iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C comparison review

Apple unveiled the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C on 10 September. The new phones come in a variety of colours and, aside from that, the most obvious difference is the fact that the iPhone 5c has a plastic case, compared to the aluminium case of the iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 5s also boasts a number of features that are absent from the iPhone 5c, such as a better camera and a fingerprint sensor.

Given the fact that the iPhone 5s offers more features you might expect that it would be significantly more expensive than the iPhone 5c. Indeed, in the run up to the announcement, the rumours suggested that the iPhone 5c would be a cheaper iPhone. In fact the price difference is really minimal if you purchase the phone from Apple rather than on a contract from your network provider. There's just £80 difference between the entry-level models for each new iPhone. 

Given the small price increase on the iPhone 5s you might think it's obvious which iPhone to choose. However, there are a number of other factors to consider, not least the fact that some networks are discounting the iPhone 5c more than the iPhone 5s, which may make Apple's plastic phone a more attractive proposition. In this article we will help you choose the right iPhone for you.

In this iPhone 5c vs iPhone 5s article we put the two new Apple iPhones head-to-head. We compare the new iPhone 5c's features with the features found in the iPhone 5s to help you find out what's new and decide which new iPhone is right for you.

[Read about how Apple's iPhone compares to the other phones launched at Mobile World Congress]

iPhone 5C vs iPhone 5S: colours

These new iPhones mark the first time the iPhone has comes in anything other than black and white.

The iPhone 5c is available in pink, yellow, blue, green, or white. The colours are bright and vibrant. According to a Macworld poll the most popular colour for the iPhone 5c is likely to be blue (43% of the vote). The least popular colour is yellow, according to comments from a Vodafone salesman.

The iPhone 5s looks a little more like the iPhone 5, but there is a new colour option: gold, along with silver and gray (or Space Gray as Apple is calling it). The silver is comparable to last year's White & Silver option, and the Space Gray reminds us of the Black & Slate iPhone 5 option last year, only with a lighter shade of graphite to its back and edges.

We were dubious about the gold option when the rumours of the iPhone 5s colour emerged, and while we're still not completely convinced by it, it's not as 'blingy' as you might imagine.

The poll mentioned above suggested that black would be the most popular colour for the iPhone 5s. Perhaps if we'd called it Space Grey it would have been even more popular. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners research suggested that Space Grey accounted for 43% of all iPhone 5s puchases, which seems to qualify our poll.

There are eight new colours available across the new iPhone ranges, suggesting that there will be something for everyone. It certainly makes a change, competitor smartphones are predominantly black or grey.

Buying Advice

If you are trying to decide which colour to go for, the popular choices are Space Gray for the iPhone 5s and Blue for the iPhone 5c. But the choice of colour is down to personal preference, and if you want your phone to reflect your individuality there are plenty of colours to choose from.

iPhone 5c vs iPhone 5s: design, build quality & weight

The iPhone 5c is constructed from a polycarbonate shell, crafted from a single piece of plastic. The plastic coats a steal frame so it's certainly not flimsy. 

The iPhone 5s, on the other hand, is precision crafted from aluminum and glass. 

The iPhone 5c feels good to hold. It’s got a nice, solid build, without seeming heavy. The polycarbonate surface is grippy – we didn't feel as if it would slip out of our hands (which may mean that smashed screens are a thing of the past.) The iPhone 5c also features curved edges that feel a little more comfortable to hold than the diamond-cut chamfers on the 5 and 5s.

Holding the iPhone 5s is a similar expereince to holding the iPhone 5. Indeed, the iPhone 5s looks very similar to the now discontinued iPhone 5, and feels similar too, with no noticeable added weight. If you have an existing case for your iPhone 5, you may be pleased to hear that the same external design means that you'll be able to use the same cases for your iPhone 5s.

You'll be able to spot the difference between the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5s thanks to the metallic ring around the iPhone 5s's Home button, which is part of the new fingerprint sensor feature (see more on that below).

The difference in weight is apparent if you are holding both phones at the same time, but you are unlikely to feel weighed down by the slightly heavier iPhone 5c. The iPhone 5s weighs 112g compared to the iPhone 5c at 132g. That 20g difference is equivalent to a fun sized Mars bar.

Buying Advice

The iPhone 5c is probably a good option if you are clumsy, the plastic coating seems more scratch resistant, and we found the surface less slippery, and therefore less likely to slip out of our hands or off our lap on the train. However, the iPhone 5s has a look of quality about it that you can never get from a plastic coating. If it's a status symbol you are looking for, the iPhone 5s is the one for you.


iPhone 5c vs iPhone 5s: cameras

The iPhone 5c offers an 8MP camera and the same f/2.4 aperture as the iPhone 4S (and the iPhone 5). Like the iPhone 5s it sports a Sapphire crystal lens cover (this sapphire cover also featured on the iPhone 5, it is not available on the iPhone 4s).

Both phones sport a new FaceTime HD camera that Apple claims provides better low-light performance and both cameras will be able to take stills while recording video.

However, Apple's iPhone 5s has had a significant camera boost. While it remains 8-megapixels, it features a new five-element Apple-designed lens with a larger f/2.2 aperture instead of f/2.4 which helps with indoor and dusky shooting too.

The iPhone 5s is a great example of why it's not how many megapixels that matters. It's the sensor that is the most important factor in getting a good quality shot. The camera's new sensor has a 15 per cent larger active area, and the pixels on this sensor are 1.5 microns in size, larger than the iPhone 5 and larger than other smartphones. Larger pixels yield greater electrical output, leading to clearer images in low-light conditions without resorting to messy noise-reduction techniques. 

Apple has designed iOS 7 to take advantage of the iPhone 5s camera and A7 chip's imaging capabilities. Before you take a picture, the iPhone 5s will perform auto white balance and auto exposure, and will create a dynamic local tone map around the image to get better highlights and shadows. The camera will also take multiple images and analyze them in real time to see which is the sharpest.

iPhone 5s also has a dual-LED flash while the iPhone 5C only has an LED flash. This new 'True Tone Flash' features one cool LED and one warmer one, which aims to give you the right colour flash for the situation you're in. By mixing the two light sources of different temperature to more naturally light your subject, the iPhoen 5s should avoid the washed-out glare of most simple flash units.

The iPhone 5s also offers improved image stabalisation when compared to the iPhone 5c. This auto image stabilisation aims to give users a much sharper image.

There's also a new Burst mode, which will take photographs at 10 frames per second until you let go of the shutter. You can take burst mode style shots on the other iPhones, but not as many in a second. 

Apple has also designed the Camera app in iOS 7 to take advantage of the new camera and the A7 chip's imaging capabilities. Before you take a picture, the iPhone 5s will perform auto white balance and auto exposure, and will create a dynamic local tone map around the image to get better highlights and shadows. The camera actually takes multiple images and analyses them in real time to see which is the sharpest.

There is also a new Slo-Mo video mode which lets you capture video in slow motion. This is possible because faster processing allows the camera to capture more frames every second when filming. Switch to Slo-Mo in the camera app and it shoots at 120 frames per second - then replays at a more familiar 30 fps, giving the illusion of slow-motion. Where normal video is shot in full-HD, Slo Mo captures 1280 x 720-pixel video.

Buying advice

If a good camera is iimportant to you when deciding which iPhone to buy then the iPhone 5s is the obvious choice. However, if you are upgrading from an older iPhone the new iPhone 5c takes a better photograph than the previosu iPhone models - in our tests we even found that the photographs taken with an iPhone 5c were superior to those taken with an iPhone 5, despite the fact that on paper the two phones have the same camera. Have a look at the photos we took here on the Macworld Facebook group.


iPhone 5c vs iPhone 5s: processor

On the inside of the iPhone 5c is an A6 chip, the same processor that featured in the iPhone 5. If you are upgrading from an earlier iPhone then you will still see an improvement in performance, but if you are updgrading from an iPhone 5 you may want to consider factors other than the processor, such as the ability to work on any 4G network as explained below.

The iPhone 5s has a new A7 processor as found in the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display. The A7 is a 64-bit desktop class architecture – the first ever 64-bit phone - with a modern ARM instruction set that's more efficient, 2x general-purpose registers, 2x floating-point registers, over 1 billion transistors. According to Apple, it is up to two times as fast as the iPhone 5.

The real boon for Apple’s new A7 chip and its architecture is what it will do in other, future Apple devices. Given the possibility of more than 4 GB of memory. 

The A7 chip offers 'up to 2x’ speed increases, compared to the A6 found in the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5c. For many the A6 will be plenty fast enough though. 

In addition to the A7 chip, the iPhone 5s has a brand new part called the M7. The M7 is a motion coprocessor, which takes advantage of all of the sensors and continuously measures the data coming from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass without having to wake up the A7. This will open up lots of new opportunities for fitness apps.

The M7 is also one of Apple's strategies to prolong battery life. To offload some of the low-level background duties, which nonetheless would keep the main CPU busy enough to deny it power nap moments the M7 chip’s role is to process incoming sensor data from the accelerometer, compass and gyroscope, some of the components that give the phone its orientation. For example, iOS 7’s wallpaper parallax effect, where the background image seems to slide behind as you wiggle the phone, is driven by the M7 chip. 

Buying advice

The iPhone 5s features a superior processor than the iPhone 5c, however, in many cases it is debatable whether the extra power would be noticed in normal every day use. There are only a handful of apps that are designed to take special advantage of the new 64bit processor and the M7 chip in the iPhone 5s for example. However, this technology should stand you in good stead for a few years.

iPhone 5C vs iPhone 5S: battery life

According to Apple, both new phones offer 10 hours of talk time on 3G networks, up to 10 hours of web browsing on Wi-Fi and LTE networks and up to 8 hours on 3G networks, and up to 10 hours of video playback and up to 40 hours of audio playback.

The company claims they provide an equal or greater battery life than the iPhone 5.

How did the battery stand up to our tests? The iPhone 5c lasted an impressive 10 hours, 19 minutes while the iPhone 5s managed 11 hours. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S4 managed 7 hours in the same tests, and the HTC One lasted 6 hours, 44 minutes.

Battery life looping video results

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

Buying advice

Both the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s seem to offer better battery life than the older iPhone models and the competiton. One reason why the battery life might be better than older phones is iOS 7, which is known to drain the battery on older iPhones.


iPhone 5C vs iPhone 5S: storage

The iPhone 5C is available in 16GB and 32GB capacities.

The iPhone 5S is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions. There had been some expectation that Apple might offer a 128GB version of the iPhone, but the company launched no such product.

For many extra storage will be the deal breaker. However, with iCloud, and the potential offered by external storage devices, you may not need as much storage as you think. 

Buying advice

The iPhone 5s is the only phone to offer a 64GB, so if it's the maximum capacity you are after then that's the best option. But more storage space comes at a price, and you may not require it. There are various reasons why you might be ok with less storage space, you get 5GB free storage space in Apple's iCloud for starters, any apps or content you buy from Apple can be deleted and redownloaded at a later date for free, and there are various storage devices that you can use with an iPhone that connect via Wi-Fi.

iPhone 5C vs iPhone 5S: 3G/4G/Wi-Fi

A change of cellular RF chipset means the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c should work across any upcoming 4G LTE service in the UK, unlike the iPhone 5 which only runs on EE's brand of 4G.

Unfortunately Apple has not taken the cue from its own upgraded AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule routers to add 11ac wireless to the iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c.  

Buying advice

If you want to sign up for 4G on a network that is unsupported by the iPhone 5 then the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s have the necessary technology. The iPhone 5 only works on a couple of 4G networks. The iPhone 4s and older don't run on 4G at all. You might not be interested in 4G right now, but over the next couple of years it is likely to become more dominant, and if you don't have the capability on your phone you may well wish you had.

iPhone 5C vs iPhone 5S: dimensions

The iPhone 5C measures 124.4mm by 59.2mm, and is 8.97mm deep. It weighs 132 grams.

The iPhone 5S measures 123.8mm by 58.6mm, and is 7.6mm deep. It weighs 112 grams.

This means the iPhone 5C is slightly longer and thicker than the iPhone 5S, and a little heavier.

In addition, the iPhone 5 measurements were 123.8mm by 58.6mm and the depth was 7.6mm, so you may find that your existing iPhone 5 cases are compatible with the iPhone 5C.

Both phones are a lot lighter than the iPhone 4S which weighs in at 140 grams.

Both new iPhones have a 4in screen. The iPhone 4s has a smaller screen.

Buying advice

If weight is important to you then the iPhone 5s is the lightest, although as we mentioned above the difference is the weight of a funsized Mars bar. Some might be prepared to put up with a bit more weight for a bigger screen, but unfortunately at the moment Apple doesn't offer a bigger screen, although there are rumours that Apple may offer a bigger screen iPhone the future.


iPhone 5c vs iPhone 5s: features

There are a number of features that will only be available on the iPhone 5s. Most obvious is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. This is built into the iPhone 5s Home button and is designed to eliminate the need for passcodes.

The following will only be available on the iPhone 5s:

The M7 motion coprocessor

The f/2.2 aperture

True Tone Flash

Burst mode

Slo-Mo video

Improved image stabilization

Buying advice

There are a lot of new features in the iPhone 5s that aren't present in the iPhone 5c. If you want the best features then it's the phone to choose. But not everyone needs a fingerprint scanner, so you might be able to live without such things.

iPhone 5c vs iPhone 5s: price

iPhone 5s tariffs and pricing: Best Apple's iPhone 5s contract

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

16GB iPhone 5C is £469

32GB iPhone 5C is £549 

16GB iPhone 5S is £549

32GB iPhone 5C is £629

64GB iPhone 5C is £709

Buying advice

Spending £80 extra to get the best iPhone going is not a tough decision and judging from the popularity of the iPhone 5s compared to the iPhone 5c a lot of people have seen the logic in that decision.


It looks like the iPhone 5C is the choice for those who want a bit more colour in their life. It is not Apple's cheaper iPhone, that accolade goes to the 8GB iPhone 4S (currently £349). When the features are compared the additional £80 is a small price to pay for the iPhone 5S.

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