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iPhone 5c Review: DO NOT Buy Until You’ve Read This…

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Six years is a LONG time in the world of mobile phones. In fact, it’s practically ancient history. For this reason, it is now impossible to recommend the iPhone 5c to anybody – even those looking for a bargain.

The iPhone 5c is too old and too underpowered for 2019’s market. And while the handset has had a good run, it is now definitely over the hill when it comes to usability and performance. If you want a 4in iPhone, get the iPhone SE instead – it’s newer and still very much a viable option in 2019.

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The iPhone SE and iPhone 5c are basically the last phones in Apple’s 4in epoch of handsets. The smallest iPhone you can now buy has a 4.7in display (and it’s called the iPhone 8). For me, 4in phones are still perfectly fine, but if you want it to actually perform you’re going to need the iPhone SE – and that phone is no spring chicken.

If you do go with the iPhone SE, just make sure you get plenty of storage – anything less than 32GB and you’re going to regret it. You can grab an iPhone SE for as little as $169, which is great value for money for those after a 4in iPhone.

MORE: Read Our Guide To The Best iPhones (In Terms of Value For Money)

iPhone 5c Review: The Good

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Look, the iPhone 5c isn’t a bad phone. I actually think there’s something charming about its coloured plastic design. It comes in green, blue, yellow, pink or white. Its display is small by today’s standards–just 4 inches, but it still is a Retina display with a resolution of 640×1136 pixels at 326ppi, which looks just as beautiful as ever. It also features a very decent (and comparable to the 5s) 8MP rear camera that can record video in 1080p and a 1.2MP front FaceTime camera that records video in 720p.

On the connectivity front you’ll find much the same standards as you find in 2015 model phones, including Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 (including full support for Apple’s AirPlay and AirDrop clients), and the usual 2G, 3G, 4G, GPS, and GLONASS connectivity standards. The battery is decent as well: a 1560 mAh cell that will give you 10 hours of talk time on 3G and 8 hours on 4G. Hardwired connectivity includes a 3.5mm headphone jack and the Lightning connector.

And after the 18 months since its original release, the software on the iPhone 5c–iOS 8–is better than ever. Though it’s not as snappy as on the latest iPhone 6, iOS 8 runs smoothly and with most of the features that it does on more recent iPhone models excluding, of course, anything TouchID-related.

iPhone 5c Review: The Bad

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As you can see there’s a lot of things that make the iPhone 5c still a good phone in 2015. But there are also, unfortunately, a few major drawbacks this phone has that make it a poor choice for anyone who isn’t the most basic–and I mean BASIC–smartphone user.

First of all–and most prominently–the iPhone 5c only comes in one storage size now: 8GB. That’s right: when you buy an iPhone 5c you simply need to decide on the colour, there are no other options you select. This is, of course, different than when the 5c originally came out and was available in three different sizes (8, 16, or 32GB). But since last fall Apple has cut the storage option back to 8GB only–no doubt to push people towards the more expensive 5s and 6 models.

If all you need is a smartphone to make phone calls and check emails, the 8GB iPhone 5c will be fine. But not many people buy an iPhone just to do so little. They also take photos, download apps and games, and watch movies. With only 8GB of storage doing any of that won’t last for too long. I mean I can take 8GB of photos on one holiday trip. Some of the coolest iOS games can be 500-1GB in size. An HD movie? 3-4GB. You can see how the storage on the 5c can quickly be taken up. And that’s before you even consider that you actually don’t have a full 8GB of storage. iOS 8 takes up about 1.5GB by itself.

Another thing that makes this phone a poor choice to all but the most basic users is the A6 chip. The A6 was hot stuff for its time–but so was the Intel Celeron chip back in its day. Today the 32-bit A6 is showing its age. It struggles to play some of the latest graphically intensive iOS hit games. I’m not even sure the A6 is likely to support iOS 9, which should ship in the fall of this year. If Apple decides to make that OS 64-bit only, iPhone 5c owners will find themselves stuck on iOS 8 forever.

Which brings me to my last point: the iPhone 5c already has one foot in the grave. It lacks future-forward features like Touch ID, which every new iOS device has. As more and more apps take advantage of Touch ID, iPhone 5c users will be forever left out. It also obviously doesn’t support NFC or Apple Pay (but then again, only the iPhone 6 and above does). There’s no support for the latest Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac. And a Tru-Tone flash? Forget about it. With the 5c you get an LED flash.

iPhone 5c Review: Conclusion

Look, even with its lack of more advanced features (to be fair, most of which were introduced after the 5c was first unveiled), the iPhone 5c could still be a decent phone in 2015. COULD be. But Apple put the final nail in its coffin when it decided to cut the 5c’s storage options from 32 and 16GB down to just 8GB. That’s not enough in today’s day and age. The average user will fill up 8GB of storage within the first few weeks of using a smartphone. And if that happens, what’s the use of owning a smartphone if you don’t have the storage space available to use its advanced features?

My suggestion is if you’re thinking of getting the 5c, give it a miss and go with the iPhone SE instead – it’s newer, is more powerful, and is still a 4in iPhone.

Read Our Original iPhone 5c Review From 2013

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iPhone 5c Review: Design and Build

I’m just going to come right out and say it –– I love the way the iPhone 5C looks. Following its launch, I was fortunate enough to have two iPhone 5Cs in my possession –– a lime green one and a white one. I don’t know which one I liked best, probably the white one, but what I do know is that I like this phone – I like it a lot.

The new plastic chassis does add a bit of heft but the added bulk doesn’t feel amiss in the context of Apple’s redesign –– in fact, it works rather well. The 5C feels very robust and sturdy in the hand compared to the feather-like iPhone 5/5s. The iPhone 5C is 9mm thick and weighs 132g, while the iPhone 5 is 7.6mm and weighs just 112g.

The handset itself is built around a steel frame that also doubles as a wide-band antenna. The frame is then laser-welded to the polycarbonate outer casing for what Apple describes as “precise fit.”

Available in five colours (white, pink, yellow, blue and lime green), Apple says it “turned down thousands of colours” whilst deliberating which five colours best represented what the 5c was all about. Most look great in person, although the yellow version has a rather custardy look about it, which really isn’t my bag at all.

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With regards to the build materials Apple says plastic was essential. It wanted to do colour, and doing colour just wasn’t possible with the material it used on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s. Only plastic would work. But, of course, Apple doesn’t just do plastic – it “rethinks” plastics.

The end result is nice and feels very premium in the hand. It’s also exceptionally robust and solid, meaning you can rest assured if the handset slips out of your grip it won’t take a serious beating. I’ve dropped my review unit numerous times and the handset, aside from a few minor scuffs here and there, looks as good as new.

I do prefer the way Nokia deals with plastics, if I’m honest. There’s just something infinitely more appealing about the matte finish used aboard handsets like the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520. The 5c does look great – especially in green and white – it’s just a bit slippery in the hand.

All the hardware keys are in the same locations (audio jack on the bottom left, volume and mute keys on the left-hand side, and the power/unlock on the top right-hand side). The Lightning connector is located on the bottom of the device and to the right of it is the speaker grille. It all feels very familiar.

iPhone 5c Review: Display

The iPhone 5C uses exactly the same display setup as the iPhone 5 –– a 4-inch 640×1136 pixel IPS LCD panel with a pixel density of 326 ppi. Apple’s “Retina Display” is a solid performer with excellent colour reproduction, viewing angles and brightness levels. It’s not 1080p but aside from that it really cannot be faulted.

Apple, of course, did not up the ante with regards to the size. The iPhone 5C –– like the iPhone 5 before it and the new iPhone 5S –– uses a 4-inch setup. Compared to almost everything else on the market, this is pretty tiny.

Apple says 4-inches is the perfect size for a smartphone as it’s great for watching a video but it also allows for one-handed use. In some respects Apple is right but I do wish it was slightly bigger and I know I am not alone in thinking this, which is very frustrating because the display size is literally the only thing I’d change on Apple’s iPhone –– everything else is about as good as it gets.

iPhone 5c Review: Hardware & Performance

It might look playful on the outside but the iPhone 5C is pretty stacked when it comes to hardware, featuring more or less the same internal spec as last year’s iPhone 5. The 5C is available in two storage flavours –– 16GB and 32GB –– and there’s no microSD support.

Apple has now confirmed the recently rumoured 8GB version of the iPhone 5C. But, contrary to what everyone was expecting it is still not particularly cheap with a SIM-free price tag of, wait for it…£429.

That’s rather surprising, it’s only a mere £40 cheaper than the 16GB model. If you were hoping for a really affordable iPhone then your only saving grace now maybe how networks price up their iPhone 5C 8GB tariff deals – and that’s still very much up in the air at this point.

The iPhone 5C also uses the same A6 processor as the iPhone 5 –– two 32-bit ARM CPU cores based on Apple’s custom “Swift” architecture –– and the same amount of RAM, too – 1GB of DDR2. Internally the iPhone 5C is a clone of the iPhone 5. The only difference is the addition of Qualcomm’s WTR1605L transceiver, which allows for “global” LTE support.

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Apple is a master of optimizing its hardware and software to ensure near-seamless performance across the board, so whether you’re multitasking, playing games, or browsing the web everything rockets along without a hint of lag or stutter. The iPhone 5C like its predecessor does not disappoint in this regard.

The iPhone 5C won’t cause any top-flight Android handsets any grief and devices like the Galaxy Note 3, with its quad-core Snapdragon 800 chipset and 3GB of RAM, will leave it well and truly in the dust. However, this isn’t an Android handset –– it’s an iOS handset optimized to work within Apple’s iOS ecosystem, so it’s kind of a moot point.

Apple designs its phones to work within its ecosystem and, for the most part, is not interested in the specs race –– everything it does is for the betterment of its own ecosystem. That’s why there’s still no NFC. If you buy this handset you’re buying into Apple. If you want gross specs you’re better off with Android. Simple.

It’s also worth noting that Apple’s A6 chipset does out-perform Qualcomm’s S4 Snapdragon Pro and the Snapdragon 400 chipsets. You’ll find these quad-core setups inside the Nexus 4, HTC One Mini and others, and given the pitch of Apple’s iPhone 5C –– it’s marketed as a competitor to the likes of the HTC One Mini –– that is pretty significant.

iPhone 5c Review: Connectivity

With regards to connectivity the iPhone 5C comes fully loaded with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 and full support for Apple’s AirPlay and AirDrop clients.

For mobile data you’ve got full 2G, 3G (DC-HSPA and HSPA+) and support for an absolute raft of 4G LTE bands –– the iPhone 5C will work on practically any 4G network in the world. Our handset was running on Vodafone’s LTE network and the results were incredibly good as you can see below.

iPhone 5c Review: Camera

Again, the iPhone 5C’s camera setup is exactly the same as the one inside the iPhone 5. So you have an 8-megapixel iSight camera with 1/3.2” sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size, simultaneous HD video and image recording abilities, touch focus, geo-tagging, face detection, HDR panorama, and HDR photo.

There’s nothing really new to report here. The iPhone 5’s camera was great for a smartphone shooter, and the iPhone 5C’s is exactly the same. Images look sharp with great colour reproduction and well-above-average detail.

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The 1.2-megapixel FaceTime unit on the front of the 5C has been improved ever-so-slightly and now performs better in low light. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but seeing as you’ll only be using it for selfies and FaceTime it’s hardly cause for concern.

If you want to see what a seriously updated camera looks like then you’d be advised to check out the iPhone 5S –– its new imaging unit is an absolute monster of epic proportions.

iPhone 5c Review: Battery

I’ve called the iPhone 5C an iPhone 5 clone quite a bit in this review, but that’s not entirely fair. The iPhone 5C has a slightly larger capacity battery (1510 mAh) than its predecessor. It’s not quite as big as the one inside the iPhone 5S (1560 mAh) but it does make a difference –– battery life is much better on both.

Another area where Apple has made considerable headway is to do with idle performance. Previously, an iPhone – the 4s, 5 or 4 – would consistently bleed charge all day, even if you weren’t using it. With the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, however, it doesn’t seem to be quite as greedy. Battery still drips away when it is in idle, but at a far slower rate.

Compared to my now-12-month-old Nexus 5, the iPhone 5c consumes around a third less charge when idle. And to be clear, I have the exact same settings on both: push email, 4G, Hangouts, WhatsApp and auto-brightness enabled. All too often my Nexus 5 would die around 6/7pm, leaving me high and dry and without a phone.

After conducting this little experiment, I decided to start carrying both handsets, using one for work (iPhone 5c) and one for my social life (Nexus 5). Spreading the workload and usage ensures neither drains as fast and because of the iPhone 5c’s insane idle performance, it means, even if I’m out late and away from a charger, I’ll always have at least one working phone.

In our Django test, where we play the entirety of Django Unchained with the screen on full whack and Wi-Fi turned on, the iPhone 5C came out with just under 52% of its battery life left, which isn’t as good as the Note 3 but is actually pretty damn impressive when you consider the difference in battery sizes.

In real-world use, you’ll get a full day from the iPhone 5C providing you’re not texting, emailing and gaming every hour that god sends. In our batch tests –– where we run multiple phones at once under the same conditions –– it outlasted both the Nexus 4 and the HTC One by quite a margin (just over 2 hours).

iPhone 5c Review: Conclusion

Yes, it is plastic. Yes, it doesn’t have the same updated specs of the iPhone 5S. And, yes, it is basically the iPhone 5 encased in a new plastic unibody chassis. But none of these facts is necessarily a bad thing. The iPhone 5 was a great handset, and the iPhone 5C is too, even more so when you factor in its improved battery life and jazzy new outer-casing.

But for me what’s most interesting about the iPhone 5C is what it says about the changing culture within Apple under the stewardship of Tim Cook. It is becoming more egalitarian and seems to be actively looking for a new breed of disciples to add to its growing flock.

The iPhone 5C, whether you like the handset or not, represents a significant shift in Apple’s business philosophy. Apple is no longer just a premium handset maker, operating at the heady heights of the mobile space. Previously Apple went after the snobs and it had one phone. Now it’s still chasing the snobs, but the 5C shows that it is also very interested in everybody else now too.

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