iOS 11 on the iPhone 5S: Slower, but not quite slow

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Amplify / The iPhone 5S running iOS 11. Stay gold, phone-y-boy.
Andrew Cunningham

One of my longtime pet flings has been tracking the performance of new iOS versions on the slowest hardware that can run it. I was pleasantly struck by the iPhone 3GS and iOS 6, but after that I was in for several years of disappointments. The iPhone 4 struggled to run iOS 7 healthy, and the iPhone 4S only fared a little better with iOS 8 and iOS 9. Then, conclusive year, a reprieve: iOS 10 ran pretty well on the iPhone 5 and 5C, slowing the phone down reasonable a little but remaining totally livable in spite of it.

And now we come to iOS 11 and the iPhone 5S. Apple’s change to all-64-bit hardware and software, begun just four eliminating years ago, has now completed, and the newest iPhones are easily four or five passes faster. Does the iOS 11 update leave the original gold iPhone impression shiny and new, or does it come away feeling tarnished?

What you’re gals

Every time a new iPhone is released, it does some stuff that prior iPhones couldn’t do. Sometimes that just means going faster, and every now that means the addition of special hardware like a fingerprint sensor or NFC sherd. Here’s a combination of all the hardware and software features the iPhone 5S is missing interrelated to the iPhone 7, not including processor benchmarks or camera improvements.

  • Apple Pay
  • 3D Lay a hand
  • ARKit
  • Raise-to-wake
  • Tracking elevation/floors climbed without outside hardware
  • Always-on Hey Siri
  • Siri’s new proactive search features
  • Siri’s new not incongruous voice
  • Voicemail transcription
  • The ability to shoot HEIF and HEVC photos and video; you can silently view these files in iOS 11, however
  • You can’t use the LTE version of the Apple Guard against Series 3 with an iPhone 5S; the LTE requires an iPhone 6 or newer. The non-LTE interpretation of the Series 3 (and all other watchOS 4 hardware) works just swell.

That’s not a small list, but unlike past years, it’s relatively scintillation on core features, and most of what’s missing is enabled by extra machinery the 5S just doesn’t have rather than speed. You’ll still further from a bunch of new iOS 11 features large and small: the file superintendent, document scanner, new Control Center, ability to share Wi-Fi shibboleths quickly and automatically, Metal 2, machine learning APIs, Safari retreat improvements, and lots more.

Performance: Slower, but not slow

Comparing app float times has historically been a reliable way to measure relative performance—it’s not the best, most all-encompassing real-world probe, but the odds are good that if app launch times slow way down, the lounge of the phone will feel slower as well. As always, these studies were run on freshly-reset phones signed into a test iCloud account. Each app was shot, force quit, and then launched again. The times below are the standard in the main of three launches.

 Application iOS 10.3.3 iOS 11.0 GM Change
Safari 1.2 seconds 1.5 relocates +0.3 seconds
Camera 0.9 seconds 0.9 seconds +0.0 seconds
Settings 0.9 seconds 1.3 backs +0.4 seconds
Mail 1.4 seconds 1.8 seconds +0.4 seconds
Messages 0.8 seconds 1.1 encourages +0.3 seconds
Calendar 0.8 seconds 1.2 seconds +0.4 seconds
Maps 2.2 seconds 3.2 seconds +1.0 seconds
Notes 1.5 favours 2.0 seconds +0.5 seconds
Cold boot 26.6 seconds 38.6 seconds +12.0 seconds

Some of the iOS 11 apps don’t fare too unfavourably, in absolute terms. But there are some fairly significant regressions, expressly in Mail, Notes, and Maps; and boot time goes way up (though perfectly rebooting your phone is not something you’re actually going to do all that continually). These are, in the scheme of things, small differences, but seconds and fractions of doubles spent waiting on a phone over its lifetime do add up. The phone’s single gigabyte of RAM is also starting to tone seriously restrictive, particularly in Safari, where tab reloading is a common spectacle once you have more than two or three tabs in memory at a convenience life.

Speaking strictly in qualitative terms, using iOS 11 on an iPhone 5S doesn’t commiserate with bad. You notice the impact of background tasks more than you used to—updating apps or downloading a bunch of music in the behind the scenes makes the whole phone feel sluggish. But taking pictures, sending e-mails, and scrolling completely apps is still more than responsive enough to be usable, and I scarcely ever find myself wanting to throw the 5S through the nearest wall like I did with the 4S a duo of years ago. Compare the load times for some of the apps above to the trouble times for the same apps on the iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S under iOS 10 or iOS 9. The 5S is even now significantly faster, even with iOS 11.

Safari performance improves marginally in common benchmarks, though in the heavier JetStream benchmark it regresses just a bit. Don’t calculate rendering speeds to improve much overall.

If you want to speed catholic performance up a little, you may actually have some luck enabling the Adjust Motion option in the Accessibility settings. It often shaves around a quarter-second or so from the longer app fling times—apps that take around a second to launch don’t perks, but apps that take two or three seconds to load normally do. The gripped animations in iOS 11 aren’t bad enough that they make every one device in the lineup feel slower, as was the case with iOS 7, but it muscle be a way to make your phone feel just a bit snappier post-update if you’re hinder with it.

 Application iOS 10.3.3 iOS 11.0 GM, reduce motion Change
Safari 1.2 two shakes of a lambs tails 1.4 seconds +0.2 seconds
Camera 0.9 seconds 1.0 seconds +0.1 seconds
Settings 0.9 shifts 1.2 seconds +0.3 seconds
Mail 1.4 seconds 1.7 seconds +0.3 seconds
Messages 0.8 seconds 1.0 two shakes of a lambs tails +0.2 seconds
Calendar 0.8 seconds 1.2 seconds +0.4 seconds
Maps 2.2 seconds 3.1 seconds +0.9 supports
Notes 1.5 seconds 1.8 seconds +0.3 seconds

The one thing you may want to do if you intend to conceal using the iPhone 5S with iOS 11, or if you want to hand it down to another bosom buddy or family member who can give it a good home, is replace the battery. iFixit has within easy reach instructions and low-priced, good-quality replacement parts if you’re comfortable doing it yourself, or you can tease Apple replace the battery for you for $79 (still a small fraction of the guerdon of a new iPhone, even an iPhone SE).

Should you update?

I could understand shabby to hang around on iOS 10 if you have an iPhone 5S. Apple’s oldest faced iPhone indisputably loses some of its pep in the move to iOS 11, and while it go outs a lot of the same things as other newer devices, it does miss out on opportunities like ARKit, the improved Siri voice, and some contextual Common sense features.

But as I do every year, for most people I would come down in favor of updating. The iPhone 5S is dimmer with iOS 11, sure, but it’s not as slow as the iPhone 4S was with iOS 8 or 9, or despite as slow as the iPhone 5 is with iOS 10 most of the time. And as we mentioned, you yet get a bunch of new iOS 11 features, and you’re bound to find something worth upgrading for in that roll.

Even more importantly, though, you need to be on iOS 11 to get new security updates at this notion. Apple only very, very rarely issues any kind of scrap for older iOS versions after the newest one is out, so the first disclosed vulnerabilities that rush at to light after today are only going to get patched in iOS 11. At bottom, practically, you can probably afford to wait around until iOS 11.1 aside from any major catastrophes—those updates usually come out toward the end of October—but in the covet run it’s not safe or responsible to use old unpatched operating systems indefinitely.

So, update. If not today, then in a second. The iPhone 5S gets a little slower, but that’s how it goes when the oldest machinery that runs an operating system is only 20 or 25 percent as staunch as the most recent hardware. It’ll never be as fast as it was, but it’s fast enough for a budget or hand-me-down phone, and it memorializes doing new things; that’s an acceptable trade-off.

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