Look and feel
Apple’s iPhone 5c is the first to sport a plastic frame, and also the first to come in a variety of bright, bold colours. It’s all personal preference, which one you prefer – this cheeky and cute chappy or the sleek iPhone 5s – but we personally prefer the traditional metallic design.
Ease of Use
Apple’s iOS has been boosted with better Siri and many features, such as the camera app, are clean and neatly presented.
Although the iPhone 5c sports the usual gorgeous Retina screen and capable camera, it’s hard not to compare to the just-slightly-more-expensive iPhone 5s. You get no fingerprint scanner, a lesser camera, less camera features and a less powerful processor.
Apple’s A6 chip might be around a year old already, but it’s still more than powerful enough to run all of your apps and games.
Although the iPhone 5c will last 24 hours between charges (providing you don’t hammer it with constant app use), it only streams video for around four hours on top brightness before capitulating.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,11/4/2013 2:56:56 PM
Ease of use
Usual great Retina screen;
Below average media battery life;
Still quite expensive
Last year Apple defied expectation and released the iPad mini, a dinky version of its iconic tablet which we loved thanks to its easy-to-grip-and-carry nature. This year, we expected the mobile giant to surprise us all again by unleashing a budget version of the iPhone. That phone is the iPhone 5c, and while the cost is far from budget-worthy, it is eighty quid cheaper than the iPhone 5s, the latest premium model launched at the same time.
So, is the iPhone 5c a worthy upgrade option for Apple fans, and what exactly is trimmed from the iPhone 5s?
The most obvious difference between the iPhone 5s and 5c is the outer shell. While the iPhone 5s rocks a typically Apple sleek-and-serious metallic finish, the iPhone 5c is its funky wild younger sibling, sporting a selection of bold colours for its polycarbonate plastic shell. The vibrant design is a first for iPhone, although not for Apple, who also produced a range of colourful iPods back in the day (MP3 players, eh, remember them?) You get a choice of white (boring), pink, yellow, blue and green, and all of the bright colours look great – you won’t find a mucusy vomity hue amongst them. Apple has even customised the iOS desktop to match your phone’s shell, something previously seen in Nokia’s Lumia phones. Which of the two new smartphone designs you prefer will of course be down to personal opinion, and while we still edge towards the sleek metallic finish of the iPhone 5s, the 5c is undeniably cute.
The iPhone 5c is also a little chunkier and heavier than the 5s, but it’s a near-negligible difference. In fact, if the iPhone 5c was much lighter, it’d likely feel quite plasticky and too much like a toy as opposed to a premium smartphone. As it is, the phone feels comfortable in the hand and we quite like the smooth texture. That does make it more prone to slippage, of course, and knocking it skidding off a desk is a serious possibility. Only splashing out an extra £25 on Apple’s holey rubberised case will keep your phone safe from a tumble.
Storage-wise, you can bag it in 16GB or 32GB flavours, but there’s no 64GB option for now. Given the lack of memory card expansion, app lovers are going to find themselves running out of space rather quickly. The fabled fingerprint scanner of the iPhone 5s is also missing, and while this makes no real difference to usability – you’ll only have to spend an extra second entering a code each time you unlock the phone – it does mean that the iPhone 5c loses some cool points.
You got the power
While the iPhone 5s sports the ultra-powerful new A7 processor, the iPhone 5c makes do with the old A6, last seen in the iPhone 5. While this will undoubtedly make a difference further down the line, right now we didn’t notice any difference when messing around on the phone, as expected – the A6 is still easily powerful enough to run all of your apps and games. If you’re looking for a phone to hold onto for a few years, we’d say consider the iPhone 5s instead, as it’s twice as nippy and features an upgraded graphics chip too. Else, the iPhone 5c will meet your needs nicely.
As for battery life, the iPhone 5c doesn’t last too long when the screen brightness is cranked right up. We only managed to stream video for four hours before the phone died on us, and you’ll just about enjoy a full day of use from each charge, providing you limit yourself to web browsing and the odd bit of photography or app tinkering. Thankfully, the battery drain is minimal when the phone is simply sat in your pocket, and you can always dim the screen to grind out a couple of extra hours of life.
Retina for real
Apple is well known for producing gorgeous displays, and the iPhone 5c certainly didn’t let us down. This is also one area where the 5c is just as strong as the iPhone 5s, packing the exact same screen size and resolution. At 326 pixels-per-inch (ppi) it isn’t as insanely sharp as premium Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z1, but you’d be hard-pressed to notice the difference unless you line the phones up side-by-side and squint really hard. Photos and videos are pleasingly crisp, and the Retina display is also gorgeously vibrant and bright enough to ward off any pesky glare. As usual, the touchscreen is also remarkably resistant to picking up fingerprints and scuff marks, certainly compared to many rivals. That’ll likely be a result of the oleophobic coating (which means lacking affinity for oils. You’re welcome).
The iPhone 5c still shuns NFC support, but it does fully support the UK’s 4G LTE networks now. So, whereas the iPhone 5 was only compatible with EE’s 4G network, the iPhone 5c will happily work with every LTE provider in the country, for nippy net access.
The eight megapixel ‘iSight’ camera doesn’t feature the same f2.2 aperture as the iPhone 5s, sporting an f2.4 lens instead (just like the iPhone 5). You also lose the second LED flash, which in the iPhone 5s produces more accurate skin tones. However, we still found that the iPhone 5c captured detailed photos in most conditions, only really struggling when the ambient light was dimmed. Outdoor shots were crisp and crackle-free, even if colours aren’t as vibrantly reproduced as we’d hope (spoiled as we are by Sony’s excellent Superior Auto mode).
The latest version of iOS has an updated camera app, which offers a couple of new features including a quick-access panorama mode and filters that can be added and removed to tweak your final photos. The incredibly cool slo-mo mode is sadly missing (another iPhone 5s-only effort) and the app feels rather feature-lite compared to many cheaper Android phones, which pack in all manner of funky visual controls. At least the video mode captures crisp HD movies, and you have the option to take photos simultaneously.
Apple has also upgraded its Facetime camera, housed top-centre above the iPhone 5c’s screen. Now it works better in low light, so you can comfortably natter in a romantically-lit room or out beneath the stars, and your chat partner will clearly see your gorgeous features.
Given the slight £80 drop in price over the iPhone 5s, Apple is asking you to make a fair few compromises with the iPhone 5c, not least accepting last year’s processor and camera tech. The lack of a fingerprint scanner is also a shame, although the bold and gorgeous candy-coloured frame is a kind of compromise. The 5c is still a fantastic phone and if the cost were a little lower we’d have no hesitation recommending it, to Apple newcomers or fans with pre-iPhone 5 handsets. As it is, potential buyers should consider grabbing the 5s for just a little extra cash.
iOS 7: The Full Skinny
The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c come with a new version of iOS pre-installed, offering a brand new design and some nifty new features. Here’s our run-down of the best new bits.
Fresh new look – Almost every area of iOS has been redesigned, and now looks slick and fresh. The desktops are more vibrant thanks to the colourful new icons, and tapping one results in a cool zoom animation, where you’re sucked into the logo as the app opens up. That’s just one of many neat new touches Apple has implemented, although sadly some of Android’s other best features, such as widgets, are still absent.
Control Centre – Swipe upwards from the bottom of any screen (even the lock screen) and you’ll discover the new Control Centre, which offers Android-style quick-access controls. For instance, you can toggle features such as WiFi and Bluetooth, alter the screen brightness and play/skip your media.
This is Today – The notification centre can be accessed as usual by swiping down from the top of the screen, but the new ‘Today’ feature gives you a quick overview of your day ahead, including appointments, weather in your area and friends’ birthdays.
Clean shooting – The camera app has been overhauled, allowing you to swipe the screen to shift between camera modes, video and panorama. You get a handful of new filters, while the Photos album has also been spruced up, showing you a whole year’s worth of photos on a single screen. Very cool.
AirDrop – Basically a quick and easy way of sharing your photos and docs with other iPhone users in your vicinity. In any app with a Share button, you can select the other person’s phone and the select files will be copied over via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Not exactly revolutionary, but at least it’s a way around the iPhone’s lack of NFC support.
Siri gets smarter – In the last iteration of iOS, Siri finally became useful, allowing you to search your vicinity for services and get the latest footy scores. Now it’s even smarter, returning your calls and playing voicemail when asked, and it checks more sources including Twitter and Wikipedia when asked a question. Sadly us Brits are still stuck with the smug-sounding male voice; no sultry female Siri for us.
Favourite apps – You can quickly access your most-used apps by double-tapping the home button, which presents everything you’ve played with recently.