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Review: Apple iPhone 5c

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Sep 25, 2013, 12:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The iPhone 5c is a lower-cost alternative to the iPhone 5s, but don't call it cheap.

Is It Your Type?

For the first time, Apple is offering two distinct new iPhones. The 5c is the lesser of the two new smartphones from Apple, but don't let the plastic exterior fool you. The 5c is nearly as capable a device as the 5s despite the more colorful exterior. The 5c is for people looking for some slightly different thinking on Apple's part.


The original iPhone was made of metal. The iPhone 3G and 3GS were plastic. The iPhone 4, 4S, 5, and 5s are made of glass and metal. The 5c? Back to plastic. Or, if you want to pretend it's special, polycarbonate. For whatever reason, Apple decided to scrap the iPhone 5 and is offering the new 5c as a lower-cost alternative to the iPhone 5s. The biggest difference between the 5s and 5c are their bodies. The 5s is all classy aluminum while the 5c is all whimsical polycarbonate. The differences are more than skin deep, though, and we'll discuss the other trade-offs in time.

The Apple iPhone 5c is an interesting beast. It's offered in five colors: white, blue, green, yellow, and pink. The colors are very bright. There's nothing subtle about them. There's also nothing particularly masculine about them, if you ask me. I generally like blue (my customized Moto X has a royal blue back, for example), but the blue iPhone 5c completely turns me off. So do the other colors. The only option I can stomach is the white one, which sort of negates the entire point of offering colored iPhones. Aside from the colors, I like the iPhone 5c hardware a lot.


Even though it's made of plastic, the 5c doesn't look or feel cheap. This becomes even more obvious when you pick it up. The 5c is roughly the same size/shape as the 5s. Remember, the 5s and 5c share the exact same screen and many of the same internal components. That means they have the same elongated appearance. The 5c is a hair thicker than the 5s, but it has a more comfortable design. To me, the trade-off is worth it. The 5c's gently rounded back edges are far more comfortable against your palm. Though the polycarbonate skin is glossy and somewhat slippery, it is incredibly smooth and strong. The 5c feels more solid than the 5s. The 5c doesn't have a chamfered metallic edge at the corners. Instead, the polycarbonate doesn't quite rise to the same level as the glass, leaving a small lip that creates a similar effect. Thanks to the slim shape, the 5c will glide into any pocket with no problem.

The front of the iPhone 5c is all black, no matter which color you pick. The black glass panel is the same across all five colors, even white. The display itself disappears into the black bezel when turned off. The slit for the earpiece is visible above the display, as is the user-facing camera. The Home button is below the display. The 5c does not have the 5s's fingerprint scanner. The Home button is exactly the same as the one on the iPhone 5: a simple concave plastic circle. It's easy to find and use. The travel and feedback were quite good, better even than on the 5s.

All the other buttons and controls are in the exact same places as the 5s, but have a totally different feel thanks to the plastic construction. On the left edge, you'll find the mute switch and volume buttons. The 5s has circular volume buttons, but the 5c has more rectangular volume buttons. They have a big profile, so finding them is easy. Travel and feedback is quite good, though a bit on the loud side. The mute switch is there, too, and functions perfectly. The screen lock button is on top. It has a great profile and excellent travel and feedback.

The stereo headphone jack and Lightning port are both located on the bottom of the 5c. The Lightning port is Apple's proprietary port for charging, data sync, and media. I like the Lightning port because it's easier to use than most other ports (plugs can be inserted either way), but it's important to note that Apple is about the only company in the world that doesn't use microUSB. This means you can only use Apple-made or Apple-approved cables. There are also drilled holes on the bottom that form the grille for the speaker.

As with all iPhones, the 5c's battery is inaccessible. You can't swap it out or pull it. The same goes for memory. You're stuck with 16 or 32 GB; there's no expansion slot. The nano SIM card port is in the same spot on the right edge of the phone. The nano SIM card is smaller than the micro SIM card that is currently used by most phones. You can't remove the SIM card and use it with other phones unless you have an adapter. Granted, few people ever eject their SIM card, but it's something worth knowing.

If you're inclined to think that the "c" in iPhone 5c stands for "cheap," you're sorely mistaken. Nothing about the iPhone 5c feels cheap. Sure, it's not aluminum, (which has its own appeal,) but it's an extremely solid and easy-to-use piece of hardware.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.

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Sep 25, 2013, 3:13 PM

plastic junk

I will never, never, never own an iphone. Thank you!
Are you saying this because you had a 5c? Or are you just an Apple hater?
samsung and apple are using the same plastic... O.o
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