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iPhone 5s vs iPhone 5c review

Verdict

For iPhone owners looking to upgrade, the choice is a simple one – buy the 5s, not the 5c

Review Date: 30 Sep 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: iPhone 5s: 16GB, £458 (£549 inc VAT); 32GB £524 (£629 inc VAT); 64GB, £591 (£709 inc VAT); from free on a £38/mth, 24mth contract. iPhone 5c: 16GB, £391 (£469 inc VAT); 32GB, £458 (£549 inc VAT); from free on a £31/mth, 24mth contract

Apple stepped out of its comfort zone when it launched the iPhone 5c alongside the iPhone 5s in September. It was the first time the company had debuted more than one new smartphone at an event, putting iPhone owners in a quandary.

In years gone by it was always a question of when to upgrade and how much storage to opt for. Now there’s another decision to make: which model do you buy?

Design

At first glance, the new iPhones look dramatically different. While the 5c is hewn from brightly coloured polycarbonate, the 5s comes in a trio of stylish, understated metal finishes. In the hand, though, they’re both unmistakably iPhones. The ports, switches, buttons and speaker grilles all sit in familiar locations, and the dimensions are similar to the previous version too.

The 5c and 5s are only separated by a millimeter or so all round, with the biggest difference being weight and thickness. The 5c is 1.4mm thicker than the 5s, and 20g heavier. Apple’s decision to stick with 4in screens means that both phones remain among the most pocketable smartphones on the market.

In terms of feel, however, the two units couldn’t be more different. The 5c’s plastic case feels sturdy and well constructed – thanks largely to a steel endoskeleton – but it doesn't ooze the same high-end charm as the 5s, which carries the gleaming aluminium chassis of its predecessor. With the 5s adding a new "Space Grey" colour to the mix, and a surprisingly tasteful gold version, the 5s is in a different class entirely – it’s unmistakably luxurious.

Touch ID and display

The most interesting difference between the two handsets is the iPhone 5s' fingerprint sensor, which is built into the home button. Used to unlock the phone and authorise iTunes purchases, it’s a far cry from the unreliable swipe sensors we’ve seen built into business laptops over the years.

iPhone 5s vs iPhone 5c

Once you’ve registered a thumb or finger with the phone, it’s a simple matter of resting a digit on the button to unlock or enter your password. It works reliably and is genuinely convenient.

The screen is the same on both handsets, and in terms of quality it still holds its own. It’s a 4in, 640 x 1,136 Retina-class display with a pixel density of 326ppi, and with a maximum brightness in excess of 500cd/m2 on each, it’s readable in all but the most extreme conditions – even bright sunlight.

iPhone 5s vs iPhone 5c

Whether or not 4in is big enough in this day and age is another question entirely. Next to competitors from HTC and Samsung, both handsets look tiny, and for some jobs – browsing the web and typing long text messages, for instance – both feel comparatively cramped in use.

Cameras

On paper there doesn’t look to be all that much to separate the cameras: the resolution is 8-megapixels on the rear and 1.2-megapixels on the front for both. It’s only by looking at the specifications, and the images side by side, that you begin to notice the differences.

The iPhone 5s' rear camera has a 15% larger sensor than that of the 5c, and a wider aperture at f/2.2 compared to the 5c's f/2.4. This suggests superior light-gathering capability, and should lead to cleaner snaps in low light. The 5s also has an improved flash, dubbed True Tone, which uses a secondary, coloured LED with the idea to produce more balanced indoor photos.

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User comments

Which should you buy?

Neither

By valeofyork on 1 Oct 2013

If I were buying an iPhone now

The savings on the 5c just wouldn't seem worth it. It would be 5s for me, every time.

But the iPhone's screen just isn't big enough for me. Maybe the iPhone 6 will have that promised bigger screen?

By Alfresco on 1 Oct 2013

I am buying an iPhone now

The 5s is the only sensible choice if you're in the Apple camp. Personally I don't buy into the bigger and bigger screens. I'm happy with the user experience and quality of hardware. But my plea is better battery life! This obsession for lighter and lighter phones seems odd to me. I've not found any of the smartphones to be too heavy. Keep the weight and size for battery and I'm happy. Anyone who cracks genuinely improved battery life can have my hard earned cash!

By Mistermcee on 1 Oct 2013

@Mistermcee

I'd agree I like the iPhone for its size, wouldn't want it bigger.

Better Battery life and for me some degree of Waterproofing built in by default would both be the way forward for iPhone 6.

By Gindylow on 1 Oct 2013

Waterproofing

iOS seven gives you what you need:
See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/103304
14/iOS-7-users-destroy-iPhones-after-fake-waterpro
of-advert.html

By mnfisherfi on 1 Oct 2013

@SellMyMobile

Most phones seem to be overpriced these days, but I wouldn't say that any of them are rubbish. I happen to like the S4 and the iPhone 5S, as they both have some great features. Both these phones have a massive cult following, I guess it comes to personal preference.

By sellmymobile on 1 Oct 2013

Cases fit both but no use without battery case

I had an iPhone 5 and I just upgraded to a 5S. I can verify with a certainty that the cases fit both models. However the 5S battery life is even worse than 5 and there's no way I'd be able to go the whole day without the battery case I got from AlphaBolt ( http://www.alphabolt.com/apple/iphone/iphone-5s.ht
ml )

By Psychonautic on 1 Oct 2013

@valeofyork

Drat! You beat me to it! :)

By Grunthos on 2 Oct 2013

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