A rainbow of new handsets from the Cupertino team
Apple’s 2013 keynote speech is now over and with it we have the official confirmation of 2 new devices; the iPhone 5s, an iteration of the current iPhone 5 and the much rumoured, leaked and finally outed iPhone 5c, a cheaper, less premium handset available in a range of colours.
Apple’s global smartphone marketshare has fallen in recent times, mostly due to the explosion of Android activations in developing nations as well as the highly populated India and China. The iPhone though has continued to remain a serious force to contend with in North America, Europe and elsewhere where the relative high cost is not officious and is often subsidised heavily by networks.
By now, the iterative design and release of successive iPhones has become normalised and yesterday showed us the most recent update to the range.
Side by side with the iPhone 5, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two phones. The size and shape is exactly the same, the only two things giving away the 5s are the colour schemes and the updated home button with fingerprint scanner (more on that later). A gold 5s has been doing the rounds on rumour/leak pages for several weeks now and it has been confirmed, alongside silver and gray models in contrast to the standard black and white of last year.
The home button has changed quite significantly and is now far less concave than previously. It is in fact almost completely flat and now features a fingerprint scanner for added lock screen security.
This comes as no surprise with the rumour mill churning for some time over the inclusion of this very feature. Apple acquired AuthenTec last year, a company prolific in the industrial fingerprint scanning world. AuthenTec products have been included in integrated systems for years and are well known for being both small in size and capturing high quality images.
With AuthenTec on board, Apple have included a sapphire top to the home screen. With this you will set up a fingerprint when first using the iPhone 5s and are then able to use the scanner to unlock the handset, replacing traditional passcodes and patterns. Apple are far from the first to use this, even on a smartphone (Motorola’s Atrix had the tech a few years ago), they will however be the first with such a huge installed user base. When the 5s launches, millions of average consumers around the world will be able to test out the technology.
The fingerprint scanner is also the precursor to Touch ID. A unique Apple ID is required for continued use of Apple’s services and with the 5s, this will now also be linked to a fingerprint. Touch ID is likely to be used in the future to verify iTunes purchases, in-app purchases and other features. It’s currently not open to iPhone app developers but that could change in the future.
As with every upgrade, an increase to general speed and performance must be included. Apple have moved their processor onto the A7, a complete in-house custom build, and is being touted as the first 64 bit mobile processor. The clock speed / cores of the processor were not featured although one is to assume they have increased significantly from the iPhone 5’s 1.3 GHz dual-core A6, especially if they are to compete on a graphical level with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragons.
Apple are staying out of the megapixel war with their new camera. Taking a leaf out of HTC’s book they have focussed on improving the pixel size to 1.5µ so improvements to low light imaging over the iPhone 5 should be obvious. This is slightly less than the the 2.0µ of the HTC One sensor, although with 8 megapixels the overall sensor size is larger. A dual LED flash has also been included, once again improving low light shooting.
Both Sony and Nokia have surged ahead in raw numbers recently with the 20 and 41 MP sensors on the Xperia Z1 and Lumia 1020 respectively. A shoot out between the 3 would be welcome in the coming weeks, although with the now huge variations in sensor size, pixel size, pixel count, lenses and processing techniques, straight comparisons are becoming very subjective and difficult to judge.
Available in yellow, red, green, white, pink and blue, the polycarbonate shell of the new 5c is reminiscent of Nokia Lumias from the past few years, who have lead the way in manufacturing high quality plastic shells, in comparison to Samsung’s repeatedly derided ‘slimy’ covers.
Having run through the specifications though, there is little to suggest that the iPhone 5c is anything other than iPhone 5 in a range of coloured plastic cases. This is hit home by Apple’s announcement that they will no longer be selling the original 5, although the 4S will remain available at a cut price, solidifying the ‘three tier’ approach used in recent years.
5c is running on the same A6 processor as the 5 and does not feature the camera enhancements or the fingerprint sensor on the new 5s. This sits the 5c smack in the middle of Apple’s iPhone range and whilst it’s not a cheap handset it is cheaper than the new 5s. There a re a few improvements though including a larger battery, improved resolution on the front facing camera and support for more LTE bands globally.
Those hoping for a much cheaper, entry level iPhone are going to be disappointed. This is a smoke and mirrors way of making something already available into something new and given Apple’s past strategy, the standard iPhone 5 would have dropped to this price point anyway. It’s a neat way of providing the practically the same product to people at a lower price, without the negative perception of it being the ‘older’ model compared to the 5s. Rather, this is now the ‘lower tier’ phone of the same generation – marketing spin for sure but likely to be an effective approach at obtaining new customers.
Introducing the coloured plastic cases will inevitably reduce manufacturing costs however and this should bode well as Apple begin to look more seriously at emerging markets. The 5c provides an inroad for deal making with the likes of Chinese and Indian carriers/consumers who have largely shunned new Apple devices en masse due to their high cost.
iOS7 was announced earlier this year and will be the first major update to the visuals and core internals of iOS since it hit the world 6 years ago in 2007. We provided a brief overview of iOS7 back in June outlining some of the key updates that will be taking place.
Apple have stated that iOS7 will be available for compatible devices from September 27th and will also feature on both of the new iPhones. Alongside the features below which have been widely reported, is the announcement that iOS7 is now 64 bit compatible. Developers will be able to write and publish native 64 bit applications for iOS 7 and have been promised a seamless transition to port existing 32 bit apps to 64 bit.
Finally, iOS7 will include the iWork suite of apps; Pages, Numbers, iMovie, Keynote, and iPhoto, absolutely free. Previously, these have been a premium purchase and relatively pricey to obtain all of them. Apple have yet to show screenshots to show if the apps have been updated to the iOS7 visual style and if they have been reduced in size – the full suite is known to take up a fair amount of memory space.
New iOS features:
- Automatic app updates
- A control centre full of toggles, activated with a swipe up of the device
- A new anti-theft feature
- Notification centre – updates on messages, missed calls, upcoming events
- Improvements to multitasking
- AirDrop – easier sharing of files with other iPhone/Mac users
- An improved version of Safari web browser, including full screen mode
- Improvements to photos and a new ‘Collections’ feature, which groups photos into albums by date and location
- Wikipedia and Twitter integrated into Siri
- Siri can now be used to change system settings on the iPhone
- iTunes Radio – Apple’s new music streaming service
- Camera – new filters can be applied to photos before or after taking them