New Dog, New tricks

Well it’s official. The new iPhone is coming soon. I’m only choosing to cover this widely publicized and purely commercial story because, quite frankly, I’m seriously considering buying the 5S. So bear with me. For those unaware (that being those of you with enough of a life not to follow every breaking news piece since 1 PM Eastern today), the 5S was just announced this afternoon along with the cheaper and more colorful 5C. Both phones will ship September 20, and pre-orders will begin this coming Friday, September 13 (kudos for that one as well Apple). The 5C certainly makes sense, given the iPhone’s highly fashionable reputation, especially among a younger crowd. Nobody wants to drop $300 on an iPhone for a 13-year-old. But they might be willing to drop $100. For Christmas or something. But I don’t care much about the 5C, largely because I’m an adult. Sort of.

The 5S will run the A7 processor (the 5C will run the A6) and 64 bit software, both of which are good to hear. According to Apple’s presentation today, the A7 should allow the 5S to run forty times faster than the 5. Some may question the usefulness of this, given that the 5 is hardly a slouch when it comes to processing, but we also have yet to see the 5 run iOS 7. What with the control center always available and multitasking added, a beefed up processor is probably a good idea. The new model will also feature the M7 chip, which will monitor motion sensors and such, apart from the A7’s functionality, to help keep track for fitness apps and things like that without bogging down everyday use.

Before I talk about iOS 7, I’d like to talk cameras. The iPhone 5S will have an 8 megapixel camera. This is, in short, a ballsy move. Camera phones have been beefing up pixel counts at a frightening pace, with Nokia recently stepping into the shoes of that inevitable kid who just doesn’t know when to stop with their Lumia 1020 sporting a 41 megapixel camera (coming out in two days, eight days before the 5S and 5C). No offense to Nokia, I like the idea of Windows phones, but 41? Really? My God. It’s a phone. I need it to, like, make calls and send texts and check Facebook, not get me on the cover of National Geographic. For a more average comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S4 packs 13 megapixels. Oh, and higher megapixels translates to greater clarity, as in more detail, fewer jagged edges and so on. Anyways, what Apple has opted for instead is a change in how those pixels are defined, with a revamped sensor and a new flash to better create “natural lighting.” So far as cameras packed into phones are concerned, that’s a pretty bold decision, stopping the pixel race short of mutually assured overkill. Personally, I kind of appreciate it, but given Apple’s affection for the pretentious arthouse aesthetic, they may lose some people over that.

Now about this iOS 7. To be perfectly honest, this new operating system is the main reason I am even considering buying an iPhone. It’s a gorgeous overhaul to an otherwise generally stale OS that is adding a lot of much needed functions. Apple might want to be a bit embarrassed it’s taken this long to add a control center feature. Android has sported that for quite some time and with great results. But between that, multitasking, improved e-mail and browsing, and a number of features I doubt I’ll make too much use of, iOS 7 is actually a pretty impressive upgrade (which to me seems rare when you talk about Apple updates). Now for something that I feel doesn’t get said enough: I really like iOS and Android. Seriously. I have a Nexus 7 with Jelly Bean and it’s smooth, quick, and gorgeous. I love the accessibility and Google Now is ridiculously cool. But iOS 7 looks on par with it in terms of functionality and with a slick new coat of paint that I genuinely dig. I don’t see why you should have to choose a side. They both work beautifully, and I’m glad I could get the chance to use both.

Probably the only decision I question is what Apple calls Touch ID. It’s a little fingerprint sensor embedded in the Home button that acts as the lock on the 5S. Now that sounds pretty cool, right? Everybody likes fingerprint technology. It’s got that sci-fi sheen I like in new devices. But it just seems an odd step. What about sharing phones within a family? Am I legitimately the only person who could open my phone? That could get really inconvenient, especially if it goes to sleep at some point while someone is using it. Also, given the Home button’s tendency to lose sensitivity and eventually die, putting an even more expensive piece of equipment in there seems a poor decision. And how secure is this fingerprint technology? I don’t mean to be overly skeptical, but I don’t trust a lot of fingerprint tech. I’m sure Apple has done the legwork to ensure it’s functional and secure but I’d like to see some tests of that, just to be sure. If it’s $400 (which mine would be, I have a lot of music) I’d rather not be buying a less-than-functional security option. Not that drawing little patterns or using four digit codes is overtly safe. But still. It’s the principle, right?

So far as iPhones go, the 5S looks pretty good. It’s more or less what you’d expect from Apple at this point, which is, to some degree, regrettable. While it certainly is an impressive piece of hardware with some nifty features and sexy looks, it’s not groundbreaking. In fact not much has been that groundbreaking from Apple in a while. Given their past, it would certainly be nice to see something besides a streamlined iPhone come out. At the same time though, it is nice knowing you can pick up their products and get something accessible, functional, and reliable. It may not be revolutionary, but it obviously works for them.


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