Apple's having a laugh with the new cut-down iPhone 5C

Fancy a free iPhone? For Pete's sake don't go for this one

It's been a big week for Apple, literally: its biggest-ever phones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, have been hogging the headlines.

That means many people have probably missed a smaller detail, which is that the iPhone 5C is no longer available in 16GB or 32GB variants. If you want one, you have a choice of 8GB, 8GB or 8GB.

The 8GB iPhone 5C is available free of charge on some contracts, which means it's just like the Amazon Fire Phone: it's a phone that's overpriced even when it's free.

There are better deals out there

We've spent a lot of time pointing out that even 16GB isn't really adequate for smartphones any more, and there's no way we could recommend buying a phone with half that unless you're absolutely certain you won't use the phone for anything interesting.

I've only just bought my iPhone 6 and I've already used more than 8GB, and that's before I've done anything with it.

Offering a budget iPhone is no bad thing, but offering one with too little storage is. Because the iPhone 5C is an iPhone people will use it like they would any other iPhone: they'll fill it with photos, film loads of things in portrait mode and buy loads of music when they've had a few shandies and feel nostalgic.

That means they'll hit the 8GB limit very quickly, and that has ramifications for the rest of us - because we're the ones they'll turn to when the next iOS 8 update demands 6GB and they don't know they can install it via iTunes.

Too little storage, too much money

The iPhone 5C has the edge over the Amazon Fire Phone in that it isn't poor, but that doesn't mean it's worth buying.

I'm assuming that the reason it's just 8GB is because of Apple's love of charging really big numbers for really small storage upgrades.

Presumably upping the capacity from 8GB to 16GB would have taken the price tag beyond the reach of mere mortals.

That doesn't mean the iPhone 5C is cheap, though. A quick scan of the various phone deals suggests that to get an 8GB iPhone 5C for free, you can expect to pay between £22.50 a month for 3G and £33 for 4G. That's on a two year contract.

The same money will get you a Samsung Galaxy S4 (16GB), an HTC One M8 (16GB), a Sony Xperia Z2 (16GB), an LG G3 (16GB), a Nokia Lumia 930 (32GB)… you get the idea, and in most cases those phones are expandable further with microSD cards.

I know what you're thinking. The cloud! There are two problems with that.

The first is that the cloud doesn't work too well - Apple's iTunes Radio and Beats Music still aren't available here in the UK, and after a promising start iTunes Match, for me at least, consistently proves that "it just works" doesn't apply to all of Apple's products.

If like me you live away from the cities, coverage is an issue too. The cloud isn't much use if you're on EDGE or GPRS.

The second, much bigger problem is that if you rely on the cloud when you're on a £22.50 per month contract, your monthly data allowance is 250MB.

That's about two unwanted U2 album downloads.

If you really want a free iPhone, my advice is this: get a 16GB iPhone 5S. At the time of writing it costs the same on 4G as the iPhone 5C does (£30.50 on Vodafone, £33 on O2 and so on, all via Carphone Warehouse) but it has more storage, a better camera and TouchID.

You might be able to get a 5C for £8 per month less on a 3G contract, but you'll spend the next two years kicking yourself.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Gary Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," he says. "And there's a lot of crap."