Apple last week released two new iPhones -- the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C. As expected, the iPhone 5S series includes a swanky gold model, while the 5C comes in three eye-popping colors, as well as white. But the differences are more than skin deep. If you're in the market for a new iPhone, here's what you need to know.
First, pricing. Every year, rumors about a cheaper iPhone build up until Apple's release event, only to be dashed. Apple's new phones have always been priced at $199 on contract, which reduces the previous model to $99. But this year, Apple introduced a new phone, the iPhone 5C, for $99. (The 5S is predictably priced at $199 on contract or you may buy an unlocked phone starting at $649 for 16GB.)
For the most part, the iPhone 5C is technically equivalent to the older iPhone 5, meaning it uses the same A6 processor, has the same shape and includes the same camera. The 5C has a plastic case that actually makes it heavier than its metal-clad counterparts. In fact, the 5C weighs 4.65 ounces, while the new 5S weighs 3.95 ounces. It's a good choice for first-time iPhone buyers as long as they're not too picky about photo and video features. And that's an area where the new iPhone 5S appears to excel.
The 5S still has an 8-megapixel camera, but it's been souped up with features to perform much better in low light situations. It has a 15 percent wider sensor that creates bigger pixels, as well as a bigger aperture to let in more light.
Still, there will be times when you must use a flash because there just isn't sufficient light. Apple has improved the flash in what it calls "True Tone." The new flash is supported by a white LED and an amber LED that can make on-the-spot adjustments to appropriately light your subject. Hopefully, we can say goodbye to overexposed photos due to a harsh flash.
The iPhone 5S also features a burst mode for taking up to 10 action photos per second and a bit of software that will choose the best pictures for your review. When you open the camera, you'll be able to select to a square frame, as well as the usual rectangular frame. Clearly, this is a nod to Instagram users where all photos and video appear in a square format, and would eliminate the need for cropping in Instagram. However, I suggest you stick with the default frame because you'll have more flexibility when you want to edit and post your pictures to different locations. Apple has also added a handful of Instagram-esque filters.
As for video, the iPhone 5S includes a new slow-motion feature and in-camera 3X zoom.
Speed and security
The iPhone 5s gets a new 64-bit A7 chip, which should be about twice as fast as the iPhone 5C. The powerful processor has been paired with a new motion coprocessor that should bring more complex game apps to the device. But if you're content with your current apps, the extra power probably won't be noticeable.
As rumored, the iPhone 5S has been equipped with a fingerprint sensor built into the start button. The tricky technology should give you more security without the hassle of remembering and changing passwords.
Both new phones will be available at stores starting at 8 a.m.
on Friday, Sept. 20. Online orders for the iPhone 5S don't start until that same day, but you may pre-order a 5C now. But the big question for some will be not which new iPhone to buy now, but instead, should I wait for next year's iPhone 6?
You can bet it will be a step up from today's 5S. If you're happy with your current phone, consider waiting until next September. And if you have an iPhone 4, 4S or 5, you'll receive the new iOS7 system update this Wednesday that has enough new features to make you think you have a new phone.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about and reviewing personal technology for the past six years. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at firstname.lastname@example.org.