Apple iPhone 5C Review

The iPhone 5C is the iPhone 5 in plastic for $100 less, and that's not a bad thing. The polycarbonate colored cases look and feel a lot better than you’d guess.
The iPhone 5C is the iPhone 5 in plastic for $100 less, and that's not a bad thing. The polycarbonate colored cases look and feel a lot better than you’d guess.
The iPhone 5C is the iPhone 5 in plastic for $100 less, and that's not a bad thing. The polycarbonate colored cases look and feel a lot better than you’d guess.

Highs

  • More comfortable to hold than iPhone 5S/5
  • Bigger battery
  • Colors look great and plastic doesn't feel cheap
  • iOS 7 looks fantastic

Lows

  • iOS 7 still has a few nagging issues
  • Poor Google services integration

iphone-5s-5cThere is a lot less pressure on the iPhone 5C than there was on the iPhone 5, and the massive hopes and dreams for innovation are on the 5S this year. The 5C is new version of last year’s iPhone 5. It’s sold for $100 less than the 5S and is for those who like (slightly) cheaper phones and colors. All it has to do is perform well and not feel or look trashy. And, you know what: it’s doing a good job.

The C is for Cheap?

Since this iPhone launched at the lower on-contract price of $100 (on AT&T and Verizon, at least) with a polycarbonate (plastic) body instead of a metal and glass one, many have it in their head that the C in iPhone 5C stands for “cheap.” There are a lot of reasons why this is not the case, the first being that $100 + over $450 more over time is not cheap. Another is that plastic, especially polycarbonate, isn’t a crappy material.

The 5C is about the same size as the iPhone 5 but the edges on the back are rounded and more comfortable.

Apple would have you believe their plastic phone is somehow a cut above the rest, but the truth is that it’s as nice as any other well-made polycarbonate smartphone we’ve reviewed in the past few years. Under that plastic is a steel frame (also the antenna), so the 5C should still be pretty sturdy even without a metallic exterior. It feels solid and achieves the heft/lightness balance that makes a phone feel right when you hold it.

Another advantage of the plastic is how the phone feels in your hand. The 5C is about the same size as the iPhone 5 but the edges on the back are rounded and more comfortable. It’s more holdable than a 4S, too. Even with plastic, Apple is all about the unibody design, and that serves the 5C well. It’s still thin as well, making the 5C more of a pleasure to hold when it’s not in a case. A small change, but significant.

If nothing else, the 5C will change how we talk about plastic phones even though this isn’t a revolutionary innovation.

The C is for Colorful

Yes, that’s what the C is supposed to stand for. If nothing else, the 5C will be remembered for bringing the rainbow to the iPhone. The new colors – green, blue, yellow, pink – hover somewhere between shades identified with baby toys and the more striking hues found on Nokia phones. And, of course, there’s always white. Out of the box, the iPhone’s wallpaper matches whatever color you choose, similar to many Windows Phone models. The overall effect is a phone that already feels fun and individual the minute you touch it, assuming you ordered it in a color you like.

The colors and plastic chassis make the iPhone 5C look like it already has a case on; especially with the way the color encircles the black front piece. If you’re the type to feel that no phone should go uncovered, the basic 5C case from Apple is designed to show the color underneath on the back and the front.

This attention to detail is very Apple-like and will be appreciated, but is any of it a reason to buy this phone?

New iPhone same as the old iPhone

The iPhone 5C is almost unchanged from the iPhone 5. Other than the plastic outer shell the only outward difference is that there are fewer holes for speakers on the bottom and the output there is nothing to get excited over. Inside, there’s a slightly better front-facing camera and a bigger battery – other than that, you’re not getting much new hotness here. Same chip, same screen, same non-biometric Home button.

apple iphone 5c vs 5s bottom ports

In effect, this is last year’s phone at Apple’s standard $100 “last year” discount price with a few tweaks to address some of last year’s problems. It’s more than iPhone fans would usually get at this stage, but less than an actual new phone. This isn’t a bad thing now that we’ve reached a stage where all of the best phones from last year are still great this year and will probably continue to serve well performance-wise for another year or two to come.

Specs and screen get the job done

The 4-inch, 1136 x 640 pixel display remains beautiful and dense. Still, when compared to other phones around the same size, the iPhone 5C still comes off as too long for comfort, at least with the buttons where they are. Stepping up from a 3.5-inch display, it comes off a little roomier, and some of the design elements in iOS 7 help with that. Up against Android phones, the 5C feels cramped.

Performance-wise, the phone feels just as speedy as before and serves up iOS 7 well. There is a lot to like about Apple’s new OS and an equal number of ways that it could improve. Most of the tweaks are aesthetic makeovers, and Apple hasn’t addressed many of the issues we had with iOS 6 on the iPhone 5 last year.

Still a great camera

One new addition we do appreciate is a more robust camera app. The 8-megapixel-rear iSight camera on the rear is the same excellent shooter as before, now with better software tools to help your pictures come out better. The front-facing FaceTime camera did get a bump in specs. Now you don’t have to be in the best light to conduct a video chat.

apple iphone 5c macro rear camera

Call Quality, 4G, and Battery Performance

Our review unit came with T-Mobile service and kept a steady, if weak, LTE signal through initial testing. The 5C supports 13 LTE bands, which is why T-Mobile gets to join the party. So far we’ve seen fast downloads and little lag on websites, but will update this review with more extensive tests later.

Our few test calls show that the 5C matches the iPhone 5 in quality of sound on both ends.

We haven’t yet fully battery tested the 5C yet. As soon as we do, we’ll update this review.

Conclusion

The iPhone 5C is a good phone, just like the iPhone 5 was a good phone. It’s nothing revolutionary, but is solid, speedy, and now brightly colored. If you’re the type to wait for last year’s phone to drop in price before snagging it, this is the iPhone for you. It’s not for those who need the newest and best. For that, you should buy the iPhone 5S. The only Apple fans the 5C won’t please are those who were hoping to buy the 5 at the lower price.

Highs:

  • More comfortable to hold than iPhone 5S/5
  • Bigger battery
  • Colors look great and plastic doesn’t feel cheap
  • iOS 7 looks fantastic

Lows:

  • iOS 7 still has a few nagging issues
  • Poor Google services integration
Deals

Apple brings back the iPhone SE with a $100 clearance discount included

Apple is offering the iPhone SE on their online clearance store once again. With discounts of $100, you can get a brand new unlocked iPhone SE for as little as $249. This offer is only available while supplies last.
Deals

Looking to upgrade? These are the best iPhone deals for February 2019

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for February 2019.
Mobile

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Mobile

How to perform a reverse image search in Android or iOS

You can quickly use Google to search, and reverse search, images on a PC or laptop, but did you know it's almost as easy to do in Android and iOS? We explain how to do it here, whether you want to use Chrome or a third-party app.
Mobile

Be careful who you bokeh, jokes Apple’s latest iPhone ad

With iPhone sales under pressure, you'd think there wouldn't be much to laugh about at Apple HQ. But the company has seen fit to inject some humor into its latest handset ad, which highlights the camera's Depth Control feature.
Deals

Amazon cuts prices on the Apple Watch Series 3 for Presidents’ Day

The Apple Watch Series 3 is seeing the same price cut we saw during the Amazon sale just last week. So if you're hoping to pick up an Apple Watch for less than $250, this $50 discount from Amazon can make that happen for you.
Mobile

Flip from portrait to landscape as we reveal how to rotate a video on iPhone

If you've accidentally shot a video in portrait orientation and you want to flip to landscape, then this is the guide for you. We'll explain how to use iMovie to rotate a video on your iPhone or iPad for free and suggest alternative apps.
Mobile

The 2019 iPhone could put a charge into your other Apple gadgets

While it's not been long since the last iPhones launched, rumors for the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for February 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for February 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for December 2018.
Computing

Chrome is a fantastic browser, but is is still the best among new competitors?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Deals

From Air to Pro, here are the best MacBook deals for February 2019

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Mobile

Apple stomps on one FaceTime bug, only to have another one appear

Having fixed a FaceTime bug that let users eavesdrop on calls, another issue with Apple's video chat app appears to have surfaced. It concerns adding people to group calls, though there is a workaround.