 5s on its website. Here are two pictures that I took of some flowers. Click each picture to see it full-size:
There are other things I like about the iPhone 5s camera. It has a new f/2.2 aperture and other improvements to make each picture more sharp, even in limited light. And while I hate to use a flash on any iPhone, the iPhone 5s flash is actually not that bad, thanks to the new dual-LED lights (one white LED, one amber LED) which are used in different combinations to cast the best color on your subjects.
Just yesterday, during the halftime of the Saints football game, my kids and I heard music outside of our house. We ran outside to investigate, and a few blocks away found a street parade. (You never know when you will run into a parade in New Orleans. I later discovered that this one was the Young Men Olympian, Jr. 129th Annual Anniversary Parade.) We listened and danced along to the music for a few minutes and I shot two quick videos, which I quickly trimmed and merged into a single movie using the powerful iMovie app on my iPhone and then uploaded the movie to YouTube. Here is the result:
As always, the best part about the iPhone camera is that it is always with me. Improvements to the camera hardware and software are always appreciated because it means that those unanticipated moments are preserved that much better.
The final advantage of the iPhone 5s is speed, thanks to the new A7 64-bit processor. Many features of the iPhone 5s such as the ones I described above — the fingerprint scanner, slow motion video and the burst mode — wouldn't be possible without that fast processor. (If I hold down the button on my iPhone 5, I get closer to one frame per second.) The processor also helps to make the iPhone 5s as a whole feel more zippy and responsive.
I also used the Safari app to load lots of webpages on both my iPhone 5 and my iPhone 5s at the same time. The iPhone 5 was no slouch, but even so, the iPhone 5s typically loaded pages about twice as fast.
I also look forward to seeing what app developers can do when they have more powerful resources to work with, and in the coming months I expect to see apps that really show off the power and speed of the iPhone 5s.
The jump from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 5s does not feel quite as substantial as the jump from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone did last year, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a real leap forward. And I'm not the only one who feels this way. As I noted last week, the reviews from those who received early review units from Apple were almost universally glowing. The subsequent reviews have been just as positive. For example, I see that the website The Verge (which reviews every major smartphone) rated the iPhone 5s an 8.8. Only once before has The Verge ever rated a smartphone that high; it was the iPhone 5 this time last year.
The improvements to security, convenience, photography and speed result in an iPhone that is a joy to use every single day. The iPhone 5s is a fantastic device that any lawyer would appreciate using.