/ Technology

Is speed top of your smartphone buying priorities?

iPhone 5S

As Jamaica has become synonymous with Olympic 100m champions, Apple has long been associated with producing the fastest smartphone. Has the iPhone 5S retained the crown? And is speed really that important to you?

When you buy an iPhone, you just assume it’s got speed in spades to handle the latest game or video editing app. That’s what you pay extra for instead of ‘settling’ for a Samsung or HTC. At least it used to be…

In our fastest phone test of flagship handsets earlier this year, the iPhone 5 came bottom of the list – it was the proverbial wooden spoon winner.

Although more recent mobiles like the Samsung Galaxy S4 had been released since the iPhone 5’s launch, we weren’t expecting it to do quite so badly. Even the cut-price Google Nexus 4 outperformed Apple’s handset, a disastrous result for the company whose premium mantra usually stands for much more than plush aluminium casing.

When the iPhone 5S was unveiled last month, the mobile’s ‘ground-breaking’ 64-bit processor promised much. Enough to make the 5S the fastest phone money can buy? We asked our test lab…

Is iPhone 5S the fastest phone?

The answer we got was a victory for Apple. You can read the full results on Which? Tech Daily, but the iPhone 5S is the fastest phone money can buy. That’s great news for those who’ve signed up to £40+ per month contracts for the flagship smartphone. Even when you’re paying a lot for something, you still want to feel like it’s offering you value for money.

Of course, speed isn’t everything. A phone is only as fast as the operating system it runs on, apps it has installed and internet connection it has available. Plus, any phone that passes through our test lab gets assessed on its battery life, storage space, camera quality and a whole smorgasbord of other factors. So for the full iPhone 5S verdict – read our expert review.

When it comes to smartphone speed, I’m glad the iPhone 5S is sprinting to the front. Just as I want to watch Usain Bolt crack the 100m world record again, it’s amazing to see technology manufacturers stretch the limits of what technology is capable of.

The question is; is speed at the top of your priority list when you buy a smartphone? Are you sold on the iPhone 5S now that you know it’s the fastest phone we’ve tested?


Although I have an iPhone 5S, processor speed is not my top priority. Functionality, of both hardware and software, is more important. Nevertheless I’m delighted to read Which’s results, particularly after the iPhone 5’s dismal result last time.

Why do you suggest that one has to buy a service contract of £40+ per month for the latest iPhone? I pay only £9 per month to use my iPhone 5S. I think you’re confusing the price of the goods and the price of the service.

David Young says:
18 October 2013

Having the fastest is not my highest priority, neither is having the latest. The contract on my Galaxy S2 is about to run out and having looked around I’ve decided to keep it. It’s a perfectly good phone, does all that I require, has Android 4.1.2 which is pretty recent (I’m amused to see articles saying ‘Samsung Galaxy S2 Android 4.2 Update Prospects Look Bleak’). For now I’ll pay £10 per month to GiffGaff instead of the £27 I was paying to T-Mobile, or whatever an S4 would cost me now.
I’ll wait until it becomes unusable or new features which I really need become available. Then I can decide again what to do.
The whole upgrade thing is a gigantic con. How many of us really need the shiny new phone we’re offered as though we are being done a favour?

Any of you read this ?


Funny when the Samsung was fastest it was OK. Now Apple has taken the top spot …Does it matter !!

some people buy bottled water, other people pay £500+ for a mobile phone, whilst having a computer at home. You can fool all of the people, some of the time, and some of the people, all of the time, but you cant fool all of the people all of the time.

RA Midlands says:
21 October 2013

You get what you pay for.
Apple also put quite a lot into developing the Apple software environment so that Apple devices work together. I have a fairly upscale Android phone – which is very good value for money indeed for the overall package and performance, but the Android world seems amateurish. Every time there is an operating system upgrade curious things stop working the way they did – it speaks to me in a foreign language or an appalling US accent, for example, and keeps changing my keyboard app. You have to get apps for things that should be part of the operating system. It is a tribute to Apple that they can show the way while other manufacturers have quite a cost advantage by jumping on the Android bandwagon. My contract is up in 4 months so I an looking at ways to get into the Apple eco-system.

Why do you have to wait until the minimum term of your service contract is reached before buying an iPhone? You can just buy one from Apple; the goods and service are separate. At the end of your minimum service contract period, make sure you’re on a cheap SIM-only contract for no more than £10 to £15 per month.

Whatever you do, don’t get your iPhone from your mobile network, especially with a disguised loan for the iPhone from the network. You will end up paying much more overall than buying the goods and service separately.

RA Midlands says:
22 October 2013

Probably not going to get an iPhone – my phone is OK as a phone but a new iPad – depending on what they announce today…

RA Midlands says:
23 October 2013

Thank you for the advice.

Figgerty says:
23 October 2013

I am looking to buy my first smartphone and so far I have identified that I wish it to have a replaceable battery that lasts as long as possible after a charge. On all the Nokias I have owned the battery life has been excellent with my latest one lasting two weeks between charges. So charging almost daily will be a huge shock for me. I do not wish to be tied to any contract longer than one month and wish to pay about £200 ish. The Galaxy S3 seems to fit my requirements on all but price. It’s about £280 best price. I wish to use the smartphone as a sat nav and do a little browsing when away from home. I do not believe I will ever download films to watch on it as viewing on a 5 inch screen does not appeal. Until I buy and use it I have no idea how speedy I want it to be but I do not wish the GPS to be slow in finding the correct route. I woold also like it to have a memory card slot to save photos and recordings. An recommendations?

Which? it would be useful to be able to ask members their opinion after they own and review some of the phones I’m considering, like Ask an Owner on Reevoo.

Your requirements are very similar to mine. I do not yet have a smart phone but it would be useful to have some web access when away from home without having to cart a more sizeable gadget around. I like the idea of a members’ opinion platform within the Which? structure. It think it would be more honest, credible and disinterested than other review facilities.

Hi Figgerty and John Ward, sorry for taking so long to reply to you. The reason I spotted your comment is because we’ve recently started updating our reviews online. In our TV reviews section you can see reviews from owners as based on Reevoo: http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/televisions/Samsung–UE55F6800

We also have Which? member reviews across all product reviews, as you can see here: http://www.which.co.uk/technology/phones/reviews/mobile-phones/samsung-galaxy-s5/customer-views/

John, I agree with all you say and I’m pleased I’m not the last person in the land to buy one. Which? members are a discerning bunch of consumers and getting their opinions after they have owned a product for a few months would be invaluable. When I buy a product I usually wait a few months before reviewing it to make sure I’m not blinded by the joys of ownership. It sometimes takes a while to suss out the flaws or weaknesses or even the strengths. It may take me a year to figure out how to use all the features of a smartphone. The first hurdle is to buy one and I’m a way from doing that.

Gary says:
25 October 2013

im looking to get a new phone for around the £100 mark, I had a nokia lumia 925 and hated it, and give it to my other half . Can anyone recommend anything, Are the Samsung Galaxy Ace any good ?

iPhone… try it you just might like it.. Remember you get what you pay for !

I would like a Lexus but my budget says a used Fiesta or Yaris. Someone wishing to spend around £100 is unlikely to buy an iPhone. We are not all Apple obsessed although most people I ask either say an iPhone or a Galaxy S3 or S4/mini.

I did like the Samsung Galaxy Y that I used to use – it was robustly made and is still in use by another family member.

For a time, a friend and I had both had Which? “best buy” Motorola Moto G’s – they were very nice but not very durable – nether of them lasted more than 12 months.

Alcatel and Huawei also make some nice cheap Android phones. However, experience has shown that, with larger screen sizes, these do not bounce well and that cracked screens can be difficult or uneconomic to replace….

This obsession with speed may be just the after effect of when speeds were so low it was irritating. History is full of such obsessions however.

During the 1950’s it became the in-thing to have the largest black&white TV screen which 20 years later was tranfered to colour sets, and until around 4 years ago it became the trendy thing to stick a massive great flat TV on ones wall which took up so much room that it really did look naf but also made viewing difficult for a moderately sized room.

It is just another means to keep up with Jones even if one has to sacrifice other more important parameters such as battery life and it looks impressive when travelling by public transport.

Diravi says:
29 March 2014

I have had my iPhone 5s since just after the it’s launch in September 2013 and CPU speed is really not a big decision factor for me. In fact I don’t really care about that at all. I do care about a responsive user interface for sure, but I’m hardly going to run huge number crunching apps on the phone. I honestly don’t know why people bother running these benchmarks other than for just pure geeky curiosity. Surely the most important is what it is like to use?

If anything is missing – then it’s a good look at security and laying it out in layman’s terms. This is what really sets the 5s apart from both the competition and its predecessors. The security in the 5s is truly phenomenal and best of all, it’s transparent to the user.

I’m sill trying to decide on a smartphone to buy Sim free. I checked all the Which? reviews and am trying to establish if the iPhone 5s at over £700 and a Which? score of [removed] is a better buy than a Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 for £140 and a Which? score of [removed]. Are we getting to the point where it is farcical to compare a Rolls Royce phone with a Ford Focus phone.

The iPhone has a three star battery rating and the Ace 2 has a five star battery rating which suits my need to be contactable at all times. I use a small tablet for browsing away from home and my laptop at home so I shall not be browsing in the cafe, on the train or in the toilet with my new smartphone.

Hi Figgerty, I’ve had to remove the review scores in your comment as these are only available for members.

I’ve spoken to our mobiles expert for you and he told me that the Ace 2 went through an old test and so its score isn’t comparable, which is explained at the top of the review: http://www.which.co.uk/technology/phones/reviews/mobile-phones/samsung-galaxy-ace-2/review/

The new test is much tougher (because phones are getting better all the time).

As for the battery, the Ace 2 managed 8 hours of calls or just over 3.5 hours online which equated to a 5 star rating in 2012. However the new iPhone 5s managed almost 11 hours on calls or five hours on the net, but that’s now only a 3 star rating.

This is just one area where the 5s is superior – there are many others. But the question is how important is that to you, and how much you’re willing to pay for it? That’s a very personal question.

If you want a good value phone (and it sounds likely if you’re going to use a tablet for browsing), he’d recommend the Motorola Moto G (£150 sim free or £100 on PAYG from O2).

Patrick, thank you for speaking to your phone expert on my behalf.

The battery life and good call reception are the most important factors to me. I firstly want to make and receive calls but am also keen to check emails when I’m away from home for longer than a day or so. The apparent superiority of an iPhone 5 over an Ace 2 is not worth £460 to me. If I was working and on a phone contract I’m sure I would be upgrading at the end of each contract term and would be on an iPhone by now. My only income is my private pension and that is not generous enough to allow me to pay £709 for a phone.

Regarding phones tested under the new and old criteria. I thought the only difference is the area where a star is not given. I shall check out the Moto G and hope the battery is replaceable and holds a charge well.

You have to be careful what you buy. Which? gives Currys as cheapest for the i phone 5s. Carphonewarehouse gives the same price, but they have common ownership. However the latter says that the so called sim free version will lock on to the first sim card used (which Currys also say), and that it will not work with foreign sims. Either alone would make it useless to me.

I don’t call that sim free!

I wrote to the Currys / Carphone warehouse help line. A week later they replied that they wanted to speak to me, but had not been able to do so. They provided a manufacturer’s telephone number to resolve my problem. In the meantime I spoke to their help line, and was assured that both blocks could be removed in branch, but could not give the cost.
So I went to the Rhyl branch (Currys with an instore Carphonewarehouse section) and the charming young man said it could not be done. I left. That evening I looked up the John Lewis website, where it was the same price. The narrative made it clear that a foreign sim card could be used, and that different UK sim cards could be used. I now have a satisfied wife.
She has mentioned that she finds the key board a little small, but that is offset by a more convenient size.
I could have been returning the thing had I not read the website of both Currys and Carphonewarehouse thoroughly.

The logic behind the restriction baffles me.