While Apple has continued to dominate in the top-end smartphone space, it's rapidly been losing ground to chief competitor Google in the overall phone market. This is because in recent years, Android's ability to target multiple price points, including the sub-£100 space has allowed it to become the most used mobile operating system in the world, with it proving a hit with business buyers on a budget and emerging markets just beginning to widely adopt smartphones.
For this reason, when rumours first broke that Apple was planning to release an affordable iPhone interest peaked, with the predicted move showing the Californian company wasn't going to take Android's success lying down and would fight for its share of the enterprise and emerging markets. However, come unveiling time, many hopes of a truly affordable iPhone were dashed, when Apple confirmed the lower end iPhone 5C will still cost a fairly premier £469. Costing just £80 less than the top-end iPhone 5S, it's more than reasonable to wonder what reason there is to buy the lower end iOS smartphone.
The iPhone 5C is debatably one of the most visually striking iOS smartphones ever released. This is because Apple's taken a page out of Windows Phone champion Nokia's book, releasing it in a multitude of bright colour options. This makes the iPhone 5C look a little like a throwback to Apple's pre-Ive iMac G3 design philosophy.
The iMac G3 feel is compounded by the 5C's use of plastic as opposed to metal, with the cheaper iPhone featuring a single piece wrap-around plastic chassis and coming with a multitude of clip-on plastic cases, which will set you back £25 each.
The iPhone 5C is also a little larger than most iPhones, measuring in at 124x59x8.97mm and weighing 132g. This makes it thicker and heavier than the 124x59x7.6mm 5S and 112g iPhone 5S and could be a sticking point for Apple fans, used to slender and sleek metallic handsets.
On the screen front, Apple's loaded the 5C with the same 4in 1136x640, 326ppi Retina display as the iPhone 5. While the iPhone 5 is a year old, the inclusion of the display is no bad thing as even now, in a brave new world where smartphone screens regularly break the 400ppi threshold, Apple's Retina display is still one of the best currently available. In the past all Apple Retina displays have been wonderfully crisp, bright and vibrant and boasted great viewing angles. In fact to date the only smartphones we've seen offering better displays are the more expensive HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 Android smartphones. For this reason, even in its £469 price bracket, we're thinking the 5C's screen will remain one of the best available.
The iPhone 5C will come running Apple's latest iOS 7 operating system. Apple claims the OS is its biggest mobile software update to date.
Apple lists the update as featuring over 200 new features and changes. Thus far, having had a brief go with developer versions, key changes we noticed include updates to the fonts, a new 'flat' design and quick settings menu. The quick settings menu works a little like the peak feature on Android and can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. The OS will also boast a new card-based, multi-tasking system, an updated Safari web browser and a revamped photo gallery.
Processor and performance
The 5C runs using the same Appl dual-core 1.3GHz A6 chipset as the iPhone 5C. While not on paper as fast as many of the more up to date Qualcomm and Nvidia chips used by most Android phones, in the past we've found the A6 is still a very nippy processor. This is because Apple works to optimise its software with its parts, meaning it can get more out of them. As a result, in our experience, even though the iPhone features on paper lower specs than other top-end Android smartphones, it can still match and often beat them on performance. We're guessing this will remain true on the iPhone 5C.
Apple's loaded the iPhone 5C with the same 8MP rear-facing camera as the iPhone 5, but has paired it with an upgraded, 1.9MP Facetime HD front camera. This could be a bit of an issue as the iPhone 5's camera, while good, didn't match up to other top-end handsets, like the Nokia Lumia 925 or HTC One, which both boast significantly more shot options and better low-light performance.
Battery and storage
Apple lists the iPhone 5C as having 10 hours' talk time battery life on 3G. If accurate the phone will boast one of the best battery lifes available, with most phones still struggling to make it a whole day off one charge with even moderately heavy use.
In terms of storage the iPhone 5C is available in 16GB and 32GB models. The 16GB model will cost £469 and the 32GB £549 SIM-free.
Summing up, the iPhone 5C is basically a plastic slightly updated, moderately cheaper iPhone 5. The only real changes are its iMac-esque plastic design, slightly updated front camera and the use of Apple's latest iOS 7 operating system - which really isn't that much of a boon for existing iPhone users looking to upgrade as its set to be available for download on the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 from 18 September.
The fact the iPhone 5C isn't a radical upgrade wouldn't be too much of a problem were it not for its hefty £469 starting price. While it will undoubtedly sell well, by pricing the 5C so highly it won't be the game changer businesses embedded in Apple's Mac OS and iOS ecosystem are waiting for.
The Apple iPhone 5C is set for release in the UK on 20 September. Check back with V3 then for a full written review.
Written by V3's Alastair Stevenson
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