Sports drinks and iPads don’t mix. This was made very clear to me when I was rushing around one morning and I noticed that the bottle of sports drink in my bag had opened. I took out my iPad and it was soaked. The liquid was in the screen. It didn’t dry out, so I scheduled a Genius Bar appointment at the Apple store to get it replaced. This was on Monday, September 23, after the iPhone launch the Friday before.
Arriving early, I asked if they had any of the new iPhones in stock, specifically the 32 GB Space Grey one. They had just received two, so that’s why I have one now. There has only been one other iPhone in my life and that was the 4. It was a similar purchase on launch day when I wandered in to an electronics store at lunchtime to see if they had any. The 4 was a great phone and still works quite well. The interface with iOS 7 made my older phone feel new even though I only used it for a few days. But the 5S is really fast. So fast in that it almost seems too fast. Pages load quickly and the screen updates smoothly. With my whole smartphone life based around the iPhone 4, so my actual, hands-on iPhone experience has been relatively recent. But it is firmly part of my workflow, so having one is important. There was no pressing need for a new phone, but the combination of being out of contract and having my previous phone for over 3 years made it seem a bit more logical to upgrade.
The experience of buying things at the Apple Store is great and with my iPad repair the sales person and I multitasked between setting up the iPad and the iPhone. It doesn’t take long and since my backups are with iCloud it was scarily fast to restore both. My wallpaper was back and all of the apps were there too (but it takes a while to actually download the apps onto your phone if you have a lot). Contacts and calendar are all there. My music is all backed up with iTunes Match, so I’ll get that when I need it.
The thing I keep coming back to is how light it is. It feels like something fell out of my 4 and it’s barely there in my pocket. It’s an evolutionary design that feels quite similar, while being noticeably faster. Most of the time you’re looking at the screen, so the speed is the big difference. The faster processor combined with the LTE network means that things happen really quickly. Email and Twitter updates just appear. The screen is slightly taller, so I noticed a few times that I wouldn’t hit the right target near the top, but the size feels quite right.
The fingerprint scanner is really simple and works very well. Right at the beginning of setting up the phone you can activate it and it’s a great way to increase the security of your phone. I didn’t have a passcode on my phone before since it’s a pain to have to stop and type it in every time you unlock the phone. But now phone is always locked, which is a very good thing. It’s very rarely away from me at any time, so it didn’t seem like a huge issue before. If you turn the phone off you do need to enter the passcode to unlock the phone when it is turned on again. The accuracy is very good to the point of being almost invisible. You just press the menu button and leave your finger there for a second or less and the phone wakes up and unlocks.
One of the great and frustrating things about Apple is that when they decide on something they usually move in that direction fairly rapidly. That’s one of the reasons we don’t use floppies any more and have phones without physical keyboards. So many technologies over the years have changed after Apple implemented them and during the changeovers we’re left with things that we can’t use in the same way. With my new iPhone I ran into that with the Lightning connector. All of my other iOS devices have used the 30-pin dock connector and now I have one device with the newer connection. After 10 years it’s not that radical a shift to change connections, and I really love that there is no up with the connector which makes it a lot faster to plug in. With the 30-pin to Lightning connector it lets me charge my iPhone in the iHome clock radio by my bed or use it to play audio through my car stereo.
A surprise for me is how much I use Siri. I didn’t have it on my iPhone 4 and while Siri is on my iPad Retina it isn’t something that I used a lot. But with it on my phone now I find that I do set reminders and timers with it. That is especially great when I am driving and use my Bluetooth headset. It makes it a lot easier to capture things. The dictation also works surprisingly well and that is a great way to send a text while you are driving too.
The new camera along with the camera app is a fantastic improvement. The pictures are gorgeous and the new flash seems to work well. The video is amazing and with the slow motion mode shooting video at 120 frames per second it means that you can easily create some nifty slow motion videos of anything. It exemplifies a lot of what is interesting about this upgrade to the phone and the OS in that most of what is going on is hidden and you only start to notice things as you use it more. It’s not as flashy or completely different as I thought it would be, but it works a lot better and the device really starts to disappear as I do things with it. It’s just part of what I do.
iOS 7 is a huge change and the speed that it has been adopted is amazing. It’s gorgeous and has very quickly become comfortable to me. It’s amazing how quickly apps have updated and how some older apps feel dated now. The built-in Mail app is a lot better with some features from Mailbox working into it. The Notification Centre is similarly improved with a great view of today with a nice overview of what is coming up on your calendar for today and tomorrow. I like that. While visually the elements are flatter, there is a layered approach to the interface that provides a spacial orientation that lets you know where you are in moving into apps and back out into the Springboard. The combination of the new OS and the faster hardware really changes the way that it looks and feels with a smoothness that seems unreal. I love it and it feel like I’m in a sci-fi film with the tiny computer that I hold in my hand that lets me connect with the world.