Apple’s big announcement yesterday left a lot of people wondering what this really means, and whether or not it’s time to upgrade. The short answer is that depends on what you’re looking for and what version of the iPhone you currently have. Here are the biggest takeaways about iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, and what Apple should be doing next to even further advance its technology.
iPhone 5s – TouchID. Tim Cook may be cursing Steve Jobs (RIP) for the name iPod Touch that caused nearly every consumer to nickname it the iTouch, because that would have been an appropriate for Apple’s latest technology. This is what all the tech blogs were chattering about and what everyone was hoping for – consumers, retailers, financial organizations and banking apps – I can’t think of anyone who didn’t want this. TouchID is a biometric finger scanning app to unlock your iPhone and process transactions for iTunes and the App Store. Bye-bye passcode, which only five people I know use (looking at you, Lisa Astor). Hello TouchID, which everyone should use. The best part is that it’s on the redesigned Home button. Now, users don’t have to take an extra step to open the phone’s native screen. Supposedly it’s fast, and it actually gets faster as it recognizes prints better.
The potential goes beyond accessing the native screen of your device. Right now, it’s not open to developers to integrate it into their apps, but it can be used in iTunes and the App Store. In later versions, however, we’ll likely see Apple integrate this into Passbook and eventually, hopefully into third-party apps. Integrating it into Passbook would be a savvy business move for Apple. It will convince more developers to join the Passbook community, and as more apps are using advanced biometric scanning, more consumers will want that ease of use and switch to the iPhone. Not to mention, Apple has access to more consumer credit card accounts than any company, including Amazon, due to its iTunes accounts. If Apple can tap into that for Passbook, the implications for mobile commerce will be incredible. As Apple expands the use of TouchID (hopefully), mobile banking apps will have the potential to enable a fingerprint scan every time you launch an app instead of typing in a code. It’s much more secure, since no one else has your fingerprint, and it’s a much more seamless experience for consumers.
Are there potential pitfalls? Yes, if Apple hasn’t 100% perfected this feature then there could be a lot of angry consumers locked out of their iPhones because the scan isn’t working properly. For example, what if I’m using my iPhone while running (doubtful because I don’t run), and I have sweat running down my fingertips? Or maybe some nervous guy has clammy hands? Does that moisture affect the scan if I want to change the song on my locked device while running? Or will the clammy-hands guy not be able to get that girl’s number because he can’t unlock his device? Ideally, no. But the tech is new; it’s probably not perfect yet.
M7. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, “M7 motion coprocessor gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work from the A7 for improved power efficiency.” It accesses CoreMotion APIs for better fitness and health apps by capturing motion data. This is a good step forward in contextual awareness. If you don’t’ know what contextual awareness is, think Google Now. It gives you the information you want, before you even ask for it. Right now, M7 will be most prevalent in health and fitness apps, and Nike Plus has already been working with Apple to update their app to incorporate the M7 technology.
This helps improve GPS signals, but the potential of contextual awareness is far greater than that. In the future, we’ll have contextually-aware apps and devices that read all kinds of signals around us and make our lives more efficient. Think of a world where it’s winter and it’s snowing. If it snows, you need more time to get ready, but if you didn’t know it snowed – you didn’t set your alarm any earlier. Your phone already has the information you need – it’s snowing (weather app), so you need to get up earlier. A contextually-aware alarm clock can incorporate weather and set off your alarm a half hour earlier than usual so you have time to shovel snow and get to work on time. Is M7 there yet? No, it mostly measures motion and integrates with GPS. But Apple’s headed in the right direction. And for this perpetually late gal, I could use a contextually-aware device. As one of the CNET live bloggers noted, Apple didn’t announce a smart watch – the iPhone 5s is its version of the smart watch.
Camera. This thing is fast, and it’s clear. It takes 10 pictures per second and saves the best one. But it saves those other nine in an accessible place in case you want to double check for yourself. Apple says that it’s not about just adding more pixels, they’ve added bigger pixels. I don’t know much about cameras, but it sounds like that makes sense to me. It also performs better in low light and they’ve improved the front-facing camera. Now, I’m not a camera expert, so if you want all the technical details, Andrew Nusca of ZDNet recaps the features nicely, and what they mean for better pictures. Check out his article if you’re interested.
64-Bit Processor. Today, Apple’s Phil Schiller told us, “The PC world made the transition from 32 bit to 64 bit and it took years. Today you're going to see that Apple is going to do it on one day." So, the iPhone 5s will supposedly have desktop-level processing. While this may not mean much to consumers (except gamers), it’s this type of processing that is letting Apple enable TouchID and the advanced camera. In your other apps, you won’t see the transition to 64 bits for a long time, and honestly, you may not notice it at all.
Those are my high-level points for the iPhone 5s. My recommendation is to go get it if you’re due for an upgrade. For those looking into the less expensive version – the iPhone 5c – my two cents is that this is the child’s version of the iPhone 5. In terms of capabilities, there aren’t many upgrades from the 5. The big thing is that these versions are available in colors. They are coated in hard, durable plastic – probably break less easy when you drop them. But Apple is also marketing colorful cases with it and this makes the iPhone look exactly like a child’s toy. If you do get the 5c, buy a different case than the ones Apple is selling.
As for iOS 7 – that’s a game changer for Apple’s mobile software. It’s very significant and I will certainly be upgrading to it on my iPhone 5. Trust me – there is a new sleek design, better user interfaces, and more intuitive features and functions. As soon as iOS 7 is available, don’t waste any more time on iOS 6. That reminds me, don’t forget to download iWork, iPhoto and iMovie for free – Apple’s no longer charging for those apps.
Recommendation: If you have an upgrade, get the iPhone 5s. Apple is discontinuing the iPhone 5, which is disappointing. It's not all that different from the iPhone 5c in terms of features and functions, but you would feel like an adult while carrying it. I would recommend just going for the 5s rather than settling for the 5c. If you have the iPhone 5 already, upgrade to iOS 7 when it's available. You'll notice the difference. My last recommendation regarding the iPhone 5s is simple – someone please buy me one.