I’m an iPhone 4S owner who, until this week, had convinced myself that my next phone would be an Android phablet. The LG G2 had been atop my short list. But then the reviews of the iPhone 5S came out, and iOS 7 was released, and suddenly I’m like Hamlet again. To upgrade to iPhone 5S or not – that is the question… 

While I haven’t touched an iPhone 5S in person, that hasn’t stopped me (or tens of millions of us) from forming strong opinions about it. Here’s the 5 things I love and hate most about the iPhone 5S.


1) I love the iPhone 5S’s speed. While Apple’s iPhones and iPads go along with two CPU cores, top-of-the-line Android devices from Samsung, LG, HTC and Motorola have all sported 4 CPU cores – and for almost two years to boot.

While mo’ cores is mo’ better in the PC world, it translates as better PR than performance with mobile devices. The reason? Unlike on PCs, we don’t multitask on our smartphone or tablet much. Also, mobile apps (and platforms) aren’t generally written in a way to distribute tasks to take advantage of all 4 cores at once. Finally, more cores and faster CPU speeds (in terms of GHz) both drain batteries faster.

The iPhone 5S may still only have two cores, but according to blogger king of benchmarks Anand Lal Shimpi, it outpaces every Android device on the market today by at least 25%. That’s due less today to the iPhone 5S’s 64-bit silicon brain (32-bit iOS apps haven’t been rewritten to take advantage of 64-bit) and more due to how Apple has optimized iOS 7 to run on its custom A7 chipset.

Not only is the iPhone 5S faster than every Android device, it’s also 43% faster than the iPhone 5, 4x faster than the iPhone 4S, a whopping 8 times faster than the iPhone 4, and an incredible 41x faster than the original iPhone. It even matches desktop-class CPUs from Intel and AMD in speed, according to Shimpi. That’s a first.

2) I hate that it’s called the iPhone 5S but it doesn’t have a 5-inch screen. The primary reason I am thinking about going phablet is for the larger screen. I do a lot of reading on my phone. And I’m convinced that that reading is accelerating my 40-something presbyopia. Plus, I’m a tall guy. A 5-inch+ phone fits perfectly in my mitts.

While there are rumors that the iPhone 6 will have a larger screen, the iPhone 5S keeps the same 4-inch, 1135×640 screen as the iPhone 5. Meanwhile, the LG G2 has a 5.2-inch 1920×1280 screen. One way to look at it is that for a 28% increase in weight, the LG G2 has 185% more pixels than the iPhone 5S. And note that the LG G2 still only weighs 5 ounces. Hmm, I’m talking myself back into the G2…

3) I love the idea of iPhone 5S’s enterprise-friendly fingerprint sensor. If you’re at all like me, you suffer from password inflation. In the name of security, so many Web sites and apps today demand you come up with new passwords every 90 days containing an ever-more-complicated mix of numbers, capital letters and symbol (read: garbage) characters. It’s impossible to keep track of them, which is why I’ve resorted to solutions like Dashlane. Fingerprint sensors would be the ideal replacement for passwords for device authentication. They’re easier for users AND more secure. The iPhone 5S could jumpstart this trend. And wouldn’t everyone, especially security-conscious IT directors swamped by BYOD, welcome that?
4) I love the iPhone 5S’s cameras improved low-light features. Smartphones already take great photos in outdoor daylight. It’s indoors and other dimly-lit conditions that they struggle, due to their small light-capturing CMOS sensors and lenses. Personally, I take more than half of my photos in these conditions. So I like how Apple invested heavily here. It enlarged the sensor on the 5S while resisting the temptation to get into a megapixel race it can’t win (against phones like the 41-megapixel Nokia’s Lumia 1020. Rather, the iPhone 5S’s 8 million pixels are 34% larger for better shots in low light. The iPhone 5S also has a better lens, a new image stabilizer, facial recognition, and its flash now shoots two bursts of light for better skin tones and colors. 

Apple took a similar approach on its front-facing camera used for video chatting. While keeping its still/video resolutions constant at 1.2 megapixels and 720p HD, Apple made sure the iPhone 5S performs better at low light. The iPhone 5S’s front-facing camera doesn’t match the best Android phones spec-wise – the Sony Xperia Z’s 2.2-megapixel camera can record at 1080p. But I’m willing to wager that performance in real life between the two models is nearly indistinguishable.

5) I hate Apple’s smug marketing. Apple loves to talk up how innovative the features are on its devices (while deriding other phones as “junk”). Yet, apart from the fingerprint sensor, none of the features on the iPhone 5S are groundbreaking. Many are actually late. I like iOS 7’s new look and feel, but designers know that Apple was playing catch-up here versus Windows Phone and Android. Same with the iPhone 5S’s image stabilization, facial recognition and other camera features – Samsung and others have had these features for awhile.

Apple is also able to bulldoze through and make us forget about features that it overhyped and yet remain mediocre. Like Passbook, which was hailed when it was introduced as the first true mobile wallet. I never use that. Or the biggest disappointment, Siri.

Comedian David So articulates my feelings about this in the funniest way I’ve seen recently: (note: NSFW for crude language, non-politically-correct ethnic caricatures):

The way I reconcile it in my mind is this: Apple isn’t the cutting-edge innovator it portrays itself to be. And judging by its catch-up with iOS 7, they aren’t the best designers around. Still, the thing I have to hand to Apple still has the best track record for delivering consistent overall excellence of experience. I credit that to all of the unglamorous under-the-hood engineering, integration and packaging work Apple does. Is that enough to keep me from switching? As the journalistic cliché goes, only time will tell. What say you?