iPhone 5c Reviews Roundup: Plastic Perfected

This year marks a first for Apple – the company has released two different iPhone models, probably hoping to target different types of consumers. The iPhone 5s is the premium model, being more expensive than the iPhone 5c by $100, which still can’t be considered cheap. Along with the introduction of the iPhone 5c, Apple has also changed its product lines, deciding for the first time not to bump down the outgoing iPhone as a lower cost option but actually came up with a new model with a different design.


The iPhone 5c thus replaces the iPhone 5 in the product lineup, and Apple also decides to make the 8GB iPhone 4s free on contract. So, to make it clear once more – the iPhone 5 is gone and the iPhone 5c is the second-tier device now, hoping that it can impress you with its new vibrant colors. For those that have a short memory, you should know that this is not the first time when Apple chooses plastic for its iPhone. Actually, the iPhone 3G and the 3GS had a full plastic black while the original iPhone had an aluminum back with a black plastic accent. But now, the iPhone 5c comes with an improved polycarbonate and also in four new colors: pink, yellow, blue and green.

The specs difference between the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5 that it replaces consists only in an improved front-facing camera and global LTE support. Being more affordable than the already gone iPhone 5, it’s also probably less expensive to make than the iPhone 5, which translates into higher profit margins for Apple.

Has Apple made a mistake with the iPhone 5c or it’s a smarter move that we can’t understand at the moment? Let’s see what early reviews have to say of the iPhone 5c and if it can make you choose it over its more capable brother, the iPhone 5s.

Design and hardware

The design is iPhone 5c’s differentiating feature. Up until now,  in the battle against competitor, Apple’s choice of materials for its smartphones have been one of the factors that inclined the balance in Cupertino’s favor. Now, with the iPhone 5c, Apple wants to convince us that it went back to a polycarbonate shell so that it could obtain the colors it wanted which would’ve been impossible with metail.

But iPhone 5c’s back is not all plastic, there’s also a steel frame which works as an antenna, and it girds the polycarbonate shell. Thus, the phone won’t feel “plasticky” or fragile in your hand, but sturdy and compact. Make no mistake, the iPhone 5c is heavier and thicker than the iPhone 5s, but since it’s not Apple’s flagship device, it doesn’t have to sport record numbers. Scott Stein with Cnet weighs in and shares his important opinion:

The iPhone 5c doesn’t feel like cheap plastic; the smooth, shiny polycarbonate shell around the back feels like a candy lacquer coating. It’s a dense device, heavier than the iPhone 5 by nearly an ounce, but it has a comfortable feel — maybe even better than the more hard-angled metal iPhone 5/5S. The funny thing is, pull out an old iPhone 3G or 3GS and you’ll see a remarkably similar finish. The 3GS looks bulbous and squat by comparison – the 5C is flat-backed and longer, but it shares the wrap-around polycarbonate feel. This is not new so much as old and familiar

Myriam Joire from Engadget seems to be a little more impressed by iPhone 5c’s construction and she actually predicts that the device is iphone-5c-reviewsgoing to be quite popular in this holiday season. We’re really curious to see some first sales number on that. Here’s what Myriam had to say about the design and hardware of the iPhone 5c

We’re not going to lie. The iPhone 5c is gorgeous – we’d even argue that it’s the most beautiful iPhone since the 4 and 4s. The iPhone 5c feels like a solid block of ceramic, thanks to its rigid structure and enamel coating. Te general shape and layout of the ports, controls and sensors are all identical too, but the chamfered edges have been rounded off, making the 5c especially comfortable to hold. While it’s heavier, it also feels more substantial.

Darrell Etherington with TechCrunch also observes a few small changes in iPhone 5c’s hardware, as well:

Some interesting details I noticed about the iPhone 5c vs. the 5 and 5s: its lock/power button appears to be the same as the volume buttons, which could help Apple save on manufacturing costs, and there’s a simple, four-hole single speaker grill on the bottom, whereas the metal designs have two grills, each with two rows of holes. It doesn’t seem to make much different to speaker performance, however.

And we couldn’t miss Anand Lal Shimpi‘s impression on this:

The 5c has virtually no noticeable chassis flex. It’s a different feel than the softer/matte polycarbonate designs I’ve seen in that it’s definitely more slippery.The material of the case, while glossy and smooth, doesn’t feel prone to slipping from your grip, and the rounded edges and corners are also a very nice fit for the contours of your hand.

And let me also share my opinion about what I consider to be a bad design decision. It’s not about the iPhone 5c per se, but what the silicone cases that Apple has made especially for the 5c. In my recent article describing the best cases currently on the market for the iPhone 5c, I’ve mentioned that Apple’s own silicone cases remind us of Croc shoes and when putting the case on the iPhone 5c, it masks the “iPhone” wording on the back,  leaving only “hon” instead of “iPhone”. Just bad-taste, and this definitely should not be coming from Apple.

Performance and battery life

Internally, the iPhone 5C is just the same as the iPhone 5, so there shouldn’t be any significant changes here. Of course, it comes with the new, revamped iOS 7, and maybe that could matter in the final equation. As Scott rightfully observes, the iPhone 5c is “2012 tech dressed up in a brighter package for 2013”, so you shouldn’t try and compare its performance with other flagship smartphones on the market. It doesn’t benefit from the 64-bit A7 processor, nor does it have the M7 companion kernel. AnandTech, as always, has got quite a few benchmarks completed, so head out there to learn more. Here’s what Anand’s conclusion are on performance, both of the CPU and the GPU:

Octane and SunSpider benchmarks both have the iPhone 5c doing relatively well for a non-flagship device, but the platform’s performance in Kraken is starting to look quite dated. Browsermark is arguably the most interesting test here as it attempts to present a holistic view of browser performance rather than just focusing on js subtests. Under Browsermark, the iPhone 5c still looks quite competitive. Performance at the 5c’s native display resolution is still quite compelling, but if you want the platform to last for a few years in terms of usable 3D gaming life it will definitely age quicker than the 5s or any of the Adreno 320/330 based flagships we’ve tested.


When it comes to iPhone 5c’s battery life, Anand sees some small changes when compared to the iPhone 5. He finds the web browsing battery life quite good, but he finds that “stressing the SoC a lot” shows that iPhone 5c’s behavior is dictated by its battery capacity, which is definitely far from flagship. Brian Klug from the same publication actually found that the iPhone 5c comes with a small boost in battery size: a 1,507mAh battery, up from a 1,440mAh cell found in the iPhone 5.

Perhaps that little bump was needed to ensure the iPhone 5c won’t get a worse battery life than the iPhone 5, now that the iPhone 5c comes with enhanced 4G radio chips, which means it now has thirteen LTE bands per variant. Vincent Nguyen with Slashgear doesn’t think the battery is the same as on the iPhone 5c, but actually better:

In practice, we saw better performance than we did on last year’s iPhone 5. With typical use – push email turned on, some multimedia playback, use of the camera, nearly an hour of GPS navigation, and some browsing over both LTE and WiFi – we still ended the day with charge to spare. The iPhone 5c may lack the frugal M7 coprocessor Apple introduced with the iPhone 5s, but whether it’s iOS 7′s optimizations, the new 4G radios, what’s believed to be a slightly larger battery, or some combination of the three, we’re now far more confident about spending a day out of reach of a Lightning charger cable.

Scott seems to have the same opinion on iPhone 5c’s battery life:

Apple claims there’s a slightly larger battery in the 5C versus last year’s 5. Using a video-playback battery drain at half-brightness and airplane mode turned on, it lasted 10 hours and 16 minutes via the first run, which is better than the iPhone 5. Fully charged in the morning, the 5C lasted me most of a full day. It’s not a super battery by any means, but it gets the job done.

Myriam seems to place iPhone 5c’s battery and performance almost on par with the iPhone 5, noticing that most consumers should be completely satisfied with iPhone 5c’s results here. She makes a minor, but an observation that might matter to some:

We didn’t experience any issues with reception or call quality – the iPhone 5c sounds loud and clear even in noisy environments. Compared to the iPhone 5, the 5c features a speaker that’s slightly boomier and a bit louder at maximum volume.

Display and camera

The display on the iPhone 5c is just the same as on the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5s; here’s its full technical description: 4-inch 1136 x 640 LCD sRGB coverage with in-cell touch. But it can still impress you, if you haven’t see Retina Display yet in action. Darrell shares with us his opinion on this:

Apple’s iPhone display makes text ultra crisp and clear, but it also offers the best and most consistent color and tone balance of any mobile screen in my experience. And the Retina screen gains additional new life thanks to iOS 7, the mobile OS overhaul that Apple is launching alongside the iPhone 5c and 5s. Both ship with iOS 7, and one of its key improvements is that has a new, lightweight system font that shows off the Retina’s text rendering prowess extremely well

Scott, however, feels that “there’s a lot of extra unused space above and below the screen”, but that is not a problem only with the iPhone reviews-for-iphone-5c5c, it goes the same for the iPhone 5s, as well. If not too much can be told about the display, we know that iPhone 5c’s camera is slightly improved, so let’s see how. Scott observes what’s the same as with the iPhone 5 and what is new:

The same iSight rear-facing 8-megapixel camera that was in the iPhone 5 is in the 5C. iOS 7 adds a few more extras, such as digital zoom when recording video. Both 1080p video recording, photos and panoramic pictures all look great, but the iPhone 5S camera is even more refined, and adds slow-motion recording and multiburst. A front-facing FaceTime HD camera has been slightly improved, adding better light sensitivity. Dimly lit selfies in my apartment hallway came out better on the 5C.

If you want to see how images took  with an iPhone 5c look like, download this ZIP file with full-res sample shots that Myriam has put up. And here’s her take on iPhone 5c’s camera:

It produces lovely pictures with lots of detail, vibrant colors, accurate exposure and proper white balance. Panoramas are particularly impressive. anyone can take great photos with the 5c, something we can’t say about every other device. Low-light performance is only decent up to a point, beyond which pictures suffer from excessive noise. The 5c records video in HD at 1080p / 30 fps with mono audio. Video quality is excellent (files are encoded at 16 Mbps), but there’s no continuous autofocus, so you’ll have to tap the display to refocus. On the bright side, though, the front-facing camera works better in low light, which means nicer selfies for all.

Conclusion and video reviews

If you read the whole article until this point, then you probably know what the conclusion of most reviewers is. By the way, you may wonder why we have chosen such a title. Actually, “Plastic Perfected” is the name of the first ad that Apple has released for the iPhone 5c and we think that’s just about the right description for it.

In my opinion, you should get the iPhone 5c if you’re really crazy about colors, if not, you can keep your iPhone 5 or upgrade to iPhone 5s, if you look for increased security or 64-bit computing. But here’s the conclusions of the folks that played with the iPhone 5c for a few days. Myriam wraps it up:

It’s iOS 7 that truly sets the 5c apart, thanks to a delightful redesign and a dash of new functionality. With the 5c, Apple achieves an unprecedented level of synergy between hardware and software. Like many of the company’s other products, you have to experience the 5c in person to truly appreciate it. We think most buyers will pick the iPhone 5c for the price and color choices alone.

Anand appreciates Apple in its effort and thinks the company has done a great job:

Apple’s return to a polycarbonate iPhone design seems to have gone quite well. The iPhone 5c is solid, doesn’t have any noticeable amount of flex and has a great in hand feel thanks to its nicely curved edges. I feel like the color options will go over very well with the 5c’s target markets. I can see many users even preferring the styling of the 5c to the 5s in those markets that aren’t feature/performance sensitive.

Darrell believes that the iPhone 5c is a sure sell with the younger generation:

The phone feels ‘young’ overall, and it’s likely that’s the kind of consumer that’s going to enjoy this device; the youth market and those just getting their first smartphone or moving up from their first budget Android device to the big leagues.

Let us know what do you think of the iPhone 5c in the comments section below. For those that don’t like to read too meach and get the facts from videos, find below the most important reviews of the iPhone 5c.