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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

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The new iPhone looks exactly the same on the outside, but the guts are what matter.
The new iPhone looks exactly the same on the outside, but the guts are what matter.

24 hours with the new iPhone 5s

I stood in line with the rest of the Apple fanboys yesterday, and at 9 a.m., I got my hands on the new iPhone 5s. I wanted the silver version, but like the gold one, they were all gone before the doors even opened at the Bayshore Apple Store. Instead, I bought the 32 GB Verizon Space Gray model, which is mostly just a black iPhone. I picked up the new $39 brown leather case with it, and it looks and feels really nice.

After one day playing it with, I’m yet to be blown away.

Granted, I wanted this new iPhone for only a few reasons: a better camera, the fingerprint unlock scanner and a fresh, larger battery that won’t die by early afternoon.

Yes, it’s apparently faster, but no, I can’t tell the difference yet. In use of my daily apps, it’s unnoticeable so far.

The most obvious improvement after just one day of experimenting is the fingerprint scanner. I spent an awful lot of time spend manually unlocking my iPhone, and I wasn’t fond of it. With minimal set up, the phone has now identified four of my fingers, and it just works. Every single time. The only oddity is that when you receive a notification on the lock screen, like a text is waiting, for example, unlocking the screen with your fingerprint doesn’t take you right to the task at hand like swiping to unlock does. Kinda clumsy.

The camera is certainly improved, too, although I haven’t had much time to test it in low light. The slow-motion feature is certainly cool, and I like the burst mode for action shots. The flash is an upgrade from its prior, totally useless version.

Battery life seems better, too, although it’s tough to tell when I spent all day and all night playing with my new toy. Call quality sounds clearer, too.

I found one huge problem with the new phone, but it’s only partially Apple’s fault. Its default Mail app has never supported Gmail’s labels feature, which means you can’t see how many unread messages are sitting inside folders. A workaround existed by using Microsoft Exchange, but Google ended support for that earlier this year, and when you set up a new phone, that’s not an option. Because of this, I had to ditch Apple’s default Mail app and instead use the Gmail app. This is only a problem because you can’t select a default mail client on the iPhone, so some of the time, I am using the Gmail app, and other times, the Apple version. It’s very clumsy for such a mature product.

The rest of the kudos go to the new iOS7, which certainly takes some getting used to, especially in the handling of photos and photo streams. But any iPhone gets most of this upgrade.

Should you buy this new phone? It depends. If you have the iPhone 5, you won’t see a big difference, unless those three features I mentioned matter to you. Also, your existing iPhone 5 will never be worth as much as it is now to sell, so it might be worth cashing in on Gazelle or eBay for more than $300.

If you have an older iPhone, definitely upgrade. Even with its incremental improvements, it’s the best iPhone ever, and there’s no reason not to. How does it compare to Android? I don’t know; I’m firmly in the Apple ecosystem and that’s not going to change. Many others can weigh on that topic.

Am I completely wowed by the new iPhone 5s? No, not really, but I’m happy I bought it. For something that’s become my mobile office and my go-to camera, it makes sense to have the best of the best at a mere $300. The amortized cost of a brand new phone is just pennies a day. Don’t overthink it. Just buy it.

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