Apple iPhone 5c full review

The iPhone 5C is more than a year old now, succeeded in September by the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The 'C' range of iPhones seems to have been discontinued, but Apple continues to sell the iPhone 5C at a lower price. Take a look at our iPhone 5C review, one year on, to find out what it's like to use and whether the colourful Apple smartphone is a good buy.

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 8 and are certainly bright. We like the white and blue models but we're not so keen on the pink, yellow and green. 

Like Microsoft's Lumia range, the phone has a polycarbonate plastic casing and as such is a little bigger and heavier than the iPhone 5, despite having the same innards. It's slightly more than a millimetre thicker and is 20 grams heavier than 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.

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.

New iPhone 5C review

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 year we've had the 5C, it's picked up a few small scratches but you have to look hard to find them. We've been using a clear case for the majority of our time spent with the iPhone 5C, which helps protect the device while leaving the colourful back visible.

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 LG G2 is now £300 and the glass-clad Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is just £360 on Amazon. The Moto G and Lumia 520 are only £100 - £150.

The bottom line is that the iPhone 5C, which starts at £319, is a bit overpriced for what is a two-year-old phone in a plastic case. The iPhone 5S with the double the amount of storage is £140 more than the 5C.

Currently, iPhone 5S is only, on average, around £7 more on a contract than the 5C. We imagine most people will see the iPhone 5S as the better deal.

See also: iPhone 5c vs HTC One comparison

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.

We're in the process of running further tests on the iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S and iPhone 5 running iOS 8.1, so we'll bring you those results soon. We expect them to be largely similar, though.

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 two-year-old components.

iPhone 5C

The iPhone 5C's screen is still the 4in Retina display that 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.

The iPhone 5C is now only available in one storage option, which we think is its biggest downfall. That one storage option is a measly 8GB, and with no microSD card slot to expand the storage, 8GB really is all you get.

An important difference between the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5C is that the device has support for more 4G networks. The iPhone 5 was only compatible with EE. The iPhone 5C will supports all of the UK's 4G networks. 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 included 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 5S and now the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.

iPhone 5C review: Camera

There's almost no difference between the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C when it comes to camera equipment. The 5C has the same 8Mp iSight rear camera as the iPhone 5 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

Of course, they're not as impressive as the photos you'll be able to capture with the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which have lots of camera improvements despite still being 8Mp, including larger pixels, a True Tone dual flash, a better aperture and improved image stabilisation.

The front FaceTime HD camera is almost the same as the iPhone 5's 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 difference but the camera is good.

iPhone 5C camera app

Since iOS 8 comes pre-loaded on the 5C, you get the new camera app which has a square photo mode, filters and Time Lapse. You'll miss out on the Slo-Mo and Burst Mode features, though, which are only available on the iPhone 5S and later.

iPhone 5C review: Software

The iPhone 5C comes pre-loaded with Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 8. 

iOS 7 was the biggest redesign Apple has done since the original iPhone, and iOS 8 takes that new design even further. In addition to sporting the cleaner, lighter and more colourful design we saw in iOS 7, we also get lots of tweaks and new features including much more flexibility for third-party app developers to bring us new and exciting apps.

Find out more about what's new in iOS 8 in our iOS 8 review.

iPhone 5C review: Battery life

The battery in the iPhone 5C is slightly better than the one in the iPhone 5S. Apple says it provides an extra two hours of talk time and browsing over 4G LTE plus a further 25 hours on standby. See alsoHow 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 constant 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 per cent for a number of hours.


Apple iPhone 5c: Specs

  • A6 processor
  • iOS7
  • 4in display
  • 16GB or 32GB
  • 124.4x59.2x8.97mm
  • 132g