For the first time ever, two new iPhones have been unveiled at the same time. The iPhone 5S replaces the iPhone 5 as Apple’s flagship handset, while the iPhone 5C is targeted at a slightly more budget-conscious audience.
We compare the two mobiles on their design, pricing and key features to decide which iPhone you’re better off buying.
How to buy the best mobile phone – our expert guide
iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C – video
iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C – design
Plastic casing for the iPhone 5C
Available in five bright colours with a 4-inch Retina display screen, the iPhone 5C is Apple’s iPhone equivalent of the iPod Nano. Design-wise, this is no bad thing. It will certainly catch the attention of the younger audience it’s targetting and, at a weight of 135g, this handset will certainly sit comfortably in your hand.
Aluminium again for the iPhone 5S
Just as the iPhone 4S featured the same design as the iPhone 4, the iPhone 5S is almost a carbon copy of the iPhone 5. Technically speaking, it’s an aluminium copy as that’s the material its shell is comprised of. Weighing 112g and featuring a 4-inch Retina display screen, you’ll struggle to tell the difference between the two handsets. Unless you buy the new gold-coloured iPhone 5S.
Which? expert verdict – ‘I prefer aluminium’
The iPhone 5 was a fantastically designed handset, probably the best looking iPhone yet. Although the iPhone 5C’s sprightly design marks a refreshing change from Apple’s usual aesthetic, I still prefer the iPhone 5S. An aluminium finish feels more premium.
Rob Leedham – online writer
iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C – three key features
No fingerprint scanner for the iPhone 5C – the iPhone 5S’ most notable feature is its security-minded fingerprint scanner. This all but erases the need for a passcode on your mobile, but its usefulness depends on whether you have one already. A fingerprint scanner is absent from the iPhone 5C, so owners of this cheaper alternative will have to make do with an old fashioned combination of text and numbers to protect their personal data.
£469 for an iPhone 5C 16GB, £549 for an iPhone 5S – the iPhone 5C is designed to be cheap, or at least cheaper than the iPhone 5S. It is, but by a less than emphatic £80 margin. More significantly, the 5C is more expensive to buy SIM-free than the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One. In both our fastest phone and battery life tests, these handsets beat the iPhone 5 convincingly. That said, the iPhone 5S and 5C are said by Apple to offer an improved battery performance. We’ll see just how improved in our lab testing.
An improved 8-megapixel camera – both iPhones feature an 8Mp camera. The iPhone 5S’ snapper has bigger pixels and a second LED flash, which should allow for better photos in tricky conditions. The iPhone 5C has the same rear-facing camera that’s found in the iPhone 5 and has proved to fare badly in our low light testing.
Which? expert verdict – ‘The iPhone 5C? Still too expensive’
With the iPhone 5C, Apple has essentially repackaged last year’s iPhone 5 in a cheaper plastic case and still managed to produce a handset that’s more expensive than almost any Android mobile. Simply put, it’s not worth £469.
If you’ve only got eyes for an iPhone, then the 5S is a much better deal. Pay an extra £80 and you’ll enjoy a superior camera, faster processor and the fun of unlocking your mobile with a fingerprint. I can’t think of an obvious benefit in saving what is a relatively small amount of money in the short term to put up with a lesser phone for two years.
Looking at the iPhone 5S in the broader context of its competitors, I’ll be extremely interested to see how it fares in our lab testing. Can it better the Nokia Lumia 1020’s camera? Will it prove faster than Samsung’s Galaxy S4? Is its screen as dazzling as the Sony Xperia Z1?
Apple needs the iPhone 5S to provide a stern riposte to these questions in order to justify its high price. I suspect it won’t.
Rob Leedham – online writer