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How to make your iPhone 5 more like an iPhone 5S

With a few strategic apps, a little imagination, and perhaps even a dab of paint, you can transform your iPhone 5 into a gold star.


Even those of us disappointed with the iPhone 5S can't help but feel those familiar stirrings of it's-a-new-iPhone-I-want-it desire. Credit Apple's shrewd marketing department for putting a fresh coat of paint on what is basically just last year's iPhone.

But the reality is that unless you're nearing the end of a contract and looking to upgrade anyway, there are few compelling reasons to make the move to a 5S. Indeed, with a few tweaks, you can upgrade (well, OK, "upgrade") your iPhone 5 with nearly all the accoutrements of its newer Sibling. (Capital "S" intentional. See what I did there?)

Here's everything you need to do to make your iPhone 5 more like an iPhone 5S:

1. Install iOS 7

The iPhone 5S will come with iOS 7 preloaded. But starting September 18, you can install that very same operating system on your iPhone 5. Bam! Now the two models are identical, OS-wise. It'll be like getting a whole new phone!

2. Give it a speed boost

Your iPhone 5 will look a lot more like a 5S once you install iOS 7.
Your iPhone 5 will look a lot more like a 5S once you install iOS 7. Apple

I'm already on record as saying that chasing after faster processors in our phones is a pointless endeavor. Be honest: Does your iPhone 5 ever seem slow? Remember, it was barely a year ago that Apple was touting the blazing performance of its A6 chip. Did the arrival of the new A7 suddenly make it slow? Of course not. Perception is reality. Your iPhone 5 is still a smokin' piece of hardware.

That said, perhaps it's starting to feel a little sluggish? That could be the result of what CNET's Donald Bell calls "software cruft." Follow his tips on making your iPhone run like new and you may enjoy a little speed boost -- just like you would on a shiny new iPhone 5S. (Note that although his tips are targeted to iPhone 4/4S users, they apply just as well to the 5-er crowd.)

3. Improve your pictures

The Cortex Camera app helps your iPhone 5 capture better photos in low lighting.
The Cortex Camera app helps your iPhone 5 capture better photos in low lighting. Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

The iPhone 5S makes minor improvements to the camera, with a slightly larger sensor that promises to help with low-light shots and a two-tone flash that's supposed to improve color accuracy.

Obviously you can't improve your iPhone 5's optics, but you can make use of apps and photography know-how to get similar results. The Cortex Camera app, for example, specializes in capturing low-light shots with considerably less noise, while Sharon Vaknin's "Four hidden tricks for taking stellar iPhone photos" will greatly improve all your still shots.

If you're feeling jealous that the 5S can capture slow-motion video and burst-mode photos, stop right now. Apps like SloPro offer a variety of slow-mo shooting options, and the aptly named Burst Mode adds rapid-capture capability to all iPhone models.

Needless to say, features like these are powered by software. Maybe Apple will sneak them into iOS 7 for all iPhone users to enjoy.

4. Skin it gold

All that glitters is not an iPhone 5S. Your iPhone 5 can wear gold, too.
All that glitters is not an iPhone 5S. Your iPhone 5 can wear gold, too. Skinit

The three new iPhone 5S designs look sharp, no doubt about it, especially the one trimmed in champagne gold. If that's your color, you can easily dress up your iPhone 5 accordingly: shops like Skinit and Skintz offer metallic gold and gold carbon fiber wraps that lend a little bling.

And if you really want to get fancy, slip your iPhone 5 into a gold case with a custom nameplate. (Even iPhone 5S owners will want some kind of a case. Take it from the guy who dropped his 4S on the cement this very morning.)

5. Fake a fingerprint scanner

Way cooler than boring old security scanning.
Way cooler than boring old security scanning. Indigo Penguin Limited

Yeah, the new iPhone's Touch ID is pretty cool. But did you know all iPhones already have secret fingerprint scanning capabilities built right into their screens? It's true! In fact, it's not just some lame security feature; this scanner can actually reveal what kind of mood you're in. (Let's see Touch ID do that. In your face, Apple!)

You can unlock this special mode by installing this app. Sorry, iPhone 5S users: Only earlier models can run it.

If you really want to complete the 5S illusion, dab a little black (or white) paint over your Home button's little square icon. Now at least your iPhone 5 will look a little more like a 5S. And that's what matters most, right?

Removing tongue from cheek, I'd love to hear what you think about the whole iPhone-5-versus-5S debate. Are you satisfied with the former, or will you be standing in line for the lovely latter?