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Early iPhone 5S, 5C reviews arrive: Is plastic fantastic?

The first reviews of Apple's new pair of iPhones is out. Here's what they're saying.

The S is not for spooning CNET

It's that time of year again.

Days ahead of when Apple's set to launch the iPhone 5C and 5S, early reviews of the devices are here.

Like with last year's iPhone 5, the consensus is predominantly positive for both devices, with critics lauding the speed and accuracy of the new Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the 5S.

CNET's own senior editor Scott Stein rated both devices four out of five stars, calling the iPhone 5C "a great $99 phone that basically replicates the well-reviewed iPhone 5 in a more colorful case." Stein praised the 5S' speed and new features, but noted that buyers will "have to settle for the same design and screen size" as last year's model.

You can read CNET's entire reviews of the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C right here.

Some of the highlights from the other reviews around the Web tonight:

David Pogue for The New York Times says:

Apple still believes in superb design and tremendous polish. The iPhone is no longer the only smartphone that will keep you delighted for the length of your two-year contract -- but it's still among the few that will.

Ed Baig for USA Today says:

I can strongly recommend either new iPhone but especially the 5s. But with iOS 7 dressing up your current device, you may not have to upgrade right away.

Walt Mossberg for AllThingsD (and The Wall Street Journal) says the iPhone 5S "is a delight," and "the best smartphone on the market," though he knocks the keyboard, which he complains cannot be augmented with third-party software keyboards.

While Lauren Goode, also of AllThingsD says of the iPhone 5C:

While the 5C looks and feels very familiar, it's still a good phone and an improvement over the 5. But its improvements are evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Myriam Joire at Engadget says that with the iPhone 5C:

iPhone 5 owners are probably better off sticking with iOS 7 or picking up an iPhone 5s instead of getting an iPhone 5c. And, if all else fails, there are always next year's iPhones.

Of the iPhone 5S:

Is the 5s the best iPhone ever made? Yes, though that shouldn't come as a surprise ... its true worth is yet to be determined. If developers come up with clever ways of using the 64-bit support, iOS 7 and M7 coprocessor to their advantage, the 5s has the potential of being the best off-year flagship phone the company has made. If not, a lot of people might just wait it out another year.

Anand Shimpi, writing for AnandTech says the iPhone 5S is "quite possibly the biggest S-update we've ever seen from Apple," adding that "in many ways it's an evolutionary improvement over the iPhone 5, but in others it is a significant step forward."

On the 5C, Shimpi says it's "it is a perfect replacement for the iPhone 5," but that between the two he'd go with the 5S "because of its more modern platform."

Apple's iPhone 5C in a case.
Apple's iPhone 5C in a case. CNET

John Gruber of Daring Fireball says of the iPhone 5C:

With the iPhone 5C Apple may well have created what will prove to be the most popular smartphone in the world, based almost entirely on year-old technology, distinguished only by its colorful plastic casing -- yet still sold at premium prices compared to the rest of the industry. Not bad.

And for the 5S:

This is what innovation, real innovation, looks like. It's like the Thomas Edison quote, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Innovation is missed by most people because it is so often incremental.

Jim Dalrymple at the Loop says simply: "Apple has a one-two punch of iPhones like they've never had before."

Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch says that what "Apple has delivered is far from a 'cheap' device, in terms of both quality of experience and hardware, and in terms of price," with the 5C.

And on the 5S:

This phone, more than any iPhone before it, is likely to be the device that grows more appealing as the software ecosystem catches up, which is great news for buyers looking for something that isn't so easily replaced by the next big thing that comes along.

Vincent Nguyen at Slashgear says:

We've come to expect evolution not revolution from the "S" update to Apple's iPhone range, but the iPhone 5s could be enough to buck that trend ... The iPhone 5s is the best iPhone so far, by a long shot.
Apple's iPhone 5S Touch ID system.
Apple's iPhone 5S Touch ID system. CNET

Nguyen adds he'd recommend the 5S over the iPhone 5C "in a heartbeat."

Stuart Miles at Pocket Lint says the iPhone 5C is "a lovely phone," adding that "there is no denying that the 5C is merely a lick of paint on a year-old device, a non-upgrade to the iPhone 5."

It's not all bad, however. On the 5S, Miles says:

In many ways Apple has released a phone for tomorrow rather than today. That's a hard sell, in truth. The Touch ID scanner is yet to be fully realised, as are the A7 and M7 processors and the 64-bit support. It's all a bit "what if" at the moment.

Rich Jaroslovsky, writing for Bloomberg says "there's nothing wrong with either phone. But there's not much that's pulse-quickening about them either."

Luke Peters at T3 calls the iPhone 5C "a curious one," praising the colors, iOS 7, and battery life, while knocking the device for its price tag and screen size. "The iPhone 5c is a great device and, if contract prices drop a little, could be Apple's best-selling phone ever," he added. For the iPhone 5S, Peters reiterated the claims made by many about future potential:

It's not only Apple's flagship iPhone but it's also the best phone the company has ever made. The camera is extraordinary. Touch ID is revolutionary. The iPhone 5s is a stunner today, but expect the real fun to come tomorrow.
Matt Warman for The Telegraph praises the feature set on the iPhone 5S, including the new Touch ID sensor which he says is "superb." But like Peters, Warman knocks the high-end price for those in the UK:

If, however, a user without a smartphone were to go into Carphone Warehouse in search of their first smart device, would they come out with the 5s? It starts at £549 - it doesn't do many of the things other devices do, but it offers a user interface that is more intuitive than any other, and an ecosystem of apps and accessories that is unavailable elsewhere.

And for the 5C:

If you want a new iPhone but have been tempted to go elsewhere, this is the most convenient, easiest option. Apple will tell you it's great; they're right. It's a great, more affordable reason not to go Android. And it's a great replacement for a 4 or a 4S, whose glass many owners will have broken but put up with. Plastic is cheaper for Apple to make, more durable - and more novel. Its novelty, rather than new features, is the 5c's major selling point.
The top of the iPhone 5C, if you're into these kind of shots.
The top of the iPhone 5C, if you're into these kind of shots. CNET

Without offering too many hands-on impressions short of the feel of the devices, David Phelan at The Independent says:

Both these phones are impressive, capable and significant upgrades over last year's model. The 5c is fun and stylish, but the 5s is the best smartphone Apple, or anyone, has yet made.

Both devices go on sale this Friday at 8 a.m. local time. Preorders for the 5C began last week, while online ordering for the 5S begins just after midnight on Friday.

Updated at 6:51 p.m. PT with additional reviews from around the Web.