iPhone 5C teardown reveals upgrades and design changes

Bill Detwiler cracks open the iPhone 5C and shows you the upgrades and design changes that make it more than just an iPhone 5 with a plastic case.

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The iPhone 5C has the same processor, rear camera, and Retina Display as the iPhone 5 . But Apple didn't just slap a series of colorful plastic cases on last year's phone. On the inside, the 5C is a unique device, with hardware upgrades and design elements from both the 5 and the new 5S .

On the outside, it's the iPhone 5C's choices of colorful polycarbonate case that really set the phone apart from the 5 and 5S. And thanks to this case, it's also slightly longer, wider, thicker, and a bit heavier than the other two iPhones.

But peel back the case, and the 5C reveals itself to be a unique device, which borrows traits from both the other phones.

For a complete list of iPhone 5C specs, pricing information, and real-world performance tests, check out Scott Stein's full CNET review.

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Cracking Open observations
Opening the phone still requires special tools: One thing that all three phones share is how you crack them open. You'll need a special pentalobe screwdriver to remove the external case screws and a suction cup (and possibly a few thin prying tools) to remove the front panel.

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Home button similar to iPhone 5: Unlike in the new 5S, in the 5C there's no ribbon cable connecting the Home button to the lower connector assembly. This simplifies the task of removing the front panel.

Familiar internal hardware layout: The 5C shares the same general hardware layout as the iPhone 5 and 5S, but there are both differences and similarities -- outlined below.

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Better battery than iPhone 5, but no removal tab: The 5C has a slightly higher-capacity battery than the 5, but a lower-capacity battery than the 5S. And like the 5S, it lacks the battery removal pull tab found on the iPhone 5.

Unique camera mount: The 5C's camera is covered with a metal bracket. The 5 has no bracket and the 5S' camera is covered with a rubber flap.

Motherboard similar to iPhone 5S: While the 5C may have the same A6 processor as last year's iPhone 5, the main system board has the same general design and connector placement as the 5S. You can't swap this board out for the one on your old iPhone 5.

Speaker and connector assembly similar to iPhone 5: One bit of 5C hardware that is more like its counterpart on the 5 than the 5S is the external-speaker-and-lower-connector assembly. This isn't surprising given the 5S' new Home button with integrated fingerprint reader.

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Same Retina Display and new FaceTime camera: All three phones have the same Retina Display, but like the 5S, the 5C has an upgraded FaceTime camera and redesigned screen connectors. The Home button (and its pressure contacts) are more like those on the iPhone 5.

Main board shields soldered in place: Unfortunately, like the boards in the iPhone 5 and 5S, the EMI/RFI shields are soldered in place.

Case components held in place with screws/adhesive: Unfortunately, the external speaker, Lightning connector, headphone jack, vibration motor, flash, and a bevy of connector wires are held to the case with a mix of screws and adhesive. If any of these components gets damaged, removing and replacing it is possible -- just not easy.

Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

More than an iPhone 5 clone, still a pain to repair
I'm glad Apple took the opportunity to not just give the iPhone 5C a new case, but also upgrade the phone's hardware and tweak the phone's internal design. And while it's still no walk in the park to crack open, the 5C is no more difficult to work on than the iPhone 5 or 5S.

About the author

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.

 

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