iPhone 5S vs. 5C (5S Edition)

iPhone 5S Review

iPhone 5S (CC by Ashok Govind)

I’ve been using my iPhone 5s since the week after launch, so about 5 weeks now, and it truly is the best, fastest iPhone to date. The casing and screen are virtually identical to the iPhone 5, except for the dual flashes and touch ID. It ships with iOS 7, and is remarkably light and thin for a device that packs such substantial improvement in power. An article I read on imore.com points out that the power under the hood from the A7 chip in the 5s is equivalent to that of a 2010 MacBook Air.


Maker: Apple
Price: $199 with a 2 year contract from AT&T
Ownership Length: 5 Weeks


Pros:

1) The iOS 7 user interface is silky smooth and quick, but probably not appreciably better than the iPhone 5.

2) The camera quality is improved. The slow motion and burst mode options both work really well and are useful for action video and photos.

3) The battery life is good. I know there are phones with better battery life, but I can quite easily go the entire day (from 8 AM until midnight or later) and still be at 10-15% battery or higher, depending on use.

4) Touch ID is awesome; it’s the best, easiest to use feature security feature I’ve witnessed. You set it up with up to 5 fingers and it allows you to unlock the phone or pay for apps in the app store without having to input an alphanumeric password. Putting your thumb—or whichever finger you choose—on the home button unlocks the phone. The only time I’ve had a problem is if my finger is damp. It is so much easier than inputting a 4-digit code every time you unlock your phone. Also, if the “nuisance” of having to input a password has kept you from putting a pass lock on your phone, this is such an easy way to secure your phone and your personal information (I don’t think it blocks the NSA though).

5) In addition to the A7 processor, there is a M7 coprocessor that registers motion, so exercise, GPS, pedometer apps or whatnot can track that data without taking away memory and battery/efficiency from the main processor.

Cons:
1) Size. I personally love the size—it’s the same 4-inch screen as the iPhone 5. I find most large Android phones, like the Samsung Galaxy, too huge to slip in and out of my pocket easily. But if you want a larger screen, get an Android or Windows phone.

2) No external card slots. There isn’t and never will be a card slot on an iPhone. If you need one, the iPhone 5s is probably not for you.

3) Slick surfaces. The iPhone 5s is is very shiny and possibly a little slick. If you are like me and want to keep it pristine, get a case for when you are out and about. I like to uncase it when I’m at home.

Summary

iPhone 5S BackMy overall final thoughts: it’s a great phone and if you like Apple products, you’ll really enjoy using the iPhone 5s. That being said, I was eligible for an upgrade on contract, and with selling back my previous iPhone, I basically got it for the activation cost. While the iPhone 5s is certainly an upgrade from the iPhone 5, it’s not necessarily worth paying full price if you aren’t eligible for an upgrade on your contract. But if you have the iPhone 4s or earlier, upgrade to the iPhone 5s if you can. It is the creme de la creme of iPhones.

iPhone 5S vs 5C (5C Edition)

iPhone 5C Review

iPhone 5CLast February, when I was still working at the American Cancer Society, I was doing some canvassing one day and happened to pass by a Verizon store. My Droid Incredible had been giving me some trouble, so I went in to ask them if anything could be done. I ended up trading it in for an iPhone 4 for only $100–the 4s had just come out, so the 4 was cheap.

As a Mac person, it was about time I got an iPhone. When I had originally bought the Droid, I found I couldn’t sync any of my calendars in the correct direction (my Google calendar would sync to iCal, but I couldn’t get iCal to sync to Google). So I was just biding my time until I could get a phone that would sync seamlessly to my calendars, iTunes, etc. Getting the iPhone 4 completed the circle.

Fast-forward a year and 9 months or so. My trusty iPhone 4 was still working more or less perfectly, but its capacity was shot–having bought only the 8GB, I had barely 30 songs, less than 1,000 pictures, and only a few extraneous apps installed on the phone, but there still wasn’t enough space available to install iOS7. The large majority of these apps were daily essentials (banking, Facebook, Sparkpeople, Pandora), and my phone was running painfully slowly. So when the iPhone 5s and 5c came out, I got it into my head that I should upgrade. (Thankfully, there was an upgrade available on my family plan!)

Amazon – Apple iPhone 5c, White 16GB (Unlocked)

The first thing I did was check out the differences in specs between the iPhone 5, 5s, and 5c. I ruled out the iPhone 5 almost immediately because only the 64GB model was available through Verizon, and I wasn’t about to pay $300 for a phone that wasn’t even the most recent version. In comparing the iPhone 5s and 5c, I noticed only a few things the 5s had that the 5c didn’t, namely a few camera features (burst mode, slow-motion video, “True Tone” flash instead of an LED flash) and, of course, the fingerprint identity scanner. Deciding that I really didn’t want a fingerprint scanner anyway, and realizing that, if I wanted fancy camera features, I could just buy a camera (which I plan to do before I get married in April), I decided to go for the iPhone 5c. Plus, for $199, I could get a 32GB iPhone 5c, while that much would only get me a 16GB iPhone 5s.

So about a month ago, after watching BC get dealt a crushing defeat at the hands of FSU, I decided to cheer myself up by heading to the Verizon store a few miles away. After signing in and waiting a while for service, another rep finally called my name and I explained what I wanted. I also mentioned that I had an iPhone 4 that I would be willing to trade in if it would get me anything. Incredibly, my iPhone 4 had a $100 trade-in value! I got my new, blue iPhone 5c, a case, screen protectors, and an additional charger for less than $200. I went home a VERY happy camper.

I love this phone. Everything is fast. The capacity is great and (hopefully) more than I’ll ever need. The display is beautiful. The sound quality, both from the earpiece and the speaker at the bottom, is great. I haven’t had any antenna issues when making or receiving calls. The battery life, while never great on smartphones, is definitely an improvement over my drained-in-4-hours iPhone 4 battery, so I’m definitely not complaining. With moderate use throughout the day (some music playing, lots of Facebook, texting, and Words With Friends) I still usually go home at the end of the day with at least 50% charge. I worked from 8:30am until midnight a few days ago, and my phone only gave me a “20% battery” alert when I was about to go home.

The camera is also pretty great for a phone camera. There are a bunch of different instagram-like settings, including a “square” setting, as well as panoramic and video settings. The zoom is pretty good too.

Video quality is great, too:

Of course, I have to make a bit of a mention of iOS7. I got used to it pretty quickly and frankly not much has changed except the surface. I don’t love the eye-searing green that accompanies the toggle switches and text message balloons, and the dock bothers me because it seems like a step backwards all the way to Mac OS X Tiger:

Tiger OS X

I definitely prefer the “platform” look of the dock from previous iOS iteration.

Otherwise, though, while I do miss the skeumorphic touches of previous versions of iOS, I can live with iOS7 and frankly haven’t noticed too much difference. The starkest difference, to me, is the Messages app. The speech bubbles are entirely flat now and have taken more getting used to than most of the changes, just because texting is a large part of what I do on my phone.

I also LOVE that the new Maps app will actually REDIRECT when you take a wrong turn! It’s like a real GPS!! I was VERY happy when I discovered this feature. It also has much better graphics and actually makes sense when you’re using turn-by-turn directions.

 

Overall, I can’t say anything bad about this phone. If you’re looking to upgrade, I would highly recommend the iPhone 5c.

MacBook Pro or iMac?

My iMac Experience

iMacI’ve been lusting after an iMac for years. As I got to the end of my college career, I began to think that my aging laptop might not necessarily need to be replaced with another laptop, and that a desktop would do just fine. This idea grew into a full-fledged WANT well before I graduated in 2011, but I didn’t actively start saving for a desktop until early 2012.

Part of this desire for an iMac stemmed from the receptionist job I worked in college. Most offices at Boston College (or, at least, the ones I worked in) were equipped with iMacs rather than Windows desktops. The summer before my senior year, one of the offices I worked in underwent a long-overdue hardware update; that fall, the other office I worked in followed. The iMacs we got had been out for a few years, but they were gorgeous, and only cemented my desire for one of my own.

Near the end of 2012, as my savings account neared its goal of $1,750, Apple announced they would have a new iMac out that winter. This model, instead of requiring you to upgrade to a 1TB hard drive (which I had planned to do), would come standard with one. Jackpot! I decided I could wait a few more weeks for the computer to come out.

And so I waited, and I waited, and I waited. There was a two-week period during which I called all of the Apple stores in a 30-mile radius every day, asking if they had any iMacs in stock. I didn’t want to order online for fear that my beautiful new computer would sit on my doorstep all day, easy pickings for the computer-stealers that roam the streets. But finally, I decided I could wait no longer, and ordered my iMac online. (I shipped it to my office so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it sitting on my stoop.)

After six blissful months with my iMac, I have to say that I love it. The display is beautiful. It’s lightning-fast. It runs historically glitchy games like The Sims perfectly (or at least about as well as could be hoped for). I love being able to open a zillion Safari tabs in the huge screen, and I love that the computer is still fast enough to handle it. Looking at photos in all their 21.5” glory is a magical experience.

There are a few imperfections, though they’re minor. First, FaceTime always seems to fail on the first try. Jeff, Alex and I meet monthly over video chat, and when Jeff calls me from his iPad and I answer, it always freezes on the “connecting…” screen for several minutes, prompting me to hang up and call him. But from there, it always works smoothly.

Something else that annoys me, really through no fault of its own, is the battery life of the wireless accessories (trackpad, keyboard). I’d never had a keyboard or trackpad that was powered separately from the computer itself before (previously they’d always either been wired or attached to a laptop), so when my mouse pointer wasn’t responding one day I flat out panicked before realizing, oh, it’s probably the battery. Duh.

Finally, I’m not too crazy about Apple’s suite of office products. However, I haven’t had much use for them yet, so I will save my review of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for another day once I have used them more intensively.

Here are the specs of my iMac:

PROCESSOR: 2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5
MEMORY: 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM-2X4GB
HARD DRIVE: 1TB 5400-rpm Serial ATA Drive
GRAPHICS: NVIDIAGeFrc GT 640M 512M GDDR5
MOUSE: MAGIC TRACKPAD
PAGES: PAGES PREINSTALLED
NUMBERS: NUMBERS PREINSTALLED
KEYNOTE: KEYNOTE PREINSTALLED
APPLE KEYBOARD: Apple WL Kybd (English)+UG
COUNTRY KIT: COUNTRY KIT

Altogether, that added up to about $1,440. It’s not cheap, but for such a gorgeous computer, it was worth every penny.
Buy at Amazon.com (aff)

iPad vs. iPad Mini

Review: iPad Mini

iPad MiniAs a recent convert from Windows products to Apple in 2012, I began to consider purchasing a tablet to fill the gap between an iPhone and a MacBook Air. While I found the super-light laptop great for making a backpack less cumbersome, it is still difficult to use on something other than on a table or other hard surface. Additionally, while the iPhone is nice for pocketability, it isn’t a great size for reading at the airport or watching a video while lounging. While the iPad, of course, already fits this niche, to me it still seemed somewhat cumbersome for things like reading, and too expensive for something that would be used purely recreationally, so I decided to try the iPad Mini.


Price: $329 from Apple
Ownership: 3 Months
Buy at Amazon.com (aff)

 


Pros
1) Build Quality – It’s a sweet, well-engineered, solid product.
2) Size and Weight – Unlike its bigger brother, the iPad Mini is the perfect size for reading and one-handed use. Plus, it’s super light. (Sidebar: I will go more in depth about in a future blog post about cases, but suffice it to say, I’ve stopped using any kind of case when I’m at home because the machine is just too awesome sans any kind of weighty nuisance.)
3) Software – If you like iOS, then you will like the iPad Mini. If you don’t like iOS, why are you still reading this review?
4) Screen – Some people hate that the iPad Mini does not boast a Retina display. While it is not as sharp as the iPhone, it’s not a very noticeable difference to me, as I currently type on a perfectly fine non-retina computer.
5) Battery – The battery life of the iPad mini is good. I can watch a full hour of video with the battery only decreasing by about 3-5%.

Cons
1) Ports – Lightning isn’t bad, but it should be cheaper to get an HDMI to Lightning adapter if you want to hook it up to show something on a TV.
2) Muting – The mute switch will only mute app and general sounds. It will not mute the video, which is dumb.
3) Flash – I still wish you could get flash content on iOS.

Summary

I really like the iPad Mini. I think it’s a better form factor than the iPad (though the rumors about the iPad 5 seem intriguing and might make it a wash). For me, it still isn’t as much of a “go-to” device as my iPhone or Macbook Air, but it’s really good for home lounging, as well as a cramped location (airplane, sitting in a seminar). If you are into the Apple ecosystem and want a fun, less expensive (though not inexpensive) tablet, I can only recommend the iPad Mini.

My iPad Experience

A Guest Post by Bridget Germain

iPadHi! I’m Bridget, a friend of Jeff’s. I just recently bought an iPad, and Jeff asked me to write a little post about my experiences with it so far. But first, some background on me: I’m a 23-year-old non-profit business professional (I work for Big Brothers Big Sisters doing corporate relations) and I love my gadgets, but know next to nothing about how they work. I’m also an unabashed Apple devotee, and have been lusting after the iPad for a while.

I bought it primarily to use as an e-reader after I discovered that I really liked using iBooks on my iPhone (except for the fact that it was tiny). Now, I know you’re probably going to say that I could have bought a Kindle for $99 instead of the $800 that I spent on the iPad, but I’ve used a Kindle before and didn’t love it (it doesn’t have page numbers! AGH!). Plus, I wanted to use the iPad for other things; namely, as a personal assistant.

No, I don’t use Siri. But when I started my new job, I really wanted something that I could use to schedule all my appointments, something that’s not always easy to do on the iPhone. Plus, I tend to forget to actually add things to my calendar when I just write them down in my notebook, so having the iPad with me at all times has been dandy.

While I have used it mostly for work so far, there are a few apps that have come in really handy for other things. One is the Mint.com app, into which you can import all of your bank accounts, investment accounts, and loans, and budget for just about anything under the sun. As someone who never wanted more than one bank account but somehow ended up with two bank accounts and three investment accounts (yes, really) plus student loans, it comes in pretty handy to see my total cash flow each month. You have to make an account online before using the app, and the website itself is somewhat easier to use than the app, but the app is great to just quickly check up on something. Plus, it uses lots of graphs and charts, and as a visual person, that helps me a lot.

I also blog on WordPress, so I use the WordPress app as well. I’ve never written a post from there, but it’s useful to check page stats and reply to comments when I’m at work and don’t want to log in on my work computer! It’s definitely a LOT better than it used to be, or at least better than the iPhone app used to be. Luckily, both have improved magnificently over the past few updates, so if you do blog using WordPress, I would definitely recommend the app.

Some of the other apps I use are Facebook (obviously), Goodreads (basically a social networking site where you can publicize and keep track of all the books you read), Slate (an online news magazine) and Kindle (because one reading app is obviously not enough).

I’ve been bad and haven’t really worked on keeping my iPad backed up, but I do use iCloud, so there’s that. I’m considering getting a Dropbox account for work, but I haven’t done it yet.

Something I’ve been having trouble with is finding a case. I originally bought a “Smart Case” from the Apple store, but I didn’t like it because it didn’t stand up the way it was supposed to. I’m looking now for a case that will fit in a folio, since I got a branded Big Brothers Big Sisters folio when I started working there. (If anyone has any recommendations, let me know!) So I’ve been pretty undecided so far, but for anyone out there who is also still undecided, just don’t buy a Smart Case.

Finally, I want to give you a quick breakdown of what I spent on the iPad. I had initially planned to get the wireless-only 32GB one ($599) but ended up going with the wireless+3G 16GB one, for $629. (I got it in black to match my iPhone.) I also got AppleCare for $99 (because I tend to be hard on equipment) and a dock for $29. I haven’t used the dock much yet, but plan to use it more once I buy my new iMac (which I imagine I will be writing about once I’ve spent some time with it!) and spend more time at my desk.

All in all, I would definitely recommend the iPad. I love mine, especially for reading using the iBooks and Kindle apps and for my calendar.