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Apple iPhone 5c Review

on October 28, 2013 – 11:48 amNo Comment

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Here comes the new iPhone, the harbinger of colorful and affordable iOS running smartphone goodness for all. But hey, its not all that cheap is it? What was expected to be a low cost iPhone for the masses ended up being an iPhone 5 with a colorful plastic shell. Who is the iPhone 5c for ? Does it merit a second glance? We explore this and more in our review of the Apple iPhone 5c.

Video Review

There’s not much that has changed in the design of the iPhone 5c yet it can be termed as all new. The silhouette of the handset is unmistakably that of an iPhone. Once you pick it up though, things change a bit. Available in a range of pastel shades that includes cyan, green, yellow, pink and white, this is a departure from the subdued and stately silver and black aluminum of the iPhone 5.

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The finish is glossy and attracts both fingerprints and scratches. However Apple has managed to make the iPhone 5c feel as solid as the handset it replaces despite using materials that weigh lesser. Buttons including the power/lock key, mute switch, volume rockers are in the same color as the handset that leads to a uniform finish. Lending structural support is a steel frame under the monocoque shell. The handset despite being fractionally larger than the iPhone 5, manages to remain just as ergonomically sound. The glossy plastic shell wraps around the glass front of the phone which houses the 4 inch retina display on the phone. This is the same panel as the one on the iPhone 5.

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At the top there’s the lone sleep/wake switch. Moving to the right side of the phone, there’s not much going on here. Over at the left however is where things get busy. You’ll spot the mute toggle switch at the top. Below this is are the volume rockers and further down is the nano SIM card slot.

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Apple decided not to use the Touch ID sensor from the iPhone 5s and this looks like a ploy to create an arbitrary gap between the two devices. The standard button looks and feels the same as the one on the iPhone 5.

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In a move that is generally seen only on Apple products, the headphone jack is at the bottom of the phone. To the right side is the speaker grille. Volume output is just about adequate though you’ll be disappointed if you expect to play music from your iPhone. There’s a lightening port connector in the middle flanked on either side by the speaker grille and headphone jack. The lightening port is used for charging, transferring data and is also the dock connector.

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Over at the back is where you see the first splash of color. You’ll spot a high quality plastic back cover with a hyper gloss finish here. Set into the plastic is the shiny silver Apple logo towards the top. The FCC ID and accompanying text is written in black and is placed below the iPhone text. Over at the top left corner is the 8MP AF capable camera. That wraps up the walkthrough of what’s changed on the hardware front. Its essentially the same design with the aluminum back replaced by a plastic one. Despite weighing slightly more than the iPhone 5 and feeling equally dense, the plastic just doesn’t feel as premium as the aluminum used on other iPhones.

Software

The biggest change this time is the new iOS update that has been bumped up to version 7. If you had any doubts, you can put them to rest them as iOS 7 appears to have been designed hand in hand with the iPhone 5c. The colorful interface fits like a glove into the design scheme of the iPhone 5c.

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The interface has been ‘flattened’ out and Apple has done a pretty good job of cleaning out the cruft. Fonts look exceedingly clean and though we’re not fans of the colors for new icons, the subtle gradients look very crisp and beautiful. The slide to unlock graphic on the lock screen is now just a floating text element. You can swipe up the camera icon to head to the camera app directly. Basic interface navigation is still the same as always but most of the apps have got an overhaul. Skeuomorphism is gone for the most part.

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The pull down shade has got an overhaul and now you can sort out notifications in three distinct ways. You can see events from the current day, all the days and just missed notifications. This is a very welcome addition and is well implemented. The calendar text placed right on top however is just a bit too large and we wish Apple would’ve gone for a smaller font. The other addition is the control panel that is activated by swiping up from bottom. Android users might claim that Apple has ripped it off from Google’s OS but the end result is added functionality for users and that’s always a good thing. The control panel has direct toggles for aircraft mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, Rotation lock. A brightness slider is placed below the toggles under which is a music player widget. You can launch AirDrop and AirPlay directly from here alongside the Torch, Clock, Calendar and Camera apps. The added functionality is definitely welcome but we’d have preferred to see this area being customizable. As such, it appears a bit cluttered and the color scheme isn’t very easy on the eyes either.

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There’s no doubt that iOS 7 is a major update and rethinking of iOS. Apple has completely overhauled the interface that was pioneered with the first generation iPhone but improvements are not just on the surface. There are changes all around with some being more visible than others. You can now have as many items as you want in folders as you want. There is a spruced up keyboard. Siri too has got an interface overhaul and can now search Wikipedia, Twitter. Multitasking has been improved with what Apple claims to be intelligent background updates. The OS learns your usage patterns and over time, will have your data updated for you right when you will (likely) need it. This is great in theory but wasn’t particularly effective in actual usage.

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While the camera module remains the same as the one in the iPhone 5, the interface has got a fresh coat of paint that also brings with it some additional capabilities. You can now shoot images in a 1:1 (square) format as opposed to just the 4:3 shots from before. There’s of course the built in panorama mode. A wide variety of filters can also be applied on images and these can be previewed in real time showing off the power of the A6 processor in the phone. Over all, iOS7 is a major rethinking of the interface that keeps the essentials the same in the name of familiarity. This isn’t a bad thing either as the iPhone has traditionally had one of the best user experiences. That said, we’re not fans of the color scheme and found the interface a bit too bright for our liking. With the latest update, Apple has added the ability to switch off animations which goes a long way in making the interface a bit more likeably.

Performance

While we usually put Android devices through a littany of benchmarks to guage performance, there’s really no point in doing that with the iPhone 5c. The phone is as fast as you’d expect it to be and perhaps faster still. This is the same high performance handset as last year’s flagship just in a new shell. Powered by the Apple A6 processor, it is a 1.3Ghz dual core CPU paired with PowerVR SGX543MP3 graphics. There’s 1GB of RAM onboard. Absolutely anything you throw at it will run without a hitch including the latest games. Given Apple’s long support cycles and their commitment to bring iOS 7 to devices as old as the iPhone 4, buyers can rest assured that the phone is definitely powerful enough to last them a few years if needed.

Display

The screen on the iPhone 5c is again the same Retina display panel as that on the iPhone 5. The resolution is 1136×640 on a 4 inch IPS panel. Pixel density is a crisp 326 ppi.
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The screen is bright (perhaps a bit too bright with iOS7!) and displays excellent viewing angles. Color rendering is tuned more towards natural tones which may make the display appear a bit dull compared to AMOLED or SLCD3 panels. All in all, the screen on the iPhone 5c is an excellent panel that is now starting to appear a bit too small and we’d definitely love to see a size bump in next year’s revision.

Camera

There’s not much changed around here as you’d expect by now. The rear camera module is practically the same as the one on the iPhone 5 though the front facing camera has been bumped up to a 1.2MP BSI sensor.

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The camera module has an 8MP BSI sensor. A five element f/2.4 AF lens and this has an inbuilt hybrid IR filter. There’s a sapphire glass cover for the camera module and an LED flash next to it. Unfortunately, this LED flash is not the True Tone flash that is equipped on the iPhone 5s.

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The iPhone 5c like the iPhone 5 shoots surprisingly good images in day light. These are not in the same league as the Lumia 1020 or the Xperia Z1 of course but the camera module resolves a surprising amount of detail. The built in HDR mode is very effective in scenarios where the limited dynamic range proves to be a hindrance.

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Colors tend to be slightly muted but the phone generally takes very pleasing images

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Noise levels are kept under control even in not so great lighting and the phone is particularly good with getting a focus lock in adverse lighting scenarios. These lighting conditions also show how the HDR mode can bring out just a bit more details from the shots especially from the darker corners.

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The camera does disappoint a bit in night time outdoor shots because of its poor high ISO performance. The camera takes very noisy images which might appear fine on the phone’s screen but viewing them full size gives you the true picture.

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The iPhone 5c can also shoot Full HD video clips as you’d expect. Image quality is very good though the camera loses out on the fancy 720p 120FPS video capabilities. 

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Video is recorded at 30 frames per second with mono audio. While the audio recording might not blow you away, the video files recorded at 16Mbps are particularly pleasing. There’s no CAF onboard unfortunately so you’ll have to still tap the display to shift focus. You also lose automatic exposure correction in panoramas, 10FPS burst mode and auto image stabilization compared to the iPhone 5s. Overall the camera shoots vibrant, detailed and pleasing images. The camera is not meant for serious mobile photographers and is rather aimed at the average user who’ll be able to take  a good shot without fiddling around the settings and this really is true for the rest of the iPhone too.

Connectivity and Battery Life

The iPhone 5c comes with dual band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n support. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.0, aGPS and GLONASS. While these are standard features across devices, the biggest leap through comes in the form of LTE bands support. Across 4 SKUs, the phone supports 13bands which means you should be able to connect to LTE networks practically anywhere. Theres the standard quad band GSM/EDGE radio as well onboard.

The battery is an improvement over the one on the iPhone 5 and is rated at 1507mAh compared to the 1440 mAh battery on the older model. Longevity is one area where the iPhone is definitely king and we could easily get a day of heavy usage out of it. Two days of light usage was also possible. The best perhaps is the extremely low amount of battery drain with the screen switched off. Given how the iPhone delivers battery life similar to devices with double the battery capacities, we were very impressed here.

Conclusion

The iPhone 5c is more than just a cosmetic upgrade once you look beyond the vibrant shell. It is easy to dismiss the phone by saying that the upgrade is like putting lipstick on a pig but we’d refrain from doing that. 

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The phone combines the power of the iPhone 5’s innards with the colorful shells that are all the rage lately. The phone is not a revolution but displays how Apple is willing to flex its marketing muscle and aim right at the competition when it wants. Put that aside and is the iPhone 5c worth looking at? It is definitely not an upgrade for iPhone 5 users and given the almost negligible price difference between the 5c and 5s , new buyers would be better served by the iPhone 5s with its new camera features and the forward looking Touch ID. The iPhone 5c is aimed at those who want some color in their life and don’t really care about top of the line features. The new iPhone 5c is priced at Rs. 41,900 for the 16GB variant while the 32GB version is available Rs. 53,500.

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Dhruv Bhutani is a technology enthusiast who is always in sync with the latest and greatest in tech. He is currently using a Nokia Lumia 1020, HTC Butterfly S and whatever device he is reviewing at the moment. Suomirock ftw! . Catch him on Twitter @DhruvBhutani , you can also reach out on Facebook or .