iPhone 5c review

Just after Apple launched the iPhone 5 last year there were calls for the company to start thinking about offering a low cost version of the iPhone. It was said that Apple needed a cheaper iPhone if it was to continue to gain marketshare at a time when smartphone ownership was starting to reach saturation. Apple responded by saying that a cheaper iPhone would "never be the future of Apple products." 

And yet the idea that Apple would launch a cheaper iPhone took hold, so when Apple unveiled the iPhone 5c alongside the iPhone 5s many assumed that the C stood for cheap. Perhaps because expectations were set so high (or should we say low) the inevitable disappointment when it emerged that the upfront price of the iPhone 5c was just £80 less than the equivalent iPhone 5s. Starting at £469 the iPhone 5c is not a cheap iPhone.

Best free iPhone apps

Is this a big mistake on Apple's part? We don't think so. Indeed, we think that producing a cheap iPhone would have cheapened the brand. Now anyone purchasing an iPhone 5c doesn't need to feel like they are settling for something inferior. Both of Apple's new iPhones are premium products and anyone should be proud to own one. Indeed, the negative press about the higher-than-expected price for the iPhone 5c means that the value of your new phone will be recognized.

Less publicized is the fact that the mobile networks are offering huge discounts on the 5c. For example, you can pick one up from EE for £9.99 or free from Vodafone, but you don't need to tell anyone that's what you did. Sure you will end up paying more in the long run (up to £1,283.99) but not everyone can cough up the full price of a new smartphone up front.

Does the plastic iPhone look cheap? 

The other reason why it was assumed that this is a cheap iPhone is the plastic coating. The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s were crafted from steel and glass. The iPhome 5 had an alumimium case. Does the plastic case make the new iPhone 5c look like it belongs in a bargain basement?  

On the contrary, we think that Apple has proven that plastic doesn't have to look cheap. The iPhone 5c bears all the trademarks of Apple's meticulous attention to detail. It is crafted from a single piece of plastic. You won’t find a single seam or joint in the unibody-style design. One benefit for the plastic construction is that the edges are smooth and curved, unlike those of the iPhones 5s and 4s, which by comparison feel a little less comfortable in the hand.

On the inside of the plastic case is a steal-enforced frame. Thanks to this metal skeleton the plastic coated iPhone 5c feels solid. Along with adding rigidity the steal frame and metal plate at the back can double up as an antenna, so it's unlikely that there will be a repeat of antennagate, the reception issue that plagued the iPhone 4.

On the outside the plastic case gains a clear lacquer hard coating, which gives it a durable and glossy surface that is impossible to scratch, our attempts merely left marks which were easily wiped off.

The iPhone 5c case certainly picks up fewer marks than our iPhone 5. We've kept our iPhone 5 in a case from day one in order to protect it. We think you could get away with never putting your iPhone 5c in a case, indeed, you may prefer to show of your chosen colour. 

Here's our unboxing the iPhone 5c video 

iPhone 5c colours

Speaking of colours, it's pretty clear that when Apple settled on the name iPhone 5c the C was intended indicate colour. This is the first time Apple has produced an iPhone any colour other than black or white. The iPhone 5c is available in pink, yellow, blue and green, as well as white. The colours are bright and vibrant and it looks like they came right off the catwalk – they contrast well with the next two seasons colours, according to the fashion world.  To emphasis its fashion credentials Apple's new iPhone 5s was used at a Burberry fashion shoot at London Fashion Week. We also know that Apple recently poached a designer from Yves St Laurent. Apple has designed a phone that will become a fashion icon. Mark our words. 

Choice of colour will be a personal decision for anyone buying an iPhone 5c. A poll on our website suggested that most people will opt for the blue version, but that's a poll of people who have an interest in technology. When it comes to the ordinary person on the high street yellow might be the colour they most identify with (it's a lot less startling than you'd expect). It's inevitable that pink will be popular with younger females. What is crucial is the fact that there is choice. Sure one colour will prove to be unpopular and Apple will end up discontinuing it, but people like to be able to emphasize their personality though the products they own and what better way to do this than through colour. 

 

Next generation - how the iPhone 5c compares to iPhone 5

As much as we like the plastic casing of the iPhone 5c there is one fact that we can't ignore. The plastic case is basically the only difference between the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c. The two phones are identical, sharing the same iSight camera, A6 processor, and Lightning connector. This has lead many to assume that the iPhone 5c is a repackaged iPhone 5.

Actually it's not completely true that the two phones are identical. There are a few differences. The iPhone 5c shares its internal WiFi and cellular hardware with the iPhone 5s rather than the iPhone 5 - probably because by sharing common components Apple can save money. This, coupled with the steal back providing extra antenna capacity seems, in our tests, to result in a better 3G signal. (We haven't been able to test the 4G signal on the iPhone 5 yet as it's an iPhone 5 and we don't have an EE sim). 

(The time difference is becuse my iPhone 5 is set to be 10 minutes fast, so I'm not late...)

FaceTime camera

The iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s also share the new FaceTime camera that is capable of clearer FaceTime video calls, according to Apple. We tested this and indeed, the iPhone 5c meant we could be seen in more detail than when we tried with an iPhone 5. 

iPhone 5c on the left, iPhone 5 on the right 

4G support

The other major difference is the fact that the iPhone 5c will support all the UK 4G networks, where the iPhone 5 cannot support the 4G networks of O2 and Vodafone.

Despite these internal differences – and the new cases - it's would be difficult to argue that it is a completely different phone. The big question is whether it really matters.

We don't think that it does matter if the iPhone 5 if hiding inside these new vibrant cases. The iPhone 5 is a great phone and we're sure that if the iPhone 5 was still on sale people would be queuing up to buy it. What's different this year is that you can buy an iPhone 5 that doesn't look like it's a year old.

Although, as we noted when Apple launched the iPhone 5c, at launch the entry level price of the iPhone 5 was £529. Starting at £469, the iPhone 5c is £60 less than the iPhone 5 was.

Before now, Apple's usual practice was to reduce the price of last year's model by around £100. This year the price reduction is less, but as we said above, at least customers don't have to feel that they are settling for an old phone. 

The iPhone 5c camera

Whether it's an iPhone 5 or not, the iPhone 5c is still a feature packed phone. As we mentioned above the FaceTime camera on the front of the device is improved. The camera on the back of the iPhone 5c features the same 8 megapixel sensor, 3264x2448, backside illuminated, hybrid IR filter, five-element lens, and f/2.4 aperture as the iPhone 5 did. It is by no means a bad camera. If your current camera is an iPhone 4S or older you will notice a marked difference. The iPhone 5 camera offers faster photo capture, better low-light performance and improved noise reduction compared to those previous models. HDR captures are also faster when compared to older iPhones.

The camera itself is identical to that in the iPhone 5, as you can see from this selection of shots taken with the two cameras. 

The video quality is also identical. 

If photography is your thing you may prefer the camera in the iPhone 5s, which is greatly improved with a new five-element Apple designed lens that features a larger f/2.2 aperture. The sensor in the iPhone 5s camera is also larger as are the pixels on this sensor. Read our review of the iPhone 5s for more information. 

iPhone 5c - Specs and comparisons with iPhone 5s

Another reason to opt for the iPhone 5s would be if you know that your usage is likely to benefit from the modern platform offered by the iPhone 5s. With an A7 chip and 64-bit processing the iPhone 5s will, no doubt, be loved by gamers and will also give you a few more years of use before it becomes obsolete.

On-the-other-hand the A6 chip is no slow coach. When we tested it when it first appeared in the iPhone 5 we said that it ran laps around all previous iPhones and iPhones. Its Geekbench score was more than twice as high as it's closest competitors, the iPad 2 and the iPad 3, so again, if you have an older device, expect to see a noticeable improvement. If you need the power of an A7 chip, then the iPhone 5c might not be for you, but we think there are plenty of people who don't need that much power on their smartphone right now. 

iPhone 5C display 

When the iPhone 5 launched the most obvious difference to the iPhone 4S was the size of the display, and like the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5c (and iPhone 5s) feature a   4in Retina display as opposed to the 3.5in display of the older models. Being 176 pixels taller means the display offers a 16:9 aspect ratio – which is the same as an HDTV.

Some people complain that Apple hasn't bought out an iPhone with a bigger screen. Apple's own response to that complaint is two fold, when it launched the 4in display last year Apple said that it was designed so that you can hold the iPhone in your hand and reach all parts of the screen comfortably. You couldn't do this with a bigger display unless you have giant hands. The other reason, Apple says, is that it doesn't believe that the quality of the bigger screens is good enough yet. So if you really want a bigger iPhone then you will have to wait a while longer. 

iPhone 5c Benchmarks and battery life

Battery

Apple says that the battery in the iPhone 5c is larger than the one in the iPhone 5. Apple claims that it offers 10 hours of web browsing on Wi-Fi and LTE networks, up to 8 hours on 3G networks, and up to 10 hours of video playback and up to 40 hours of audio playback. This is almost identical to Apple's claims regarding the iPhone 5 last year, with the exception that Apple now claims 10 hours over LTE where last year that claim was 8 hours. We are yet to run battery tests but will update this review as soon as we can verify this. 

How did the battery stand up to our tests? The iPhone 5c lasted an impressive 10 hours, 19 minutes (compared to the iPhone 5s at 11 hours). The Samsung Galaxy S4 managed 7 hours in the same tests, and the HTC One lasted 6 hours, 44 minutes. The Droid Razr Maxx, however, lasted 13 hours, 28 minutes in our video-looping battery test.

Battery life looping video

  • iPhone 5s 11:03
  • iPhone 5c 10:19
  • iPhone 5 9:37
  • iPhone 4S 8:31
  • HTC One 6:44
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 7:01

Benchmarks iPhone 5s

The iPhone 5c’s Geekbench score turned out to be slightly less than the iPhone 5, according to our tests. Last year’s iPhone 5 was about 10 percent faster than the new 5c in this test. The iPhone 5s Geekbench score is more than twice that of the iPhone 5c

Geekbench 3 (single-core score)

  • iPhone 5s 1393.0
  • iPhone 5c 671.0
  • iPhone 5 723.0
  • iPhone 4S 217.0
  • iPhone 4 213.0
  • HTC One 591.0
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 667.0

Geekbench 3 (multi-core score)

  • iPhone 5s 2485.0
  • iPhone 5c 1180.0
  • iPhone 5 1302.0
  • iPhone 4S 412.0
  • iPhone 4210.0
  • HTC One 1507.0
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 1862.0

Sunspider 1.0.1

  • iPhone 5s 454.0
  • iPhone 5c 715.6
  • iPhone 5 707.6
  • iPhone 4S 1573.1
  • iPhone 4 2682.9
  • HTC One 1117.4
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 1210.5

The iPhone 5c was also slightly slower on the Sunspider test than the iPhone 5. The Sunspider JavaScript tests showed the 5s finishing the test in 454 milliseconds versus the 715 milliseconds of the iPhone 5c and 707.6 for the iPhone 5 (lower is better). However, the iPhone 5 was only 1 percent faster than the iPhone 5c.

There are more benchmarks at Macworld.com.

iPhone 5C - Storage & Dimensions

Along with the various colours, there are two versions of the iPhone 5c available offering 16GB and 32GB capacities. If you want a 64GB iPHone you will have to turn to the iPhone 5s. 

As for size and weight the iPhone 5C measures 124mm by 59.2mm, and is 8.97mm deep. It weighs 132 grams. This means it's slightly longer and thicker than both the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5, and a little heavier. 

iPhone 5C - Price

As we mentioned, all the rumours had the iPhone 5C pegged as the 'low-cost', 'budget', or 'cheap' iPhone. While the iPhone 5c is slightly cheaper than the flagship model, it's not that much cheaper than the iPhone 5 was. 

The 16GB iPhone 5c costs £469, where the 16GB iPhone 5 was £529. The 16GB iPhone 5S is just £80 more at £549, a £20 on the iPhone 5 starting price.

Nor is the iPhone 5c Apple's cheapest iPhone, the 8GB iPhone 4S at £349 upfront, is the option for those who want an entry level smartphone from Apple. 

In the UK the upfront price of the iPhone 5c is as follows: 

16GB iPhone 5C is £469

32GB iPhone 5C is £549 

However, the upfront price doesn't tell the whole story. Anyone looking to get their iPhone 5c on a contract will be able to take their pick of various network deals - some of which are offering the iPhone 5c for free. There really seems to be a battle breaking out between the various UK networks. 

Read our iPhone 5c tariff pricing article for more information. 

Verdict

If you are trying to decide between the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c it is a question of whether you need all the extras offered by the iPhone 5s. Perhaps you are enticed by the new camera in the 5s, for example. If you need the latest technology it is only £80 more, so it's kind of a no brainer.

But not everyone needs the bells and whistles - for some it's not the processor and the high tech features that matter, but the way a device looks and feels and whether it helps them express their individuality. If you fit in that camp then the iPhone 5c is well worth a look.

Similarly if you have an iPhone that predated the iPhone 5 it really is about time you upgraded. You really don't know what you've been missing.

For those of you with an iPhone 5, upgrading to an iPhone 5c is probably only worth it if you are on O2 or one of the other networks that wouldn't be able to offer 4G on that device. 4G is going to become the norm pretty soon, and next year you may start wishing you hadn't been left behind. 

Find out everything we know so far about iOS 7 in our iOS 7 review.

OUR VERDICT

If you are trying to decide between the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c it is a question of whether you need all the extras offered by the iPhone 5s. Perhaps you are enticed by the new camera in the 5s, for example. If you need the latest technology it is only £80 more, so it's kind of a no brainer. But not everyone needs the bells and whistles - for some it's not the processor and the high tech features that matter, but the way a device looks and feels and whether it helps them express their individuality. If you fit in that camp then the iPhone 5c is well worth a look. Similarly if you have an iPhone that predated the iPhone 5 it really is about time you upgraded. You really don't know what you've been missing. For those of you with an iPhone 5, upgrading to an iPhone 5c is probably only worth it if you are on O2 or one of the other networks that wouldn't be able to offer 4G on that device. 4G is going to become the norm pretty soon, and next year you may start wishing you hadn't been left behind.

The Complete Guide to the iPhone 5s & 5c is on-sale now. Click here for buying information.
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