The case of the missing iPhone 5s hardware accents

Did you notice the iPhone 5s is missing certain hardware aesthetics the iPhone 5 had?

Apple has always prided themselves on the little things. The final touches and accents that really give the iPhone the amazing build quality and aesthetic we have come to love. Interestingly enough, Apple seems to have skimped on some of that polish in regards to the iPhone 5s.

If you own an iPhone 5s, flip it over in your hand and take a look at the back, particularly the camera and flash. The iPhone 5 has nice little accent rings around the camera hold and the flash. These are completely missing in the iPhone 5s on all models. It's one of those things that aren't necessary but adds an extra something to the overall design. It also makes me wonder if that could make the iPhone 5s more or less susceptible to dust and debris sneaking its way into the camera lens over time. Perhaps making it flush was intentional to prevent that from happening?

Further, if you take a look at the dock and headphone jack area, Apple matched the aluminum color of the iPhone 5 to the dock screws, Lightning connector, and headphone jack. This isn't the case with the Space Gray iPhone 5s. All the screws are silver this time around. The silver version of the iPhone 5s looks virtually the same as the silver version of the iPhone 5 form the bottom view but it's noticeable on the Space Gray model of the iPhone 5s. The gold version of the iPhone 5s does however have color matched accents. Why go through the trouble of only color matching one model and skimping on another?

Sure, I'm nitpicking over things that in the grand scheme of things don't really make a difference when it comes to how the iPhone 5s works or feels in your hand. Well, except maybe the camera lens difference. We'll see over time if it causes issues in relation to dust in the camera. It's something I saw pretty regularly on the iPhone 5 so hopefully this is Apple's attempt at remedying that.

I think this bothers me because it's the first time I've seen Apple not be thoroughly consistent across the board when it comes to hardware design, especially when it comes to the iPhone in particular. Apple prides themselves on design aesthetic quite possibly more than anything else, so why make little yet glaring omissions on just one model of the iPhone 5s? Let alone their top selling variant. They color matched all the accents on the slate model last year, so why not this year?

If you bought the Space Gray iPhone 5s, does it bother you that your iPhone didn't receive the same color matching treatment that the other two models received? More importantly, would it bother you if weird design decisions like this make their way into other product lines as well?

iPhone 5s

iPhone 5s
Apple's current flagship iPhone with a 4-inch in-cell display, LTE 4G, and BT 4.0 LE. New features include:

Complete review >

Released
September, 2013

Alternatives
iPhone 5c, iPhone 4s

Replacements
iPhone 6 (rumored)
Fall, 2014

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Allyson Kazmucha

Help and how to editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

The case of the missing iPhone 5s hardware accents

55 Comments

Oh way cheaper, because coloured plastic is so expensive...

Now srsly, don't know why it was left out but cameras don't usually have shiny metal accents around the lens.. maybe not such a great idea, especially with the wider aperture lens in the 5S.

The rings are metal. More costly than plastic. Not saying cost was or wasn't the deciding factor, just letting you know it isn't plastic.

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I think the rings are related the the purple flares but hey everyone forgot about that and what's weird is apples cameras look really good in the fall and by the time the sun and space moves around and seasons change the technology changes or at least somthing along the lines of that because seasons chanhge the technology lenses and crystals used with act differently with the how far or close the sun is at that general time of the year but most people probly do t know much about this Nor do I as I'm just speaking out of the ideas if my brain :)

Wait! I've found it! The ring is no longer lost! They moved the ring, stretched it, and put it around the home button! Woot! We've ring people! :D

Could the accents around the camera cause some of the problems some were reporting. as for the bottom, I have the silver, but I can see your point.

I think not matching the screws is for the same reason why they don't make the slate anymore, I had the 5 in slate and it started to chip off. I have the space gray 5s and I actually like the contrast it has with the silver.

In the above photo, it looks like the camera lens is larger even when comparing the center of it. Anyway, it does not bother me. The 5s is a better phone than the 5. If someone is going to fret over the missing rings while getting 64 bit cpu, TouchID, and better camera, then they may need to check themself.

I JUST did a side by side comparison with a 5 and a 5S. Same shot, 5S haf no purple lens flare where the 5 did.

That is precisely why that change occurred with the 5S camera lens. Try it for yourself.

I only have a black iPhone 5, but looking at the pictures of the bottom of the 5s, I actually like the luke if the shinier screws and accents next to the space gray aluminum. It could be cost saving decision, but that doesn't seem like apple, I don't see Jonny Ive saying it's okay to ship an uglier design to save a few cents per device. I think maybe they like the look and it also was cheaper to do. As for the camera accent pieces, who knows the reason behind that... Could be a solution to some problems the 5 had or just save some money on something that doesn't really effect form and function. I'm just guessing on all this...

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Those are really minor elements but considering the premium price for the iPhone itself, I'd like it to be "complete". I love my black / slate iPhone 5 and see no reason to upgrade anytime soon. My Darth Vader iPhone 5 is awesome and plan on keeping it for a long time.

Still, the most questionable move (to me) Apple made in the past was the move to the plastic backs of the 3G and 3GS on such a premium device considering how well built the first generation model really was and looked the part for the price. Despite that move though, they still sold like mad.

Could be the lens flare issue. I was going to jokingly say it is "flatter"

as far as the headphone jack/lightning connector, I bet this is due to the fact that these are high traffic areas. The chrome color doesn't show wear like the black/slate

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Never even noticed it. Guess coming from iPhone 4S to a 5s, it was already so much of an upgrade, I was happy!

Wow talk about nitpicking. Since we don't know the reason behind these decisions I'm inclined to give Apple the benefit of the doubt there's a reason behind each.

My iPhone 5s is "Space Grey" and the screws and ring around the lightning port as well as the headphone jack match to the band around the phone. Everything matches. Could you have a different batch of phones?

I was just looking at mine and thinking the same thing. I really do not see a difference in color. If light hits the screws in a certain way then yeah they seem to shine more but other than that it all looks the same color.

Build quality is what we have come to expect from Apple and these may be very small points you bring out but they are true and for sure bring out the small touches we all may not notice until now...Thanks a lot Ally...LOL
BTW getting a bunch of inquiries about Anostyle?? Are you all still around?

re: "More importantly, would it bother you if weird design decisions like this make their way into other product lines as well?"

I. Want. Liquidmetal.

But you already have it, since the iPhone 4. It's being used to make that little tool to open the SIM Card tray. So much for the miracle metal, eh?

Isn't the reason they dumped the ring around the lens because the lens is bigger now? I think they needed some space. I don't know about the flash and the silver screws. That does bother me too. We're definitely out of the Steve Jobs era. Look at the 5C case. It obscures the word "iPhone."

I hadn't noticed! Thanks for ruining my whole iPhone 5s experience! If Apple is going to charge us premium prices for junk then that is proof that Apple is going to H311 in a handcart! We should all just go out and by Android phones.

(J.K. I though I would get it in before the trolls did!)

Actually, I have the silver/white 5S and love the aesthetics. I didn't look that closely at the other models because I knew what I wanted from the start. To me, the silver/white 5S is a work of art. The fit and finish are better than anything else I've seen - even from Apple!

After owning two slate black iPhone 5's I decided to get the white iPhone 5s. It just came today and boy is this phone gorgeous. I really liked the slate black on the 5 and my iPad mini is slate black too, but I'm digging this white and silver especially with the look of iOS 7. All the white backgrounds go so well with the white whereas I felt the opposite about the 5 and iOS 6. The only real nag I have about this phone is that they didn't include the white wallpaper that they pictured the iPhone 5s on the front of the box. It makes the phone look so nice I can't believe they left it out, but who am I kidding that is a very small nag.

I was on the fence about upgrading from my iPhone 5 as it looked to be a small upgrade, but once again I was wrong. The fingerprint scanner (which I quickly wrote off as a gimmick when I heard the rumors) works so well I can't imagine using anything else. The phone is snappy as hell with the A7 and can't wait to see how devs put this beast to use, and the camera updates along with especially the slo mo are great enhancements. Also, the new home button looks so slick. I've always been a huge fan of Apple design aesthetics and most will write it off as being the same iPhone 5, but let's be honest only HTC has come even close to apple this last year and even the One has some catching up to do. Loving my 5s and so glad I got the white/silver model this time around.

"One Ring around the Lens
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Actually, I always figured the 'accent rings' were Apple's way of preventing lens scratches every time you put your phone down on any table or desk. A little bit of protection goes a long ways when it comes to lens scratches.

It is part of Apples new "flat" look. And I believe this look is the next phase of smartphones. Just a prediction though.

Design decisions are tough to call out. what you call omissions, Jony Ive might call cleaning up. What you call, not consistent, might be viewed as contrasting.

Is the black 5 ring black? Serious question. I don't notice a ring on mine.

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These accents don't bother me at all. I didn't know the iPhone 5 had them since I came from a 4s. It makes more sense to me to use silver screws for the silver and grey phones. The gold had to get gold screws. It's madness to have 3 different color screws for production. If you did some grey screws might end up on the silver phone and silver on the grey.

As far as the camera rings are concerned it looks like there is something there just not a silver ring. Hard for me to tell my eyes aren't what they used to be. The retina display means nothing to me without my reading glasses.

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I think they have done it that way for aesthetics. Gold with silver accents = Gaudy. Gray with silver accent= classy.
The camera and the flash are bigger they didn't want to make big silver rings, I guess. And to me the rings looked dated, I like the clean look with out them.

The silver accents don't wear out as hypothetical Space Gray accents would.

The omission of the accents around the camera seem logical. The whole idea of iOS7 was stripping the design of chrome and that's exactly what they did. One more thing, in iPhone 5 both accents are circles/rings. In 5S you have a ring (the camera) and a pill-shaped flash. Two different forms, two different chromes next to each other...not too Apple. The back needed to be simplified. I'm happy with the new look. :)

I agree. I have a silver 5 and the ring is slightly scratched/stained. However the clean aesthetic on my girlfriends 5s is way better. Glad they omitted this. Kinda gaudy anyway if you think about it. Like a guy with gold chains, rings and bracelets.