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 market share 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 I say low) the inevitable disappointment when it emerged that the upfront price of the iPhone 5c was just $130 less than the equivalent iPhone 5s. Starting at $739 AUD the iPhone 5c is not a cheap iPhone.

Is this a big mistake on Apple’s part? I don’t think so. Indeed, I 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 recognised.

Design:

The other reason why it was assumed that this is a cheap iPhone is the plastic coating. Since the iPhone 4 all Apple iPhones have been crafted from aluminium and glass. Even the stil-on-sale iPhone 4S has an aluminium case. Does the plastic case make the new iPhone 5c look like it belongs in a bargain basement?

On the contrary, I think 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 iPhone 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 antenna gate, the reception issue that plagued the iPhone 4.

Pick your colour:

It’s pretty clear that when Apple settled on the name iPhone 5c the c stood for colour. This is the first time that Apple has produced an iPhone that isn’t black or white. The 5c comes in your choice of 5 different vibrant colours including: pink, yellow, blue and green, as well as white. The pink one will be a hit with younger females.

There is no black version of the iPhone 5c however, they did release a model for the iPhone 5s called “space grey.” Which replaces the black model.

The Next Generation assessing the processor of the iPhone 5c how does it go against the iPhone 5?

As much as I like the plastic casing of the iPhone 5c there is one fact that I can’t ignore. The plastic case is the only difference between the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5c. The two phones are identical, sharing the same iSight camera, A6 processor, and the 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 it’s internal WiFi and cellular hardware with the iPhone 5s rather than iPhone 5 probably because by sharing common components Apple can save money. This coupled with the steal back providing extra antenna capacity seems, in my tests, to result in a better 3G signal. I haven’t been able to test the 4G signal on the device as my sisters unit which I was reviewing only came with a 3G sim.

FaceTime camera:

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

4G support:

The other major difference is that the fact that the iPhone 5c will support all the Australian 4G carriers, where the iPhone 5 cannot support the 4G network of Vodafone all though it’s slowly rolling out it’s 4G coverage. When it’s complete the iPhone 5c will be supported on all major 4G networks.

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

I don’t think that it does matter if the 5c doesn’t sell as much. It’s Apple’s colourful new offering design to be on shelves for customers to look at. It will appeal to those wanting a new and fun device or mothers buying their kids a phone. For everyone else there is the iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 5c camera:

Whether it’s an iPhone 5 or not, the iPhone 5c is still a feature packed phone. As I 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, 3264×2448, 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 faster when compared to older iPhones.

The camera itself is identical to that in the iPhone 5. 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.

The iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5 comparison:

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 still pretty fast and runs iOS 7 very well. So you might not need the added speed of the iPhone 5s.

The display and battery life:

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 screen is good enough. So if you really want a bigger iPhone then you will have to wait a while longer.

Apple’s says that the battery in the iPhone 5c is larger than the iPhone 5. Apple claims that it offers 10 hours of web browsing on Wi-Fi and LTE networks, up to 8 ours on 3G networks, and up to 10 hours of video playback and up to 40 hours of audio playback. This is almost identical to apples 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. In my everyday use the iPhone 5c gave good battery life on par with my iPhone 4S. It typically would need a charge by the end of the day. This means you should have no problems with getting through A work or school day.

In my battery torture test where I play a looping video with brightness turned up and Wi-Fi connected the iPhone 5c lasted an impressive 10 hours, 19 minutes (compared to the iPhone 5s at 11 hours).

Verdict:

If you’re trying to decide between the iPhone 5s and the 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 $130 AUD 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 not worth it. Unless you’ve broken your iPhone 5 recently and need a new device otherwise stick with your current phone. It’s a perfectly good iPhone and runs iOS 7 very well. If you must upgrade get the 5s instead or better yet wait until next year to see what Apple has to offer with the iPhone 6.

Manufacturer:

Apple.

Pros:

colourful designs that may appeal to some, more LTE bands supported.

Cons:

Expensive, same design as the iPhone 5, you can get the iPhone 5s for only an extra $130 AUD.

Rating:

4 stars. Excellent.

Reviewed on Friday 25 October.

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