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iPhones Reviews
15,597 Reviews

iPhone 5C review: Apple's cheap plastic iPhone not worth your consideration

£469 inc VAT and £569 inc VAT; (16GB and 32GB)

Manufacturer: Apple

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5

The new iPhone 5C is Apple’s plastic and colourful smartphone. Read our iPhone 5C review to find out more about the plastic and colourful iPhone.

New iPhone 5C review

The iPhone 5C is one of Apple’s two new smartphones. It priced a little lower than it’s flagship big brother, and as such has lesser specs. Take a look at our new iPhone 5C review to find our what it like to use and whether the colourful Apple smartphone is a actually like. See also: iPhone 5C vs iPhone 5 comparison review.

iPhone 5C review: Design and build

The iPhone 5C is essentially the iPhone 5 but with a colourful new coat. The five colour options match the theme of iOS 7 and are certainly bright. We like the white and blue models but we're not so keen on the pink, yellow and green. See also: iPhone 4S vs iPhone 5C vs iPhone 5S: What iPhone should I buy 2013?

Like Nokia's Lumia range, the phone has a polycarbonate plastic casing and as such is a little bigger and heavier. It's slightly more than a millimetre thicker and is 20 grams heavier compared to the iPhone 5 – that's nothing major. A 9mm phone is quite big for today's standard but the 5C doesn't feel thick or chunky in the hand.

The big difference is the case which is glossy, smooth and feels nice in the hand. It shares the same rounded corners and look of the white MacBook. This is the most ergonomic iPhone since the 3GS.

Build quality is excellent, as we've come to expect from Apple. There's not an internal rattle or gap in the casing to be found. Despite being predominantly plastic, the iPhone 5C retains that premium Apple feel.

The only caveat is that the buttons do feel a little on the cheap side and have a loud click when pressed, especially (and somewhat ironically) the volume buttons. Over the few days we've had the 5C, it's picked up a few small scratches but you have to look hard to find them. See: iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C comparison review.

iPhone 5C review: Price

Despite having a nice feel, the problem is that many handsets on the market outclass the 5C, yet cost less. For example, the aluminium HTC One is now £385 and the glass-clad Sony Xperia Z is just £350 on Amazon. The Moto G and Lumia 520 are around a hundred quid.

The bottom line is that the iPhone 5C, which starts at £469, is a bit overpriced for what is a year-old phone in a plastic case. The iPhone 5S with the same amount of storage is only £80 more than the 5C - a small price to pay if you're going to shell out for a new smartphone.

At launch, the iPhone 5S is only, on average around £10 more on a contract than the 5C. We imagine most people will see that as the better deal. Read Is the iPhone 5c 8GB a good deal? Price and alternatives for more on this.

See also: iPhone 5C price in the UK.

iPhone 5C review: Hardware and performance

As we've said, the iPhone 5C is an iPhone 5 with a different case. This is because the hardware on offer is almost unchanged. Inside is the same A6 dual-core processor and, according to the Geekbench 3 app, the device has a 1.3 GHz clock speed and 1 GB of RAM – no change there then.

iOS 7 running on the iPhone 5C feels smooth and responsive but we'll talk more about the software later. Running Geekbench 3 shows that performance is almost identical to the iPhone 5; the iPhone 5C scores 710 which is only three points less than its predecessor.

The iPhone 5C is only one frame off the result of the iPhone 5 in the GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD test at 37fps. The phone scores an impressively speedy 788ms in the SunSpider 1.0 browser test.

Apps and web pages load swiftly, and panning around Apple Maps isn't jerky at all. It feels like you're using an up-to-date smartphone despite the year-old components. See also: Group test: What's the best smartphone?

iPhone 5C

The iPhone 5C's screen is still the 4in Retina display which was introduced with the iPhone 5. Although the screen looks crisp and colourful, it's no longer class-leading. Full HD is the standard now and, on larger screens, it makes browsing the web, gaming and watching videos easier and more enjoyable.

It's a small brag, but as I predicted before the launch, the iPhone 5C is only available in three storage options – 8GB, 16GB and 32GB. Our 16GB version had 12.6GB available out-of-the-box which is a typical value for a smartphone. It almost goes without saying that there's no microSD card slot for adding more storage.

An important change is that the device has support for more 4G networks. The iPhone 5 was only compatible with EE. Once Apple sends out an update, the iPhone 5C will support all of the UK's 4G networks (some of which aren't live yet). Our iPhone 5C runs well on Vodafone's 4G network.

Other connectivity remains the same with the 8-pin Lightning connector, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS. Apple hasn't added features such as NFC or wireless charging.

Something we should point out is that the iPhone 5C doesn't come with the fingerprint scanner and TouchID software found on the flagship 5S. It's one of the main features of the new smartphone and one reason for the £80 price difference.

iPhone 5C review: Camera

There's almost no change compared to the iPhone 5 when it comes to camera equipment. The 5C has the same 8Mp iSight rear camera as the previous model and so you can rest assured that pictures and video will be high quality. Here are some photos we've taken with the iPhone 5C (click to enlarge).

iPhone 5C test photo

iPhone 5C test photo macro

iPhone 5C test photo

The front FaceTime HD camera is almost the same but Apple says it has better low-light performance thanks to larger pixels and an improved backside illumination sensor. We haven't noticed any major different but the camera is good.

iPhone 5C camera app

Since iOS 7 comes pre-loaded on the 5C, you get the new camera app which has a square photo mode, filters. We kept accidentally taking multiple pictures by pressing the shutter button for too long.

There's no difference in the app compared to the iPhone 5 (if you update to iOS 7), but the 5S has slow motion video mode and a burst mode which can take 10fps for as long as you hold the button (storage permitting). The 5S's actual camera hardware is better too (larger pixels, a better aperture and a True Tone dual flash) so this is another reason that £80 upgrade is worth it.

iPhone 5C review: Software

As you might know, the iPhone 5C comes pre-loaded with Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 7. See also: iOS7 release date, new features, and which iPhones and iPads get it.

It's the biggest redesign Apple has done since the original iPhone and therefore looks quite different. It's cleaner and lighter and much more colourful, in my personal opinion a bit too bright and childish.

Apart from the colour scheme, which I'm sure I'll get used to eventually, something a lot of us at PC Advisor (not just me) dislike is the lack of visual buttons. Across the OS, buttons are now just displayed as text so you a) don't know whether something is a button and b) whether you've then pressed it.

iPhone 5C with iOS 7

Of course, there are new features including the much-needed Control Centre which Android has had an equivalent for a long time. A swipe up from the bottom of the screen opens a menu from which you can control settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen brightness, media playback, AirDrop and some quick apps. Control Centre is both needed and handy.

Multi-tasking has also has a significant update and no longer just shows a row of open apps at the bottom of the screen. Now you see a preview screen of the running apps and can flick one upwards off the screen to close it. It's something like a cross between Android, WebOS, PlayBook OS and Windows Phone.

Apple has tweaked the Notification Centre so it's split into three sections: Today, All and Missed. It's also accessible from any screen, including the lock screen.

Other improvements have been made to Safari, the App Store, Siri and more.

iPhone 5C review: Battery life

There's no big upgrade when it comes to the iPhone 5C's battery, but Apple has installed a marginally larger one - a factor in its extra weight.

Apple says it provides an extra two hours of talk time and browsing over 4G LTE plus a further 25 hours on standby. See also: How to improve smartphone battery life: 10 tips and tricks.

We've been impressed with the iPhone 5C's battery life. Unless you hammer the device with contant gaming or video playback, it will last a couple of days with regular and varied use. The phone holds its charge incredibly well when not in use - our sample sat on just one percent for a number of hours.

iPhone 5C review: Video

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.

iPhone 5C Expert Verdict »
Apple iPhone 5C 16GB Scores 8.8 out of 10 based on 2061 reviews
A6 processor
iOS7
4in display
16GB or 32GB
124.4x59.2x8.97mm
132g
  • Build Quality: We give this item 8 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 7 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 5 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 9 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

The iPhone 5C is a nice smartphone. However, we just can't see the need for it in the first place, unless it was cheaper. It's too expensive for what is effectively an iPhone 5 in a plastic shell with minor changes in hardware. There are better and cheaper Android devices on the market and those wishing to stick with iOS should pay the extra £80 for the iPhone 5S.

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