The Apple rumor mill has become so proficient that yesterday's announcement of the iPhone 5S saw little in the way of mind-blowing surprises, but even the most jaded observer would have to acknowledge this is the best iPhone yet. The design is virtually unchanged from the iPhone 5, aside from a new gold-colored option and the addition of a silver ring around the home button (more on that later). Otherwise, the device's dimensions are the same, as is the 4-inch screen and two-tone aluminum body. It's priced exactly the same as its predecessor as well: $200, $300 and $400 for the models with 16, 32 and 64 gigabytes of storage, all with a new 2-year contract. What sets the iPhone 5S from the outgoing 5 -- as well as the competition -- are five new features, which we'll examine in the following pages.
1. Touch ID
That ring around the home button? It signals the death of swipe to unlock, as the home button now doubles as a fingerprint scanner (what Apple calls "Touch ID"). Simply place your finger on the button -- you don't actually have to push down on it -- and just like that, the phone unlocks. It works at any angle, making accessibility to your phone more convenient and secure than ever before. Your fingerprint can also be used to make purchases from the App Store, iBooks and iTunes, and Apple promises that your fingerprint is encrypted and stored on the phone's chip and never stored online or transmitted. You can also set up Touch ID so that it recognizes up to five fingerprints.
2. A7 Chip
Powering the new iPhone 5S is the new supercharged A7 processor, representing the first 64-bit chip ever used in a smartphone. The desktop-class architecture doubles the speed of the iPhone 5 and supports OpenGL ES version 3.0, making for especially detailed graphics and complex visual effects -- qualities that should be especially attractive to game enthusiasts. And because iOS7 is built specifically for 64-bit, the iPhone 5S is uniquely primed to take advantage of the A7 chip.
3. M7 Coprocessor
The new M7 coprocessor is able to continuously measure motion data via an accelerometer, gyroscope and compass, all of which are ideally suited for a new generation of health and fitness apps. The M7 also reduces the workload of the A7 chip, which lessens the drain on the battery (1/6 of what the main processor would require). And because the M7 can recognize when you're walking, running or driving, it'll adjust Maps accordingly, switching from turn-by-turn walking navigation to driving.
4. iSight Camera
A new iPhone means a new and improved camera, and the biggest upgrade takes the form of a dual-LED flash, which fires in combination to match the light in the room and allows colors to stay pure. (According to Apple, the 5S is the first camera to use this type of color-adapting flash.) The iSight camera is rated at the same 8-megapixels but uses a larger f/2.2 aperture and 15 percent larger sensor, resulting in 33 percent greater light sensitivity. Additional features include an autofocus that's twice as fast, as well as image stabilization, 10 frames-per-second burst mode and slow-motion video.
5. iOS 7
Finally, there's the soon to be launched iOS 7, designed with the iPhone 5S in mind. Aside from the new look -- highlighted by a flat design, brighter colors and parallax effect that makes the app icons appear to float in 3D -- there are a number of new in-house apps like Keynote, Pages, Numbers, iPhoto and iMovie, along with an updated Siri that uses Wikipedia as an information source. Additional improvements include Control Center (in which users swipe up from any screen to immediately jump into system settings such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, plus brightness controls and other utilities), as well as AirDrop, Apple's version of the file-sharing feature found on Samsung's Galaxy S line of phones. The difference here is that AirDrop can be used to work with Bluetooth or a Wi-Fi connection to share content.
Look for the Apple iPhone 5S to be available starting September 20th.