Apple’s iPhone 5C is hard to miss. The phones come in highly visible colourful, shiny plastic cases.
Yet in the days and weeks immediately following the 2013 iPhone launch phone buyers overlooked the 5C. Apple sold five of its flagship 5S models for every iPhone 5C.
That’s partly because hardcore iPhone users looking for the most powerful, feature-packed version of their favourite device automatically gravitated to the top of the range.
Since then the sales gap has narrowed. Less demanding iPhone fans and people moving from other brands look at the 5C’s charms in a different light.
iPhone 5C in a nutshell
The 5C is essentially last year’s iPhone 5 wrapped in a protective, plastic shell. It gets a new front-facing camera and a better battery, but otherwise there’s little new. The phone is fractionally chunkier than the iPhone 5 or 5S – hardly enough to notice.
You really wouldn’t want to upgrade from an iPhone 5. You may want to upgrade from a 4S. You probably would like to upgrade if you have an older iPhone.
In New Zealand a 16GB iPhone 5C sells for $900, the 32GB version is $1050. This compares with $1050 for the 16GB iPhone 5S and $650 for the 4S.
A tricky price
That puts it at a difficult price.
If you’re on a tight budget you can save $250 and do almost everything the 5C does with a 4S. It’s still an iPhone and will still run most apps.
On the other hand, just $150 more buys all the extra stuff the iPhone 5S delivers – you get a lot more technology for the extra money. And, if you care about these matters, there’s extra prestige.
Which means you choose an iPhone 5C because you really like the physical look of the phone, because you get a good deal from your phone company or because it has that Goldilocks just right combination of features for your needs.
Differences from the 5S
Apart from the looks, the immediately obvious difference between the iPhone 5S and the 5C is the Touch ID fingerprint reader. After weeks of using both phones I can report this really makes a difference. Although some people report otherwise, I find it works like magic almost every time.
Once you start using the technology you probably won’t want to go back. On the other hand, if you haven’t used it, you probably won’t miss it.
If making the path to security easier is important to you, then find the extra $150. You’ll save at least that much in time and trouble over the life of the phone.
At this point I could get all technical and bore you with a discussion of the merits of the Apple A7 and A6 processors. That’s missing the point. The iPhone 5S has a newer, more powerful chip. It does things faster.
While that’s true, it’s not as if the iPhone 5C is sluggish. In practice I can hardly tell which is faster. Processor speed is a big deal in PCs, less important in smartphones.
In other words, yes a faster processor is nice, but it isn’t worth a large price premium.
Storage options are much the same across the two phones although there is a 64GB version of the 5S for data hungry users or people with large iTunes collections.
The 5S comes with a motion co-processor which helps monitor you and the phone. At the moment there are not many apps that make use of the technology, no doubt developers will soon find ways to exploit the chip. It’s likely to be especially useful for health and sport apps.
On paper the two phones have much the same camera. In practice, the 5S has more features and can take better pictures. If you’re concerned about image quality, this will make a difference.
As I’ve already said, you might consider the 5S worth the extra money for the Touch ID fingerprint reader alone. Otherwise, the better processor, motion co-processor and smarter camera could add up to $150 of extra value depending on your needs.
For me there’s an additional consideration. Smartphone technology marches forward at a considerable rate. The 5S is likely to be ‘current technology’ for at least six months longer than the 5C. That would be enough for me to find the extra money.
There’s a lot going for the iPhone 5C. It’s an iPhone. You get all the apps, all the functionality. The price, while not cheap, is reasonable.
It’s hard to know who this phone is for – at least in the New Zealand context. The 5C appears to be designed and priced specifically to fit into overseas mobile phone company contract plans more than for a clear cut audience.
It makes sense if you like the phone’s look, can’t justify the extra $150 for a 5S or love iPhones but don’t need all the trimmings.
Having said all that, unless you are an Android fan or committed to Windows Phone, it’s still one of the best phones on the market. Just not the best one.