Home > Phone Reviews > iPhone 5s
What's Hot: Attractive, excellent build quality, sharp and colorful display and all the comforts of iOS 7.
What's Not: A 4" display in 2013 seems so old fashioned. Last year's specs won't ignite as much enthusiasm, nor will it be as future proof as the iPhone 5s.
Reviewed September 27, 2013 by Lisa Gade, Editor
in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)
The iPhone 5c is that “other” iPhone that launched on September 20, alongside the flagship iPhone 5s. While the higher end 5s might’ve garnered more attention among the press, the iPhone 5c may end up being the higher volume seller. Why? It’s $99 on contract vs. $199 for the 5s in 16 gig capacity. It’s basically an iPhone 5 inside, and let’s face it; the iPhone 5 is more than good enough for many iOS fans. Lastly, the 5 cheerful colors combined with the lower price point means this may be the go-to smartphone for tweens and teens.
Unabashedly Plastic, but Still Nice
Let’s talk about what’s different from the iPhone 5: the polycarbonate casing. I personally think it looks and feels really cool, and it’s refreshing to see a new design after 4 iterations of what’s basically the same (albeit lovely) Leica inspired metal iPhone 4/4s/5/5s casing. The iPhone 5c is ahair bigger and heavier than the iPhone 5s due to the thickness of the polycarbonate plastic back. It’s a negligible difference in terms of dimensions: stretchy, rubbery iPhone 5 cases might fit it, but not rigid cases. The phone does weigh nearly an ounce more than the uber-light iPhone 5, but it’s still by no means heavy at 4.65 ounces. While I wouldn’t say the casing could fool you into thinking it’s enamel, it does have a high quality look and feel. The design is appealing and the phone is very rigid thanks to the stiff plastic and inner metal frame. Much like higher end Nokia Lumia polycarbonate phones and the old iPhone 3GS, it doesn’t look or feel budget. Honestly for $99 on contract and $549 full retail, this is not a budget product. Apple simply doesn’t do the budget segment, no matter how much Wall Street might wish they would.
Since the casing has a gloss finish, though not super-shiny-signal flare glossy like Samsung Galaxy products, it is a bit slippery. The sides are straight enough to provide good grip, but you still might want a case to avoid dropping the phone. Apple worked some magic and fingerprints don’t show much, so the phone doesn’t get icky looking quickly like the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy S4 in black or gray. Buttons and ports are in the same location as the iPhone 5 and 5s, but the volume buttons are thin elongated ovals rather than finely crafted metal discs. The speaker and mic are housed under a simple set of holes rather than the grilles on the metal iPhones.
The iPhone 5c is available on all major US carriers and an unlocked version will be forthcoming for use on any GSM carrier. The AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are the same model, but are locked to their respective carriers with the exception of Verizon (Verizon had to agree to sell their phones unlocked due to an agreement with the US government in order to gain 700MHz spectrum). Sprint uses a different version from the other three carriers.
iPhone 5c Video Review
iPhone 5s. vs. iPhone 5c Comparison Smackdown
iOS 7 Walkthrough
Inside, it’s an iPhone 5 with the same 4” Retina Display (in fact, it’s the same display as the iPhone 5s too). It runs on the 1.3GHz Apple A6 dual core CPU as did the iPhone 5, and you get a gig of RAM and 16 or 32 gigs of storage. The phone has LTE 4G, dual band WiFi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, a GPS with GLONASS and a slightly higher capacity battery than the iPhone 5. The 32 gig model costs $100 more on or off contract. The iPhone 5c has a front 1.2MP FaceTime camera and a rear 8MP camera with LED flash. The front camera shares the iPhone 5s’ improvements, but the rear camera is the same as the iPhone 5. That means no true burst mode (though you can shoot many shots quickly by holding your finger on the shutter button), no slow motion video recording and no bigger pixels that let in more light.
Call quality is very good, just as with the iPhone 5 and 5s, and reception is equal to those iPhones. Honestly, Apple likely had an easier time designing the wireless radio antennas since there’s no signal blocking metal here.
We won’t spend much time here, because you can refer to our iPhone 5 review to learn about the iPhone 5c’s camera. They’re the same. Now in a year opinions change, especially with camera technology improving so rapidly in smartphones. That said, the iPhone 5c still holds up well, and some recent higher end smartphones have had trouble beating the iPhone 5 for image and video recording quality. In terms of software features like manual controls and simultaneous dual camera shooting, Apple still comes up light. But the photos and 1080p videos look great, regardless. iOS 7 introduces live filters so you can apply Instagram style effects, and there’s a new square photo option for those of you who spend your day shooting photos for avatars. HDR and flash control round out the minimal feature set, and as ever you have touch focus and can shoot photos while also capturing video. Low light photos are good but not as impressive as the iPhone 5s with its larger pixels, or the HTC One with its giant pixels. The iPhone 5c does beat the HTC One when it comes to resolution.
Performance and Horsepower
Once again, this is a repeat of the iPhone 5 since the iPhone 5c has the same A6 dual core CPU and 3 core PowerVR graphics as the outgoing model. It benchmarks the same and feels the same, which is to say very fast and responsive. While today’s apps run perfectly fluidly on the iPhone 5c, as developers find ways to put the 2x faster iPhone 5s’s CPU and graphics to good use, the iPhone 5c might seem a little slow for things like 3D gaming. The iPhone 5c isn’t as quick to launch hefty 3D games today, and HDR shooting is a little slower. But it’s by no means a slug, and we expect future versions of iOS to run quickly enough since Apple always does an excellent job optimizing the OS for supported hardware.
Geekbench 3: 692 single core / 1245 multi-core
3DMark, Ice Storm test (extreme): 3306. Demo: 12.4 fps
Apple increased battery capacity a bit from the 1440 mAh iPhone 5, and the iPhone 5c has a 1510 mAh battery. As you’d expect with the internals and display staying the same, power demands are the same, so the iPhone 5c lasts a bit longer on a charge. With average use on 50% brightness and LTE on, the phone should make it through a full day easily.
The iPhone 5c is a brilliant product in terms of marketing. It’s the cheaper model without being last year’s model. This is the first time Apple has introduced two iPhones at once, and it was a smart move. The iPhone 5c seems fresh and is fresh thanks to the playful new colors, and is slightly cheaper to make than the iPhone 5, so Apple can maintain their healthy margins. At the same time, it’s a good midrange smartphone and a great buy for Apple fans on a tight budget if purchased on contract. At full retail where you’re talking $549 for the 5c vs. $649 for the iPhone 5s, the savings as a percentage make less sense. But I have a feeling that many parents will buy the iPhone 5c for their teens on contract, and those buying for themselves on tight funds will get a phone that’s as capable as the well-received and still fast iPhone 5 for just $99 on contract.
Price: $99 on contract and $549 retail for 16 gig, 32 gig adds $100 to the price.
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The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c.
Display: Retina Display: 4" capacitive IPS multi-touch display running at 1136 x 640 resolution, 326ppi, 800:1 contrast ratio, 500 cd/m2 max brightness. Supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer. Has ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, compass and gyroscope. Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating.
Battery: 1510 mAh Lithium
Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable. Claimed talk time on 3G: up to 10 hours. Claimed standby: up to 250 hours.
Performance: Apple dual core A6 1.3GHz CPU (ARM compatible, custom Apple design). 3 core PowerVR SGX 543MP3 GPU.
x 2.33 x 0.35 inches. Weight: 4.65 ounces.
Phone: Available in GSM and CDMA versions, all with LTE 4G. Unlocked model available for use with any GSM carrier.
Camera: Rear (main) camera: 8.0 MP with 1.5 micron pixels, BSI sensor, f/2.4 five element lens and LED flash. Can shoot video at 1080p, 30fps. Has front-facing 1.2MP 720p camera with BSI sensor and face detection that can be used with Facetime video calls and Skype among others.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
GPS: GPS with GLONASS and digital compass.
WiFi 802.11b/g/n (dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz) and Bluetooth 4.0.
Software: iOS 7 operating system and core applications. Siri, iCloud, Apple Maps, Safari web browser, email, threaded text/MMS messaging, Stocks, Apple Maps, iTunes, App Store, Phone, Clock, Calculator, Photos, Camera, Voice Memos, Reminders, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Compass and Settings. iLife and iWork suites are included as a free download from the App Store.
Expansion Slot: None.
Storage: Available in 16 and 32 gig capacities.
In the Box: iPhone, charger, Lightning USB cable and EarPod headphones with inline mic.