Retro computing with a touch of modern and the home for all things, retroCombs (aka Steven Combs).

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25 August 2014

Upgrade from iPhone 4s to 5s

by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D.

I finally took the plunge and upgraded my iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5s. Many of you reading this will notice that we are only a couple of weeks away from an iPhone 6 launch. So why didn’t I wait? I found an incredible deal with Virgin mobile (learn more about my move to Virgin mobile) on a 32Gb non-contract iPhone 5s.

Since the iPhone 5s was the feature iPhone for the iOS 8 demonstration at this year’s Apple World Wide Developers Conference, I feel confident I will receive 95% of the iOS 8 features. Any new features will likely come from hardware additions. While the allure of a larger screen will appeal to some, I don’t know that I need it. My iPhone is truly a one hand, quick use device and any extensive iOS usage I reserve for my iPad air.

My old iPhone 4s is sluggish and the battery life is dismal. The new iPhone 5s allows me to love my iPhone again with the addition of significant speed improvements, a better screen and new hardware. There are so many improvements, I include a table of contents (TOC) below to guide you to a specific area of interest.


  1. Screen
  2. Processor
  3. Multi-tasking
  4. Motion
  5. Connector
  6. TouchID
  7. Color
  8. Camera
  9. Conclusion


I thought the screen on the iPhone 4s was good until I saw the screen on the new iPhone 5s. It is amazing! iOS 7 looks incredible on the phone. Fonts are sharp and the screen is visibly brighter, especially in sunlight. Also of note is that the screen seems to be closer to the glass surface. This enhances interaction with the user interface (UI).

When I first learned that Apple would change the screen aspect ratio of the iPhone 5s from a 4x3 to a 16x9 (making it longer), I wondered how this would change the user experience. Movies, television and other high definition content no longer include black bars on the top. Apps have extra space to stretch their legs and I find this extra space feels more comfortable and natural.

Apps use the extra space to display more content. The user experience is less cramped. At the time of this writing, the rumor is that Apple will release new phones with larger screens. I’m not sure I need this after this upgrade. I’ve always thought the screen size on the iPhone was good for a single hand user experience and still fits nicely inside my suit pocket.

Return to TOC


Everything is fast. I am not sure if this is due to the faster iPhone 5s A7 chip or the fact that said chip is 64-bit. I suspect a mixture of both. The speed difference between my iPhone 4s and the 5s is significant and noticeable. iOS 8 will integrate their new “metal” technology on top of the A7 processor in iOS 8 to increase graphic performance. I have to think this technology will be of use not only for games, but also other graphic intensive apps and the OS.

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Thanks to the new A7 chip mentioned above and an increase in system RAM to 1Gb, multitasking under iOS 7 finally works. On my older iPhone 4s, there were often hiccups in the multitasking, crashing apps that use the camera, and apps that could not return to their previous state without a long refresh. Multi-tasking once again works with the iPhone 5s.

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The iPhone 5s includes the new M7 motion chip. The purpose of the M7 is to offload the collection of motion data from the processor and conserve precious battery life. The M7 chip constantly collects movement data and does so with hardly a sip of battery power. Think of it as a Fitbit built into your iPhone 5s.

Add the free Pedometer++ app and you have a simple way to track all your steps during the day. Better yet, add the free MyFitnessPal app and track your activity and your eating habits. I often misplace or forget my Fitbit. I never go anywhere without my iPhone, so this allows me to be more diligent tracking steps.

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Say what you will about the new Lightning connector, but ever since I began using the Lightning connection on my iPad Air, I’ve been a fan. I’m even more of a fan on the iPhone. The tiny connector is a no muse, no fuse affair. I have no negative comments about the switch from the 30-pin to the Lightning connector. If you need various size connectors, I’ve found the AmazonBasics Lightning connector to be of excellent construction and value. Grab several in various lengths from 4” to 6’.

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The number of folks at work who have an iPhone 5s and do not use touch ID amazes me. I’m not sure if this is due to paranoia, or simply a lack of understanding, but I LOVE touch ID. It just feels more secure and is much more convenient that punching in the four digit pin necessary prior to Touch ID. The first time you buy apps, music and video with Touch ID, you will never want to punch in a password or pin again. I am excited that other apps will allow access to Touch ID in iOS 8. I look forward to a day when I can find an item on Amazon and with a simple touch of my finger, buy it. Well, I can wait, I’m not sure my bank account manager (wife) can.

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I choose the champaign gold iPhone 5s because it was on sale. By itself, I don’t particularly like the mix of champaign gold and white. When I add a Gold Spigen iPhone 5s case, the phone looks great and the combination of the black and gold gives the phone a more industrial look. As my wife says, it classes up the phone a bit. Check out my image below and see if you don’t agree.

Spigen iPhone 5s case

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I’m not a great photographer. I’m not bad either. The only camera I use is the one included with my iPhone. I use it for blog posts, family pics and work. The iPhone 4s camera was great, but the iPhone 5s is even better. Low light images are sharper with little noise. The extra bright flash is more useful (even more so when you use it as a flashlight). I rarely use the video camera, but have to admit that I find the slow motion feature a lot of fun. All in all, the camera upgrade is solid. If you take a lot of pictures, the camera alone might be worth the upgrade.

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If you are on the fence about upgrading your iPhone 4s, you shouldn’t be. Take the plunge. Now is the time to find a great deal on the iPhone 5s and my guess is you won’t be unhappy unless you just have to have the latest and greatest. This is a great phone and of all the mobile phones I’ve owned, this is by far the most usable and feature packed. I am sure to enjoy my iPhone 5s even more when iOS 8 is released this fall.

Do you have an iPhone 5s feature favorite that I missed? Drop a comment below.