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Apple iPhone 5C review: Apple iPhone 5C

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The Good Attractive, colourful design; Easy to use iOS 7 software; Enough power for most tasks; Decent battery life.

The Bad Top-end 5S is not much more expensive; Same size and resolution as previous models; Camera struggles in low light.

The Bottom Line Its colourful, pocket-friendly body and easy to use software makes the iPhone 5C a good choice for smart phone novices, but with only a small price gap between this and the considerably more powerful 5S, the 5C isn't the budget iPhone we hoped it would be.

7.5 Overall

Too long have Apple's iPhones been living in a black and white world. The iPhone 5C is the first iPhone to be available in a host of different colours -- Apple has replaced the metal, one-piece body of the iPhone 5 with a curved plastic case.

Rumours suggested that the plastic iPhone would be the first budget model from Apple. With a starting price of £469 however, it turns out those rumours weren't exactly accurate. That price will snag you the 16GB model, or you can splash out £549 for 32GB of storage.

The iPhone 5C, and its pricier sibling, the 5S, are available now SIM-free from Apple or you can get the 5C free from £29 per month on a two-year contract. My review model was supplied by Vodafone who has the 5C free on 4G contracts starting from £42 per month.

Should I buy the iPhone 5C?

If you've recently been looking at Nokia's colourful Lumia phones with a pang of jealousy at their fun, lively paint jobs, but don't want to leave the iOS app store behind, the 5C might be right up your alley. Its plastic body doesn't feel as luxurious as the metal 5 or 5S, but it's cute and pretty sturdy.

Apple iPhone 5C front

The plastic iPhone 5C is colourful, cute and sturdy, although it doesn't feel as luxurious as the 5S.

It has the same internal specs as the previous iPhone 5 and the camera hasn't been upgraded either. It might be the most affordable new iPhone, but it's certainly not cheap. It's only £80 less than the top-end iPhone 5S, which boasts a considerably more powerful 64-bit processor, improved camera, luxurious metal body and a fingerprint scanner. Unless you particularly want a colourful phone, I'd recommend splashing a little extra cash on the 5S.

If you're after an iPhone on the cheap though, consider the older iPhone 4S. Apple has just released an 8GB model, which will set you back only £349, leaving plenty of change to spend on apps.

Design and build quality

The plastic body of the 5C is a big departure from the one-piece metal construction of the iPhone 5 or the glass-backed iPhone 4 and 4S, so naturally, it looks very different.

It has roughly the same physical proportions to the 5 and 5S -- although slightly fatter -- but the angular edges and machined metal buttons are gone, replaced with glossy, rounded plastic. The back panel is one solid colour too, rather than the two-tone effect seen on the 5. If you picture an iPhone 5 plopped into a plastic case, you're pretty much there.

Apple iPhone 5C back

There's almost no flex in the body and it feels very solid.

The plastic really split opinion in the CNET UK team. Some said that it felt quite cheap, and others argued that, for a plastic phone, it still felt solid and more luxurious than you might expect. There is no question though that the metal 5S both looks and feels like a considerably more premium device -- the 5C, they argued, feels like it should be at least £150 cheaper.

It does at least feel very solid. There's almost no discernible flex in the body and its one-piece design helps avoid any unpleasant creaking in the chassis. It's not removable, which means you can't swap out the battery or expand the memory, but it at least avoids the nasty feeling of peeling off the flimsy back cover from the Galaxy S4.

Apple iPhone 5C display

This is the first time we've seen colour in the iPhone and it's available in pink, green, blue and yellow.

It's not the first time Apple has used colour in its products -- the iPod nanos came in a rainbow of hues and its colourful, plastic-back iMacs brightened many an office that normally housed beige PC towers. It's the first time we've seen colour in the iPhone though. It's available in yellow, blue, green, pink and, if you're not keen on colours, white.

They're all rather muted, pastel shades, rather than the garish colours you'll find on Nokia's Lumia phones. I personally prefer the eye-meltingly bright Lumias -- if nothing else, they stand out from the usual blacks and silvers of other smart phones.


The iPhone 5C keeps the same 4-inch display you'll find on both the iPhone 5 and 5S. It has the same 'retina' resolution too -- 1,136x640 pixels giving 326 pixels per inch. Dedicated Apple fans might be chuffed that it still fits neatly into their hands, but there's no denying that the iPhone is looking increasingly miniature in the ever-expanding Android world.

Apple iPhone 5C display

Colours are very accurate and the display is extremely bright.

While a 5-inch iPhone might be pushing it, a happy compromise could be found at around 4.3 inches. The extra screen space would be great for playing the plethora of games on the iOS app store as well as giving more room for videos and ebooks.

The iPhone's display is still one of the best in the business though. It's extremely bright and has very accurate colours. Samsung's Super AMOLED Galaxy S4 can sometimes be a bit over the top, but the iPhone demonstrates rich tones without looking over-saturated.

iOS 7 software

The iPhone 5C comes with the latest iOS 7 software. It's visually very different from previous versions, with a flat design, loads of bright colours and new app icons. There's no skeuomorphism either -- software that mimics its real-life counterparts -- so Game Centre no longer looks like a roulette table and Notes doesn't look like a desk jotter.

iPhone 5C

iOS 7 has a much more colourful, flat interface with none of the shiny, 3D-effect icons.

The core apps like messaging, calendar and email have all been given a fresh new look too. The design split opinion, but I'm personally very keen on it. It's clean and easy to read and the use of transparent backgrounds looks great. If nothing else, it was about time Apple gave the software a fresh new look.

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