I swear, if there’s a question I get asked more often than any it’s, “Should I buy an iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c?” Both phones have their merits and both, deceptively, are extremely similar in some aspects and couldn’t be more different in others. So let’s take a look at each and find out which is right for you.
First let’s look at the raw specs of each phone.
Screen: 4 inch 640×1136 pixels at 326 ppi
Material: Machined aluminum
Colors: Silver, Space Grey, or Gold
Weight: 112 grams
Dimensions: 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm
Processors: Apple A7 64-bit 1.3GHz dual-core, M7 motion co-processor
Cameras: 8 Megapixel rear camera, 1.2 Megapixel front camera
Connectivity: 3G, 4G, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Got that? Let’s move on then.
Design, Display, and Build
A lot of people assume the iPhone 5s must have a better screen than the 5c, but in fact each use the exact same display. Each has the same 4-inch LED backlit Retina display with a resolution of 640×1136 at 326 ppi. There is absolutely no difference between them.
However on the cosmetic department the differences couldn’t be more striking. The iPhone 5s is made of a machined aluminum and comes in one of three colors: Silver, Space Grey, or Gold. The iPhone 5c is made of a plastic shell that comes in White, Pink, Yellow, Blue, or Green.
And though we tend to think that metal always weighs more than plastic, the iPhone 5s comes in at 20 grams lighter than the 5c at 112 grams versus 132 grams respectively. That extra weight mostly comes from the 5c’s dimensions. Due to aluminum being able to be made thinner than plastic, the 5s is almost 1mm thinner in both height and width and a full 1.3mm thinner in depth--and yes, you do notice the difference.
Processors, Storage, and RAM
Looking underneath the hood of the phones you find more differences that aren’t visible externally. Perhaps the biggest difference is in the processor powering each phone. The iPhone 5s has the latest A7 chipset--a 64-bit, dual core chip that smokes the chip that’s found inside the 5c, which is last generation’s 32-bit dual core A6. Though both chips run at 1.3GHz, the 64-bit awesomeness of the A7 puts the A6 to shame. You’ll especially notice this in processor-intensive apps like Keynote and games and graphics apps.
And if the A7 wasn’t a big enough difference for you, the 5s also includes the the M7 motion co-processor. The M7 motion co-processor’s sole job is to measure motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass--something which in the past would have been the A7’s job. The immediate advantage this co-processor provides is a whopping savings on battery life because the A7 doesn’t have to be constantly engaged anymore to measure motion data. The M7 handles all that in the background much more efficiently.
What’s more, however, is that the M7 is so sensitive it can tell the difference between when you are walking, running, sitting, or driving. This means apps that support the M7--like many fitness apps--can give you a more accurate reading of how many calories you are burning since they can now tell what activity you are doing while moving. Fitness apps also no longer need to be actively engaged to record your motion. Since the M7 is always recording motion data in the background, you can launch a fitness app after you started moving and it will look at the data from the M7 and update your stats appropriately.
If you are a fitness fanatic the M7 makes clear that the iPhone 5s is the only iPhone for you.
Another difference the phones offer are in their storage. The iPhone 5c comes in 8, 16, and 32 GB models while the iPhone 5s comes in 16, 32, and 64 GB models. Here the only difference is one offers a low end and one offers a high end the other doesn’t.
But as for RAM, each iPhone offers the exact same type and amount: 1 GB of LPDDR2-1066 RAM.
Sensors, Connectivity, and Battery
In the connectivity and battery department the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c are exactly the same as well. Both offer Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, including full support for Apple’s AirPlay and AirDrop clients, and the usual 2G, 3G, 4G, GPS, and GLONASS connectivity standards. The battery in each phone is the exact same as well: a 1560 mAh cell that will give you 10 hours of talktime on 3G and 8 hours on 4G. Hardwired connectivity on each phone is the same as well. Each supports a 3.5mm headphone jack and the Lightning connector.
On the sensor front each phone comes with an accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, and ambient light sensor. But the iPhone 5s packs a huge advantage of the 5c in that it has the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Right now this only lets you unlock your iPhone and verify App and iTunes Store purchases with your fingerprint, but in iOS 8 third-party apps will be able to take advantage of Touch ID and there are rumors Apple will unveil a mobile payment service utilizing the sensor. The Touch ID is the latest cutting-edge biometric sensor and only the 5s offers it.
In the camera department the 5s and 5c appear to be the same at first glance but there are actually important differences. Both sport a front FaceTime 1.2MP camera and a rear iSight 8MP camera. The FaceTime camera on each can record 720p HD video and the rear iSight camera on each can record full 1080p HD video.
But when you look more closely at the rear iSight camera you’ll see subtle, yet important differences. The iSight camera on the 5s features a ƒ/2.2 aperture, which means it can detect more light, resulting in better pictures. The 5c has an aperture of ƒ/2.4. The 5s also has a True Tone flash, which means the color of the flash differs depending on what type of light is needed for the best picture. The 5c only offers a standard LED flash. The iSight camera on the 5s also offers added features like auto image stabilization and Burst mode. Additionally the FaceTime camera on the 5s allows you to record slow-motion video.
Price and Verdict
An iPhone 5s off-contract will cost you £549 (16GB), £629 (32GB), and £709 (£64GB). An iPhone 5c off-contract will cost you £429 (8GB), £469 (16GB), and £549 (£32GB).
Looking at the two models of the same storage--the 16 and 32GB versions--the iPhone 5s comes in at £80 more than the 5c.But for that extra £80 you get a massive upgrade: a 64-bit A7 processor, the M7 motion coprocessor, the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, a marginally improved camera--albeit with a much better flash--and a thinner, lighter, machine-crafted aluminum body.
Given all its advantages--and given that iOS 8 is set to majorly take advantage of both the M7 and Touch ID--something that the iPhone 5c lacks--I strongly believe that, if you can afford the slight hike in price, no one should buy an iPhone 5c. Always opt for the iPhone 5s. It’s future proof for another few years while the 5c is already dated.