How Useful is the iPhone 5s?

iPhone 5s

A lot of websites have done a great job of describing in painstaking detail the new hardware and software of Apple’s iPhone 5s and accompanying iOS7 update. I want to take the analysis a step further and ask just one question about all of these shiny new improvements: How useful are they?

The word “useful” means different things to different people. To me, something is useful if it does one or more of the following:

  1. Serves an important purpose in a more efficient manner than another tool.
  2. Saves me time, money, or effort.
  3. Increases my overall level of happiness or satisfaction.

So with this in mind, I’d like to evaluate the new hardware and software features. I will try to keep my analysis as unbiased and objective as possible. I’ll evaluate on a 0-5 scale, with 0 being “Useless” and 5 being “This Could Be Life Changing”.

The New 5s Hardware

Total HARDWARE score: 6 out of 20

The New iOS7 Software

Total SOFTWARE score: 13 out of 55.

Summary

The iPhone 5s offers little to no improvement in utility over the iPhone 5.

The most useful new hardware feature is the twofold improvement in speed. The rest of the hardware updates are quite useless, with the fingerprint sensor actually going a step beyond useless, adding unnecessary complexity and security issues to a system that was fine beforehand.

iOS7 isn’t much better. The aesthetic changes are a step sideways, not forward, which is neither good nor bad. It’s just different. The conversation here is one of personal preference and taste, not of function. The most useful feature of iOS7 has to be the control center. The rest of the updates add little to no utility to the overall phone experience.

As an iPhone and Mac user, it saddens me to see the great Apple engine of innovation grinding to a halt. Design that was once smart and intuitive has been sacrificed for trendy overhauls and gimmicky hardware. I really don’t mind the transition from skeumorphic to flat - I just wish that it had been packaged with something that was actually useful. The fact that I couldn't give any of the new features more than a 3 suggests to me that Apple is seriously struggling to come up with improvements to the iPhone. Meanwhile, they are sitting and twiddling their thumbs on top of the largest pile of cash on earth.

Or maybe I’m just really hard to please - I would blame Apple for making me this way by constantly improving the utility of their products by leaps and bounds. Either way, I'm not buying the new iPhone 5s. The cost far outweighs the benefit.

Next Up: Can Google step up and offer us something amazing with Google Now? To be discussed in another post this week.