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iPhone 5s, 5c review roundup: Apple delivers but should you buy?

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The first batch of iPhone 5s and 5c reviews are out, and many of them are gushing about how Apple has done it again. But the reviews are mixed on whether they are worth buying. In short, the consensus is: It depends on your situation. The new phones go on the market Friday.

The most positive reviews seems to come from Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and AllThingsD. He called the iPhone 5s "the best smartphone on the market" and praised the device for its fingerprint scanner, which is called the Touch ID. That feature makes it possible to unlock the device using your fingerprint.

"In my scores of tests, with three fingers, the reader never failed me and none of the 20 or so people I asked to test it was able to unlock the phone," Mossberg wrote in his review. "If a finger match fails three times, the phone offers you a chance to type in your passcode instead. After five failures, it requires the passcode. Apple says the odds another person’s finger would work are 1 in 50,000, versus 1 in 10,000 for breaking a four-digit passcode."

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Meanwhile, Mossberg's colleague Lauren Goode reviewed the iPhone 5c and also offered praise for the gadget, calling it an improvement over the iPhone 5, noting that the new device has a longer-lasting battery. However, she said the iPhone 5c is only an evolutionary improvement and not a revolutionary one.

"If you want a new iPhone but don’t want to splurge on the 5s, or are a first-timer lured in by the contract price, then the 5c might be a good choice," Goode wrote. 

The New York Times' David Pogue reviewed both devices. His take-away is that the iPhone 5c will likely sell like hot cakes thanks to its cheap price. He was also impressed by the new camera on the iPhone 5s and iOS 7, the new version of the iPhone's operating system.

"The iPhone is no longer the only smartphone that will keep you delighted for the length of your two-year contract — but it’s still among the few that will," Pogue wrote. 

Less impressed was Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky, who said the two devices fail to provided any excitement. He said Apple fans will love the devices, while those who dislike the Cupertino company will also dislike the two new iPhones.

"There’s nothing wrong with either phone. But there’s not much that’s pulse-quickening about them either," Jaroslovsky wrote.

Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech gave a more positive review. He was impressed with the iPhone 5s' new 64-bit A7 chip -- the first of its kind -- saying it makes the device the most futureproof iPhone Apple has released.

As for the iPhone 5c, Lal Shimpi said it is a well-built device that some users might prefer due to its styling, but he would recommend the iPhone 5s due to its newer and top-of-the-line technology. But it doesn't appear that he thinks anyone will be disappointed with an iPhone 5c.

"For all intents and purposes, it is a perfect replacement for the iPhone 5," he wrote. "If you were planning on buying a cost-reduced iPhone 5 once the 5s came out, the iPhone 5c should have no problems filling that role."

Similarly, Scott Stein of CNET recommends the iPhone 5s over the 5c, saying the 5c is a great phone for average users but they should only buy it if they truly need to save money. The iPhone 5c costs $100 less than the iPhone 5s.

"I tried to convince my mom to get the iPhone 5c, until I realized that she upgrades so infrequently, and uses her phone so much as a camera for getting snapshots of her grandkids, that the iPhone 5s is probably worth her extra $100 investment," Stein wrote. "So might the argument go for many."

Stein also endorsed the 5s and its cool new technology but said there is no reason anyone with an iPhone 5 should upgrade.

"The iPhone 5s feels like a “pro” phone more than ever, the iPhone equivalent of the MacBook Pro," he wrote. "Its features don’t feel as immediately consumer-understandable. For many, the iPhone 5c will do just fine."

Engadget's Myriam Joire expressed the same sentiment. Joire said Apple took the iPhone and made it better with the iPhone 5s, but questions whether technology built for the future is worth a purchase today.

"The 5s is a solid effort from Apple, but its true worth is yet to be determined," he said. "If developers come up with clever ways to take advantage of the M7 co-processor and the 64-bit support in iOS 7, the 5s will truly shine. If not, many people might just wait it out another year."

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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