Review: iPhone 5s offers better security today, a peek at Apple of tomorrow

Apple's flagship sets the stage for more powerful, more capable, and more secure devices to come

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Another parry in the camera wars

When a new smartphone debuts, its camera usually gets a lot of attention, and there's sort of an arms race when it comes to camera capabilities. Nokia's smartphone unit, now owned by Microsoft, has even made the camera the key differentiator of its devices.

iPhone 5s Camera app's lighting effects
The iPhone 5s and 5c let you apply lighting effects when you take photos.

Apple likes to say the iPhone is the source of more photos than any other mobile device or digital camera. Each new device also gets a photographic boost, even if Apple doesn't play the senseless megapixel games as do Nokia and some Android makers -- megapixels matter much less than the quality of the image sensor and the lens, as any professional photographer knows.

The iPhone 5s adds a second, amber LED to take more accurate images of skin tones; the device flashes both the white and amber LEDs and captures an image of both, using the pair to create the best composite image of whatever you're shooting, all in milliseconds. The bottom line is that the photos look more natural and closer to the images a professional digital camera would take.

Apple has also improved the camera's burst-mode capability, taking as many as ten images per second, up from three in the iPhone 5, when you press and hold the shutter button in the Camera app. The app then lets you see all those images so you can choose the best one.

Apple has also enhanced the Camera app to include virtual lighting filters for compatible devices such as the iPhone 5s. You can select the desired lighting adjustments, such as monochromatic or process. There are also options for square photos (new to iOS 7 on all devices), slow-motion video (new to the iPhone 5s), and autostitched panoramas (introduced in the iPhone 5), plus HDR and auto-flash options. iOS's Camera app doesn't have all the controls and adjustments that, say, the latest Android devices do, though some are available in the companion Photos app or the pro-level iPhoto app that comes free on new iPhones and costs $5 for existing ones.

The bottom line is that the iPhone 5s takes very good pictures and videos, but it's not trying to be a lightroom in a box.

Better today, better tomorrow

Both the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s are available for the AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon networks in the United States, with availability planned for smaller regional and pay-as-you-go carriers. The iPhone 5c costs $549 for the 16GB model and $649 for the 32GB model without a contract, and $99 and $199, respectively, with a two-year contract. The iPhone 5s costs $649 for the 16GB model, $749 for the 32GB model, and $849 for the 64GB model without a contract and $199, $299, and $399, respectively, with a two-year contract.

All in all, the iPhone 5s ups the ante today with its Touch ID fingerprint sensor and sets the stage for more powerful apps tomorrow with its 64-bit A7 processor and M7 coprocessor, while also better satisfying the shutterbug in you.

The iPhone 5c is mainly a repackaging of the iPhone 5, though its InfoWorld Test Center score is higher due to what iOS 7 provides it. Unless you must have one of the 5c's five M&Ms-style colors, the iPhone 5s is a smarter, longer-term option for just $100 more. It's also the best overall smartphone on the market today, though the Android-based HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 may be more appealing to users who want a larger screen.

This article, "Review: iPhone 5s offers better security today, a peek at Apple of tomorrow," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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