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At this year’s iPhone event, Apple announced not one, but two new iPhones, a first for the company. In one corner, we had the expected upgrade for the iPhone 5 called the iPhone 5s. In the other corner, we had the heavily rumored iPhone 5c, a more affordable version of its smartphone in multiple colors.
For many of us, we were left to wonder: why does the iPhone 5c exist? Why not just reduce the price of the iPhone 5, as Apple have done in previous years? Well, we’ve had the chance to take the device for a spin over the last few days, and now, we have the answer. Here’s a hint: marketing most certainly plays a big role.
Introducing the iPhone 5c
The iPhone 5c is a slightly confusing device, as it exists at an odd price point. On contract, the device starts at $99. Unlocked, it comes in at $549, which is only $100 less than the iPhone 5s which has a lot more features. Still, the iPhone 5c features everything you could want in a smartphone, short of a fingerprint scanner and 64-bit processor (as well as some other, smaller enhancements).
However, that’s not really what users will notice about the new iPhone 5c — at first glance, the iPhone 5c’s most noticeable feature is its color. The iPhone 5c comes five different colors: green, yellow, pink, blue, and white. The white model seems a little out-of-place, but it’s actually a smart move, as it opens up the iPhone 5c as a viable option for the more subtle budget smartphone shoppers.
The smartphone market is incredibly competitive, with Windows Phone and Android both offering plenty of options in the same price range. Devices like the HTC One Mini, Nokia Lumia 925 come with a similar price tag, and even Apple’s own iPhone 4S unlocked, are all aimed at the same market; the first-time smartphone owner. In addition to the phones mentioned above, there are several mid-range Android devices available for free on contract from cellular providers, which might make spending the $99 on the iPhone 5c seem like a daunting choice for buyers.
While at the store on launch day picking up the 5c, I could not help but notice the other iPhone 5c buyers — most were teenagers who were in the store with their parents. For many buyers in this age group, a stylish, colorful phone will offer more appeal than fancy features such as fingerprint scanners and the like. That’s not to say that this is the only market for the 5c, but it’s one that, at least in my experience at the store, seems to be embracing the design with open arms.
The iPhone 5c comes in a plastic shell with smooth, rounded edges. Once you remove the device from the top of the box it comes in, you will see the standard accessories; a power brick, a lightning cable, and a pair of earbuds. Also supplied are some documentation with the aim of helping new users get up and running.
First impressions stick, and the iPhone 5c certainly makes a good one. The green model we choose for this review looks vibrant, shiny, and downright beautiful. Of course, if a more subdued look is your thing, this will not be the device for you. For everyone else who wants a phone that immediately draws your attention, the iPhone 5c is definitely a good choice. Regardless of your opinion of Apple products as a whole, one thing we can all agree on is that the company knows how to make beautiful devices, and this is no exception.
The biggest drawback to the iPhone 5c is smudging on its plastic shell. Of course, purchasing one of Apple’s official cases, or any case for that matter, will rectify that problem quickly, but then you are hiding the beauty offered by the iPhone 5c, which is its main appeal.
Other than the smudging issue, the iPhone 5c is a solid device. Matching the color of the silent switch and volume buttons to the phone itself accentuates its beauty, and makes the new design feel like a completely coherent idea.
In terms of size, the device is very similar to the iPhone 5. It has a moderately low profile at 0.35 inches. It is 4.90 inches tall and 2.33 inches wide. The iPhone 5c is actually a little heavier than last year’s device, weighing 4.65 ounces while the iPhone 5 was only 3.95 ounces. Will you feel this difference in day-to-day life? No, but it’s still worth noting, as you might expect a plastic phone to be a little lighter.
If you’ve used the iPhone 5, you’ll find the specifications of the iPhone 5c very familiar. Both rely on Apple’s A6 chip to provide the processing power. While it might seem weak when compared to the 5s and its powerful 64-bit processor, it’s still quite snappy for day-to-day usage. The storage options remain similar to Apple’s previous iPhone iteration, except for the absence of the 64 GB option.
The iSight camera is the same one used in the iPhone 5, with an 8-megapixel sensor, an f/2.4 aperture, and all those goodies. As you would expect, it takes fantastic photos, but of course, falls a little short of the iPhone 5s, which features a few minor upgrades.
Keeping with the trend, the Retina display from the iPhone 5 returns in the 5c. It’s still a 4-inch screen, and it still supports a 1136 x 640 pixel, 326 ppi aspect ratio. It looks just as beautiful as ever, and it’s the same screen used in the iPhone 5s as well.
Purely judging by numbers, nothing about the iPhone 5c will blow you away, but it seems as if Apple wasn’t going for that. Instead, the company opted to offer the hardware from the iPhone 5 in a new case as completely new device at a lower cost. Whether this disappoints you will depend on exactly what you are looking for in your iPhone.
Speed and Performance
As an owner of an iPhone 4S, the performance differences are massive. Testing it side-by-side, most apps launch at least 2 seconds faster than on my 4S, which is a welcomed improvement. The same will not be true for iPhone 5 owners, as side-by-side tests yielded no noticeable difference.
For new smartphone owners, the performance offered here is downright fantastic. Everything loads in an instant, and it runs any of the most demanding games on the App Store with incredible ease.
The battery life has been improved over the iPhone 5, which is the biggest reason to consider the iPhone 5c. Where the iPhone 5 was only capable of 8 hours of talk time on 3G, the 5c is able to offer 10 hours. Standby time has also been increased to 250 hours. In testing, the battery life advertised was mostly accurate.
Another feature worth noting is the fact that the battery life of the iPhone 5s is dead even with the 5c, so there is really no place in which this model is able to edge out the top-of-the-line model.
Overall, you should find the battery life more than sufficient, but some of the new background features in iOS 7 might take a little away from the battery life. Turning these off will help, but that’s more a flaw in the operating system than the iPhone 5c in particular.
I am not here to review iOS 7 specifically, but we will look at how the new OS works with this specific phone. One thing that seems to work quite well is the way the wallpaper matches the color of the device. So in our case, a beautiful green background is displayed. For me, there is no reason to change it, as it flows very nicely into the green color of the phone.
Regardless of how you feel about Apple’s latest OS iteration, it works quite well with the iPhone 5c. Transitions are fast, and it looks beautiful, as long as you are tolerant of the “cartoony”-looking icons in the latest release of iOS.
Personally, I have no problem with iOS 7, as I was able to adjust to the new look quickly, and I find the new features were well worth the time to adjust. Of course, if you dislike iOS 7, you are not going to be a fan of the iPhone 5c, as they come pre-installed with the new version of iOS out of the box, and downgrading is not an option. Basically, whether or not iOS 7 is a dealbreaker for you will not just change your opinion of the 5c.
If you are a fan of iPhones, then you will like the iPhone 5c. It works well, runs fast, and looks absolutely beautiful. However, there are plenty of other phones that are equally and even more powerful that might be a better option, unless of course, you’re adamant on an Apple device.
I do have a hard time recommending it over the iPhone 5s since the price difference is only $100. All of that being said, for younger smartphone users who are more concerned with having a cool-looking phone, and parents who are looking to save money where possible, the iPhone 5c is a perfectly acceptable phone. For tech junkies like myself, the money is better spent on an iPhone 5s, but this device certainly has its place on the market.