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iPhone 5C review

Andrew Williams



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iPhone 5C
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Our Score:



  • Excellent screen quality
  • Smooth, swish OS
  • Snappy camera


  • Quite expensive
  • Not a huge upgrade over an iPhone 5

Key Features

  • Dual-core 1.3GHz Apple A6 processor
  • 16/32GB storage
  • iOS 7
  • 4-inch 1,136 x 640 pixel IPS screen
  • 8-megapixel camera with LED flash
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Price: £469.99

iPhone 5C first reviewed: September 2013

Related: iPhone 7

What is the iPhone 5C?

The iPhone 5C is a cheaper alternative to the iPhone 5S and marks the first time that Apple has changed its mobile line-up. Traditionally, if you were looking for a cheaper iPhone you would have to step back in the series to an older handset, this time it has released two phones at once.

The iPhone is a notoriously expensive phone regardless of which version you buy, and the iPhone 5C has not broken the mould in this sense. At launch it commanded a price tag of £469, but its price has since been slashed to under £300/ $450. You can currently get your hands on the 8GB version from Best Buy for as little as $300. It actually costs roughly the same as the iPhone 5, a phone it shares a lot of its internals with.

The iPhone 5C has ditched the metal body that has been used in the iPhone 5S and Apple’s latest flagships, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and instead opted for a bright, plastic body. Does it bring more than just this superficial change to the table, though?

Watch the iPhone 5C video review

Related: iPhone 8 release date

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iPhone 5C – Design

The iPhone 5C is a unibody phone, which means you have no access to the battery or the insides unless you’re willing to fully take it apart.

At a glance, you could be forgiven for mistaking the iPhone 5C for a member of the Nokia Lumia family. It takes design inspiration from Nokia’s range, which finally proved that a plastic phone doesn’t have to feel cheap.

The iPhone 5C is a touch wider and 30g heavier than the iPhone 5S so feels a little weightier in the hand. This isn’t really an area of complaint though. At 9mm thick and just 132g it is still a very lean phone.

You have a choice of five colours for the iPhone 5C – pink, blue, yellow, green and white. They’re much more fun to look at than the slightly austere iPhone 5S, but the colours are not dazzlingly bright, they’re more pastel-looking. They’re a little more muted than the Nokia Lumia phones.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 6 Review

The iPhone 5C feels as immaculately well-made, which you would expect from Apple – there are no gaps or inconsistencies in the border between the plastic back and glass front, no flexing of the body. But glossy plastic was never going to feel as impressive as the aluminium rear of the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S.

We also found that the plastic nano SIM slot on the phone’s right edge tends to get a little mucky, spoiling the otherwise impressive consistency of the phone’s colouring – the buttons and mute switch are all colour-matched to the rear.

The iPhone 5C has a strong look, but we’re not as impressed by the official Apple iPhone 5C case. It’s a felt-lined rubbery case with cut-out dots on the rear. Match the colours well and you’ll get a funky look, but the way the dots reveal part of the iPhone logo looks clumsy and the rubbery finish attracts dust and fluff to the plastic body within minutes. The concept is decent, but the execution falls short of the standard set by the phone itself.

SEE ALSO: Best iPhone 5C cases

The placement of the iPhone 5C’s buttons and switches are more-or-less identical to those of the iPhone 5. A mute switch sits on the left edge, alongside the volume buttons, while a power button lives up top. It’s a design that simply works on a phone this size, with every button easily accessible without having to use two hands. This is one of the main benefits of a smaller phone like this – it’s a much less intimidating presence than any high-end Android phone.

If you’re upgrading from a pre-iPhone 5 Apple phone, though, there are some new-ish things to get used to. The iPhone 5C uses a tiny nano SIM, and the Lightning port introduced by the iPhone 5. The port may be a consideration if you have a swanky high-end speaker dock that won’t fit an iPhone 5C – although Apple does offer an adapter for the rather princely sum of £25.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 6 Plus Review

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Unfortunately the iPhone 5C misses out on what’s probably the biggest hardware innovation of the iPhone 5S – the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. This lets you secure your phone against the fingers of any more mischievous friends without using a passcode. It’s a genuinely useful feature, but here you’ll either have to use the passcode or go without that extra layer of protection.

iPhone 5C – Screen

Just like the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S, the iPhone 5C has a 4-inch screen. It’s smaller than every Android phone at the price, but quality-wise it’s excellent.

Side-by-side we couldn’t tell any big differences between this display and the iPhone 5S’s. They use exactly the same type of panel. It’s a top-quality IPS panel that offers superb colour reproduction, excellent contrast and startling peak brightness. iPhone 5C 5

The iPhone 5C uses a 1,136 x 640 pixel screen. The resulting 326ppi pixel density is the same pixel pitch that saw the introduction of the term ‘Retina’ display – meaning so sharp you can’t see the pixels.

Other phones have since far outstripped this pixel density. The HTC One M8 has a 441ppi screen. However, if anyone tells you it’s a reason to buy that phone over the iPhone 5C, they’re wrong. At normal viewing distances there’s little benefit in higher pixel density IPS screens than this. You can only tell much of a difference if you get your eyeballs right up close to the screen – not a good look on the train, and no good for your eyes.

Of course, screen size is an absolutely valid consideration. What the iPhone 5C gains in practicality – it’s so easy to grasp and use one-handed – it loses in other areas. A large screen like the LG G3’s or Samsung Galaxy S5’s offers a better canvas for websites (especially non-mobile ones) and is far, far better as a display for watching videos.

The same could be said for games but, as we’ll cover later, this is made up for by the iPhone’s unbeatable game library.

yogi bear

September 11, 2013, 7:11 am

So it's basically the iPhone five in plastic.


September 11, 2013, 9:12 am

no originality here. move along

Prem Desai

September 11, 2013, 11:18 am

Is a point to this phone? Most of us would use a case which will cover up the colourful plastic.

Makes sense to buy an iPhone 5 and a nice case.


September 12, 2013, 7:41 am

An iPhone 5 shoved into a Lumia 620 body. This is "innovation" according to Apple, which obviously died with Steve - enough said.


September 12, 2013, 7:45 am

In your video you say something along the lines of, "at £80 less the 5C will attract plenty of people" (paraphrased).
Surely for most people, on a 24 month contract, the maths is more like a monthly difference of under £3.40 bethween the 5S and 5C. For the price of a pint per month, would you really opt for the lesser phone? I know I would drink an extra glass of water each month and have the better phone.


September 12, 2013, 10:42 pm

Its really very better with compare to 5s, I love colors.

Steve Jobbo

September 15, 2013, 9:16 am

I can see this being a great success,a sort of 'lifestyle' statement to people who see through the fact that you can get a just as good windows/android device for half the money.I will wait for a 6C or 6S,with a decent size screen,full 4G capability,more realistic pricing due to competition,a battery that lasts a full day,and maybe wireless charging.


September 16, 2013, 2:49 am

I'm wondering about sounds and mic quality since there seems to be less holes?


September 19, 2013, 1:53 am

My olnly question about iPhone 5C is: can you change the background image? Every single picture I see, there's the default one...


September 19, 2013, 10:17 am

Too bad the iPhone 5c does not come in the color black.


September 19, 2013, 7:54 pm

At this price you might as well just buy a 5 if you can find one, which has a nicer build, or just pony up the relatively small extra and get the full 5S. There's not enough clear daylight between the two models, and the 5C's price means it's not really a budget competitor. Who can justify / afford the 5C but not the 5S?

And Apple's pride notwithstanding, the latest phone needed a 4.5"+ screen. This is not enough for the next whole year. I initially resisted the Tim Cook bashing, as I felt that Apple's success could hardly be down to just SJ. But TC does come across as a manager rather than a leader, and Apple are treading water at the moment (though iOS7 does look nice).


September 20, 2013, 11:22 am

if you don't want touch ID , 5c is real deal ..


September 20, 2013, 6:28 pm

What a waist of time I think people will stick to getting the iphone 5 / 5s the price is not big enough between them and I bet it feels cheap and horrible in comparison they should of really dropped the price for it to be a success


September 20, 2013, 6:29 pm

I bet it flops it needed to be alot cheaper people will just buy the 5 / 5s

Fred Clemons

September 21, 2013, 4:13 pm

There is no iPhone 5, the 5C replaced it. It will be a huge hit. Some people don't care about specs, they just want a phone that works & looks cool and the cheaper price tag will sway some buyers, as will finally having an iPhone with a little color


September 22, 2013, 5:45 pm

They usually have classes at the apple store for there products

Clyde Frog

September 24, 2013, 11:21 am

Although I'm not overly impressed with the specs of the 5C, the 5S is not an option for me as I've absolutely no desire to purchase a phone with a fingerprint scanner. Ever.


September 24, 2013, 11:32 am

I don't understand why every review seems to simply overlook, or just not care that this is an iPhone 5 in a cheaper case, selling for the same, or maybe even more than the 5 would have, had they continued production. Shameless customer-raping pricing by Apple, yet again.

This is massively over-priced, and the plastic case isn't appealing, and it certainly does not make the phone look like a premium product. They could have manufactured the original case with colours if that's what they thought they were missing.

I cannot take any review seriously that gives this device a good score based on these facts alone. There is absolutely no value to this device at all. Over the standard contracts that I'm sure 90% of consumers would have with this phone, it's going to make little, if any, difference to their monthly payments over the 5s.


September 24, 2013, 12:34 pm

Not sure about hit, but it will sell, if only because the 5s will sell out. Way too expensive, can't see the point in it.


September 24, 2013, 12:39 pm

Awesome rant. Unfortunately, you've just been ranting about your lack of ability at using smartphones. But it's good to vent.

If you can't get to the apple store for a class, I'd ask a friend to show you the basics of the phone. Keep to the basics initially (phone calls, texts, taking pictures), until they are second nature, then start using all the apps and dig into the settings.

The internet is also your friend, so if you find a setting you don't know about, search for it. There'll be information on it somewhere.

Matthew Bunton

September 24, 2013, 1:12 pm

Oh yeah a real bargain from Apple at that price.:/

Why are people still throwing money at Apple for way overpriced tech?


September 24, 2013, 1:13 pm

You do know that you can return it for a full refund within 14 days?


William Stuart

September 24, 2013, 7:30 pm

The plastic actually feels really, really nice. I went into a three store over the weekend and came away feeling much more positive about it, it doesn't feel like any plastic phone I have felt before, and feels vastly more impressive than the gs3 or gs4 so don't worry about that. I think they did need the 5C though, it creates a bit of fun in the iPhone lineup.

William Stuart

September 24, 2013, 7:31 pm

It is optional you realise, and even without that it is a pretty big update over the iPhone 5.


September 24, 2013, 8:35 pm

No, it's iphone 5 in Crocs. ;D

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