iPhone 5C review

It's a cheaper iPhone, not a cheap iPhone

iPhone 5C review
Some of the glitz, less of the glam

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The iPhone 5C leaves us feeling a little puzzled. On the one hand it's a great smartphone, and being a carbon copy of the iPhone 5 in terms of performance is certainly no bad thing - but its price tag, overall design and lack of glass-based, premium feel leaves a slightly unpleasant taste in the mouth.

It's safe to say nobody currently sporting the iPhone 5 will be upgrading to the iPhone 5C, and only a handful will make the leap to the iPhone 5S after just a year of ownership, so it's the iPhone 4S owners and below - in the Apple crowd at least - who'll be weighing up the C and S.

Of course there's also the spate of users transitioning over from BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Android to consider, plus those entering the smartphone game for the first time.

We liked

While many hoped to see the 'budget iPhone', it's good to see the iPhone 5C not comprising on specs and bar the lack of a metal chassis it matches the excellent iPhone 5 every step of the way with the added bonus of iOS 7.

The inclusion of iOS 7 is a massive boon for the iPhone range in general. The operating system was in dire need of a reboot and iOS 7 has managed to do that with aplomb, bringing a couple of handy new features such as Control Centre to the relative simplicity and solid, fluid interface Apple has offered since its inception.

Support for a wide range of 4G bands will be music to the ears of consumers in various countries around the world including Australia.

Superfast network speeds go hand in hand with web browsing and the iPhone 5C makes mincemeat of most desktop websites, even over Wi-Fi and 3G.

We disliked

People will be split over the polycarbonate body of the iPhone 5C. To be fair to Apple it is a solid build and seems like it could take a few knocks, but it certainly lacks that premium feeling we've become accustomed to from iPhones.

When you're shelling out as much as Apple is asking for the iPhone 5C you have to ask yourself does it feel like it's worth the money you're paying? In all honesty, no.

Thanks to its bright colours the iPhone 5C looks a little like a toy phone (even if it doesn't perhaps feel it in the hand), and considering it's similar in price to the HTC One and Sony Xperia Z is doesn't come close to either in terms of class.

It's that price which feels like it's the real sticking point though. Sure it's cheaper than the iPhone 5S, and the likes of the 5 and the 4S when they launched, but you need to look at the competition.

The likes of the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Nokia Lumia 925 are all cheaper than the 5C, and all offer more in terms of features and up to date tech.

If you're coming to the end of your iPhone 4S two year contract you'll already be paying a premium monthly price, and we don't see why you would compromise for what is essentially last year's phone in a cheaper, chunkier chassis instead of sticking with the price plan you're on and upgrading to the iPhone 5S.

We did have some other niggles with the iPhone 5C, including a rather lacklustre keyboard which only appeared in native Apple apps, poor contact integration and still too much dependence on the main settings menu which just feels unintuitive - but these are problems that have dogged the iPhone range for years, and many users have comfortably negotiated around in the end.

If you're set on buying an iPhone, these minor problems are surmountable - they're just less noticeable on the competition.


We should be comparing the iPhone 5C against the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and HTC One Mini, but thanks to that hefty price tag Apple has slapped on its plastic clad handset we can't as it's already priced itself out of that market.

Instead the iPhone 5C is stuck rubbing shoulders with the big guns of 2013, a lot of which have witnessed slight price drops since launch making them cheaper than this Apple offering, and along with sporting better specs and more compelling features, it makes things difficult for the 5C.

Pricing has always been less of an issue for Apple products as people are prepared to pay a premium for what are generally excellent devices, thoughtfully put together and cleverly engineered.

The iPhone 5C is still all these things, but Apple hasn't pushed the boundaries and thus there's no real incentive for consumers to make the leap - unless they are dead set on owning an iPhone but really can't stretch that extra bit to the iPhone 5S.

In summary the iPhone 5C is a great phone, it's just a shame it's last year's great phone wrapped in a less appealing shiny plastic body and slapped with a still-premium price tag.

If you're paying a larger price you want a phone which looks and feels premium, and while the iPhone 5C comes with all the Apple hallmarks and tradition, it's a device that falls between two camps. If you want the best Apple has to offer and you're coming from a 4S, then go for the new 5S.

If you're agnostic in the market, there are plenty of other options available for the money, and even if you want an iPhone for the first time, we'd still suggest making doubly sure that this is the phone for you, especially on a two year deal.

It's not that Apple has done its best to make the iPhone 5C appealing, but as last year's phone re-packaged its hard to recommend it totally - although the large range of colours and combination with iOS 7 helps enormously.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.