iPhone SE vs iPhone 5C

iPhone SE vs iPhone 5C

The iPhone 5C was the first and, until now, only 'budget' iPhone. It came out in 2013, so its successor, the iPhone SE, has been a long time coming.

A lot has changed in that period and you can get a whole lot of decent smartphone for not very much money now, particularly if you opt for Android or Windows over iOS.

iPhone SE

In terms of an out and out comparison, the iPhone 5E is competing with smaller Android handsets - but decimates them in terms of spec (if not price). However, a lot of the comparisons will be with the 5C given their place in the iPhone line up, but you can't even buy the plastic model any more.

So if you're wondering just how much has changed and how much better Apple's new affordable iPhone is than its old one you're in luck, because we've put them head to head to give you the answer.

Key features

The iPhone SE is no low-end phone, instead it's a premium handset in a small size, with a low (for Apple) price tag. A compact 4-inch screen has been coupled with flagship specs, to deliver a phone for fans of the smaller things in life.

iPhone SE

The iPhone 5C was every bit as small, but it's far less premium, with a plastic shell and specs that weren't quite flagship even at launch. It was trading primarily on a low price tag, plus a colorful design that could appeal to younger users.


The iPhone SE is the hermit crab of the smartphone world: is a powerful phone living in the shell of an iPhone 5S. Which is to say it has an aluminium finish, a two-tone color scheme in gold, silver, rose gold or space gray.

iPhone 5C

The iPhone 5C was far less premium, with a brightly colored plastic shell in blue, green, white, yellow or pink. It was all one color with no fancy two-tone effect.

But the overall shape is similar to the iPhone SE, though the SE is a little smaller and a lot thinner, at 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm, to the iPhone 5C's 124.4 x 59.2 x 9mm.

The iPhone SE could pass for a flagship, while the iPhone 5C will always look cheap, but it wasn't an ugly phone.


This is one area where the iPhone SE and iPhone 5C are quite similar, as both handsets have a small 4-inch display, standing in stark contrast to most recent Apple handsets, which pack 4.7 or 5.5-inch screens.

iPhone SE

They also both come in at 640 x 1136, with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch. As such there's not much to choose between them in this area, especially as the iPhone SE misses out on the 3D Touch feature found on other recent Apple phones.

Still, the compact size is a major selling point for both handsets, especially the iPhone SE, as it's now the only 4-inch iPhone available - and one of the only smaller, more powerful phones on the market.

Much better processor

A lot has changed here. The iPhone 5C had an Apple A6 processor, which wasn't even the most powerful iPhone chip when it launched. It's now enormously dated, especially compared to the 64-bit Apple A9 chip in the iPhone SE.

That's a flagship chip - the same one as is used in the iPhone 6S, so you can expect far greater performance from the iPhone SE now and, importantly, it will likely remain competitive for a while yet, which is something we can't say about the dated and underpowered iPhone 5C.

Plus, the iPhone SE has an M9 motion co-processor in it, which both makes it adept at fitness tracking and allows for hands-free use of Siri.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.