iPhone 4s to 5s Upgrade

compassI usually upgrade every other generation of the iPhone. The question this fall is was the upgrade from the iPhone 4s to the 5s worthy? Here are my impressions after about 2 weeks with the 5s. I have the Verizon 32GB model.

  • Not having LTE/4G cellular speeds on the 4s was becoming a drag. As I travel a fair amount, the 5s model now has 13 international bands of LTE, so it’s networking speed should be good in more places. I also use my iPhone as a router at home and use the personal hotspot with my Verizon data sharing plan. The hotspot setup works seamlessly all the time.
  • With the A7 chip, the device is about 3x times faster than a 4s model.
  • With the extra M7 chip which can handle location processing constantly without accessing the main A7 chip, battery life will be better with apps like Strava which will be reprogrammed to use this extra processor.
  • The scanned fingerprint entry works well and using it keeps my personal data more secure. I used to be security-lazy and turned the passcode entry off. Probably not wise.
  • Better low light camera (aperture). Great, low light situations occur all the time.
  • Better flash and night shots. I don’t do much flash photography but maybe this will change now.
  • Half inch more screen height. Good I’ll take it.
  • Free iWorks apps. This only saves $30 bucks, but with Maverick OS coming, having these three apps icloud-enabled will mean synced documents on all my devices, including my Mac.
  • After two years of use, your battery life declines. This is probably the biggest complaint from iPhone owners. Having a new battery, and which is advertised to give me an extra 20% charge is a plus.
  • AirDrop (which is not available on the 4s) allows me to pass files to others in the room and to my other device (an ipad).
  • Lighting cable port is an improvement over the old 30 pin connector, one of which, failed on me.
  • The 5s is one ounce lighter than the 4s and you can really notice it.
  • The Verizon iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s are all unlocked GSM phones. This is great news for travelers using their phones outside of the US (they are locked inside the US to Verizon). I can’t speak for AT&T and the other carriers.
  • The 5s is optimized for iOS7, including the kewl new compass.

You have heard it before, upgrading from the iPhone 5 to 5s is probably not worthy,  but I am happy with the technology leap from the 4s to the 5s.

 
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iPhone 5s with pano mode. Sky not washed out!

Prepaid Data Plan in Norway

netcomm_logoI purchased a Netcomm SIM with 800MB of data for $56 (USD). This is more expensive than other European countries but fast wifi connections were hard to come by in Norway. After 35 days (no video watching), I still had 100MBs of data available. I found Netcomm’s coverage to be 100% in Norway. Their network is mostly 3G, no LTE yet. In some more remote areas, the cellular network is still on the EDGE technology. Netcomm sales staff can provide any of the three SIM sizes. I was very satisfied with Netcom’s 100/200/800 prepaid data plans. To monitor your data usage reset your cellular data counter in your device’s settings>cellular data usage area.

Swiss Telcom Sunrise

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This May I needed a cellular data provider for Switzerland. All the Swiss telecoms providers are conveniently located across from the Zurich airport baggage claim. I could easily shop rates with Swiss.com, Orange, and Sunrise. I purchased Sunrise’s $20 per 1GB prepaid data plan valid for 30 days. If the “3G” icon in the upper left hand corner of your device (next to “SUNRISE”) disappears you have burned through your GB of data. It seems reasonable for a Swiss visit for a month or less. The Sunrise setup takes about 15 minutes to purchase and activate. They have all 3 sizes of SIM cards including the newer Nano SIM. I got speed tests of 4MBs down on Sunrise’s 3G network which seems pretty fast for a 3G network. There is a Sunrise prepaid deal of $1 per day but it is on a highly throttled (not fast) data network. Sunrise is a good deal in Switzerland but you will find even better prepaid options in other EU countries.
Once you’re online, proceed to the airport’s rail station underneath the Telcom stores. From your train seat, you can be working online to your final Swiss destination. Doesn’t get any easier.

Google Maps for iPhone

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Just tried the new Google Maps for iPhone. My first test was with the public transportation option for directions from my local coffee shop in Boulder, CO to my home.  The results were very good and the most impressive segment using RTD had the correct bus times and the SKIP bus actually showed up on time. This going to make getting around Boulder with RTD and my Eco Pass much more convenient. You can download the app here.

Movistar iPhone Mexico

Note: the following iPhone information is for unlocked iPhones and the Mexican prepaid costs are all as of December 2012. I have found two decent options when traveling in Mexico with my Verizon iPhone. The first option is available as soon as you land in Mexico via a delivered text message from your carrier. You can easily purchase 100MB of data for $25, billed automatically through your Verizon account. That’s not much data for $25 (about 10 times the normal global rate for 1GB of prepaid data), but, if you are planning to only check emails during your trip it might be right for you. No SIM card modification hassles and you only have to reply “yes” to Verizon’s soliciting text message. This data offer is the same for traveling in Canada. You might want to reset your cellular data usage counter to monitor your meager 100MB allowance. If you need calling in Mexico (including calling the USA) then you can try Mexico’s discount carrier Movistar. They offer prepaid minutes at very reasonable rates. Verizon’s Mexico minutes are around $1 plus per minute, while Movistar minutes are less than 8 cents a minute (more if you call to the US). With prepaid calling you just run out of minutes, no bill surprises, and with international calling rates there are always strange extras on your monthly bill. On an average week long Mexico visit, I usually spend less than $10 per visit with Movistar. Switching over to a local Mexican carrier isn’t without challenges; including getting a Movistar SIM in your iPhone. There are now three possible SIM card sizes. If you’re lucky, the local SIM will fit your SIM slot without modification. The standard SIM card and micro SIM can be trimmed, the newest nano SIMs may need trimming and sanding to create a slimmer card.