After our brief encounter with the iPhone 5c, we have our final verdict on Apple’s ‘old wine’. Available in five bright colours of your choosing, the 5c has a very specific demographic in mind unlike its predecessor. With just minor improvements in the battery department, the iPhone 5c is essentially an iPhone 5 that’s dressed to impress. With prices starting at Rs 41,900, how does a phone, that’s a year old even before it went on sale, compete with the current flagship Android and Windows Phone 8 handsets?
Design and Build
The glossy, plastic shell brings back memories of the iPhone 3G and 3GS but it feels a lot sturdier and of better quality. Fingerprints are going to be a nightmare and it’s a task to keep the phone looking squeaky clean. We received the pink variant which I imagine is something Paris Hilton would approve of. The surface is also prone to scratches so buying a case for it would be a good idea. The self-coloured buttons are also plastic but feel well put together and aren’t fiddly. We have a mono speaker at the bottom, Lightning port and the 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s a nano-SIM slot on the side, but no provision for a microSD card.
The new colours goes well with iOS 7
Overall, the 5c scores big points for its sturdy construction despite the plastic/polycarbonate shell. The new surface is quite slippery so it really helps that the phone is small enough to easily manage with one hand. We also liked the fact that the 5c is heavier than the 5, which feels better to hold.
Plastic-clad but still pretty good
There’s really nothing new in the features department as it’s pretty much identical to the 5. The 4-inch IPS Retina display never gets old however and is still a pleasure to use. Sunlight legibility is very good and colours are sharp and vibrant with good viewing angles. I did have a problem with the size of the display however. Maybe it’s just me coming off countless 5-inch phones that I test day in and day out but I found typing on the 5c quite a task at first. You eventually get used to it but it will take time, especially if you’re switching from something like a Galaxy Note.
A refreshingly new look
The A6 chip aboard the 5c is still pretty spiffy for menial tasks and handles iOS 7 pretty well. However, it does show its age a bit during complex animations like switching between landscape and portrait mode, where there’s some noticeable stutter. The dual-core CPU is still very capable though and easily puts up a good show against Android flagships. Gaming is not the 5c’s strong suite as we got a pretty low score in 3DMark. Compared to some of the Androids that are priced much lower, the 5c lags far behind in terms of graphical prowess.
The CPU manages to keep up with today's flagships
Gaming perormance isn't the best however
iOS 7 is a breath of fresh air and is just what Apple needed. We’ve already done an in-depth coverage of all the new features it brings so we’ll focus on features that we wish were present. For instance, you can only share images from the Photos app to either other iOS 7 devices via Air Drop or fixed apps like messaging, Facebook, Mail or Twitter. You don’t have the option to upload to Dropbox or share it via Bluetooth right from the Photos app, which is inconvenient at times. Siri’s new interface is pretty cool but it still doesn’t understand our accent as well as Google Now does in the Nexus 5. There is a lot you can tweak in the settings menu however and customise which apps are allowed to send notifications, etc. It’s also a painless experience syncing all you Google mail, contacts, calendar, etc. If you don’t like the default mail client then there’s always the Gmail app.
There’s still a restriction on the type of audio and video codecs that are supported but we’ve gotten used to that now. The 16GB variant gives you 13.32GB of usable space, which is manageable provided you selectively store music and videos. The earphones or EarPods as Apple likes to call them, are surprisingly good if you can get them to sit in your ears for a minute at a time. When held in place in the correct position, they actually deliver really good audio quality with deep bass, almost as good as in-ear monitors. The trouble is you can never really get a comfortable fit, at least I couldn’t.
Slick new music player
The new music player gets a complete cosmetic overhaul while still remaining functionally similar to the previous version. The stock video player only supports MP4 files so any other format will need to be converted, unless you use a third party app.
The iPhone 5c is a LTE capable phone along with support for quad-band 3G and 2G. Call quality is good and the two microphones do a great job at noise cancellation. We also didn’t experience any dropped calls. Other connectivity options includes dual-band Wi-Fi ‘n’, Bluetooth v4.0, A-GPS and GLONASS, USB 2.0 via the Lightning connector and TV-out via the headphone jack. Web pages are quick to render and the same goes for Maps.
Internet apps work well
Here, we have the same 8MP iSight camera which is incredibly fast when it comes to focussing and capturing the image. You can even fire up the camera app from the lockscreen with a simple swipe from the right. The interface is not as Plain Jane as before and we now have new effects to choose from as well. Pictures look really good on the phone’s display but once blown up, they aren’t great when compared to today’s flagship smartphones. Indoor shots appear quite grainy under ambient light. You can have a look at the camera comparison with the Nexus 5 right here.
The new camera UI
Good at macros
Can't say the same about indoors
For a 1510mAh battery, the iPhone 5c puts on a very good show as you can easily expect up to two days of battery life. Even after completing our rigorous 8-hour loop test, we had about 25 percent battery to spare.
Verdict and Price in India
The iPhone 5c starts at Rs 41,900 for the 16GB model, which is good keeping in mind the iPhone 5 launched at a much higher price last year. Since the 5c is nothing more than a plastic iPhone 5 and a slightly bigger battery, it makes for a good deal. We recommend this over the 32GB as that’s absurdly priced and in that range you’re better off with the 5s instead. In fact, if you have an existing iPhone 4, you could avail a neat little discount for the 5c, which is Apple’s way of boosting its sales.
But what if you aren’t an existing iPhone user? Does the 5c make sense if this is your first high-end smartphone purchase? Not really, and that’s because the 5c is essentially a year old and we feel this is too high a price for that. The price would have still been somewhat acceptable had Apple used the faster A6X chip in the 5c, but they didn’t. If you’re even considering an iPhone in the first place, chance are you’re well off, in which case it makes sense to fork out a little more and buy the more superior iPhone 5s. And that’s exactly what majority of buyers are doing which explains the poor sales of the 5c. Around Rs 40,000, you have much better options from the Android camp like the Samsung Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z1 and the LG G2.
Overall, the iPhone 5c is a compelling buy if you opt for Apple’s buyback scheme but other than that, it’s simply too expensive for what is essentially a one-year-old phone.
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