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iPhone 5S vs. iPhone 5C vs. iPhone 4S: The differences between Apple’s phones

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Everyone wins whenever Apple announces a new device. The Apple loyalists get to obsess over a new thing; the people who feel the need to counter the passion of Apple fans get to bash every last detail of the device; and the rest of us can enjoy it for what it is, whether we ever own it or not. So today’s announcement of two new versions of the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C, is exciting for everyone. The problem is, how do you know which iPhone is right for you? The flagship 5S? The colorful 5C? Or is the iPhone 4S good enough to meet your needs? We put the new members of the iPhone 5 family tree and the iPhone 4S side-by-side in a spec showdown to find out.


iPhone 5S 

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iPhone 4S

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iPhone 5C 

Image used with permission by copyright holder
Size 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 (mm) 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 (mm) 124.4 x 59.2 x 8.97 (mm)
Weight 112g 140g 132 g
Screen 4.0-inch LCD 3.5-inch LCD 4.0-inch LCD
Resolution 1136×640 pixels 960×640 pixels 1136×640 pixels
OS iOS 7 iOS 6 (getting iOS 7 soon) iOS 7
Storage 16/32/64GB 8GB 16/32GB
SD Card Slot No No No
Processor 64-bit A7 chip 32-bit A5 chipset 32-bit A6 chipset 
Connectivity 4G LTE, 3G, Wi-Fi 3G, Wi-Fi 4G LTE, 3G, Wi-Fi
Camera Front 1.2MP, Rear 8MP Front 0.3MP, Rear 8MP Front 1.2MP, Rear 8MP
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.0 Yes, version 4.0 Yes, version 4.0
Motion Processor M7 chip No No
Fingerprint sensor Yes No No
Battery 10 hours talk, 250 hours standby  8 hours talk, 200 hours standby 10 hours talk, 250 hours standby
Charger Lightning connector 30-pin iPod connector Lightning connector
Marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store Apple App Store
Price (Ave.) $200+ Free $100+
Availability Sept. 20 on AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile Sept. 20 on AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile

Apple usually does a good job of making its upgrades in smaller steps so owners of previous generation devices never feel too far behind. So with the shelving of the original iPhone 5, Apple is placing the iPhone 5C into that spot while putting the iPhone 5S one step above it. The price is right for both handsets, with the 5C starting at $100 on a contract and the 5S maintaining the starting $200 on contract price that the iPhone 5 carried. Meanwhile, the iPhone 4S acts as the entry level iPhone for most consumers, available with 8GB of storage for free with a two year contract. Both the 5S and the 5C differentiate themselves from the base iPhone 5 in their own ways.

iPhone 5C: While the 5C shares much of the same internals as the iPhone 5, it breaks the old black and white mold by offering green, blue, yellow, pink, and white color schemes. Its plastic casing is a downgrade and also makes it a little bigger than the iPhone 5 or 5S, but not enough to incur ridicule from your friends. Though the joke has been that the “C” stands for “cheap,” the iPhone 5C appears to be as capable as the iPhone 5 was. It will also be available globally, making it available to new consumers in a way that previous versions of the iPhone weren’t.

iPhone 5S: The iPhone 5S, like the 5C, sports a new external look. But rather than plastic, it gets new finishes available in gold, silver, or “space gray.” The big draw for the iPhone 5S, though, is what is housed inside that new casing. A 64-bit A7 chipset, complete with the new M7 motion processor, make it the most powerful of the bunch. We aren’t sure how Apple will take advantage yet, but the M7 processor allows the 5S to continuously track the phones movements without hurting the battery life too badly. Apple promises nearly twice the performance out of this new chipset, and it seems as though it’s designed specifically for the new iOS 7 and meet the demands that the upcoming OS will bring. Additionally, the 5S has a fingerprint sensor that has been left off the 5C, and gets an improved camera (still 8-megapixel) that now features f/2.2 aperture and a “true tone” dual-element flash.

iPhone 4S: We’re not sure why Apple is still selling the 4S, but we don’t recommend getting it. Aside from being stuck with a weak processor, smaller screen, 8GB of storage (not a lot), and having to use an old iPod charger, the 4S doesn’t have 4G LTE data. The leap from 3G to 4G was huge and if you are trying to do anything that requires data, you really want a phone that can connect to your carrier’s LTE network. One positive bit of news though: iPhone 4S owners will get iOS 7 on Sept. 18.

The iPhone 5S is truly the top of the Apple handset class but if price is an issue for you, the iPhone 5C is more than capable of everything the iPhone 5 was for half the price. Even the iPhone 4s, though clearly dated at this point, could be a serviceable option for those who don’t use a lot of data, especially since iOS 7 will be available for the device. Last year’s iPhone 5 will be retired, so if you currently own one and won’t make the jump to the 5S or 5C, you now own a piece of history. You’ll be able to play around with all three devices in Apple stores and carriers on Sept. 20.

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AJ Dellinger
AJ Dellinger is a freelance reporter from Madison, Wisconsin with an affinity for all things tech. He has been published by…
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