iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C – which phone is better? [video]

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’

Rob Leedham profile imageWith 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

More on this

iOS 7 – five key features
Apple vs Android – the Which? Tech Daily debate
Mobile phone reviews – our verdict on all the latest handsets

Categories: Apple, Smartphones

46 replies

  1. “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.”

    And I suspect it won’t have to.

    1. Paul…“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.”

      ………….as you say, Apple will not have to have to BUT only in the short term. If they continue to demand high prices for below market competition performance , they will quickly loose market share & once that happens, they will be forced to properly compete. Apple pay pretty much the same as their major competitors for all their components from suppliers. Despite this , their products are more expensive & grossly so for their laptop PCs. (more than double the price for effectively just a different operating system) .Once people wake up, they will see Apple for what they are… lots of image building but lack of competitive performance & grossly over -priced.

    2. The thing you have to remember with Apple is that you are not just buying a phone, but you are buying into an ‘Ecosystem’. And although some Android phones are more highly spec’d, it is only the HTC One which comes close in build quality. The revision to iOS7 is very welcome and makes for a very friendly experience and the integration with iTunes / Apple store is extremely seemless.

      Of course that doesn’t mean to say that the Xperia Z1 isn’t a great phone (I am a great Sony fan at heart) and that the S4 and HTC One aren’t great too, but in general, their Ecosystem is far less integrated and easy to use, the simplicity of updates and the fact that you always know an iPhone is easy to upgrade (from a SW perspective) and you have a compelling product which is unrivalled in the way it feels in the hand. (Perhaps the HTCOne and Z1 come closest).

      On the MacBook front, do not be fooled ! The difference between a MacBook and a PC / laptop of any description is gigantic and is easily worth the price. You say it is only the operating system, but again you have to remember that PC manufacturer’s are making a loss on almost everything they sell. Apple makes a profit which it invests which is why you have smartphones and better performing operating systems. A MacBook after 5 years will still perform largely the same as it always did. A Windows laptop (with any version of Windows on it) will always run like a dog after 5 years and doesn’t run that well even when it is new.

    3. I have an iMac 27″ and an iPad 2. Phonewise at the moment a HTC SensationXE and I’m waiting for the HTC One Max. After 2 years of Mac I think its massively over rated and overpriced. I write music and Logic and Garageband are great software and only available for Mac. The so called Eco System is rubbish. To transfer a file from the iPad I have to physically hook up to the iMac and use iTunes, I cant use bluetooth and the so called Eco System will only allow certain files to be transferred. If thats not enough, stuff that is commonplace everywhere else you have to pay a fortune for. eg An SD card reader – which will only read some files – to transfer pics from your camera to the iPad was £40 the last time I looked. Its an expensive Tax you have to pay to be an Apple user with its ecosystem

  2. Available in five bright colours with a 4.9-inch Retina display screen, the iPhone 5C is Apple’s iPhone equivalent of the iPod Nano.

    It has a 4.0-inch screen not 4.9 unfortunately

    1. I don’t want 4.9 screen if you want that get a iPad I love the sreen size, not very expensive really especially in London, definitely go for the gold,much prefer it over my old Samsung which feels so cheap, also get the best apps, interlinked with mac easily best laptop linked with shops and one to one services it all works out much better value

  3. Its a pity that Which has fallen to reporting on subjective matters and not hard facts. Stop messing around – test it and report. I don’t pay a subscription for subjective impressions.

    1. I agree. I want facts, not subjective opinions.

      I get the feeling Which? Is also starting to rely quite heavily on these blogs, too. Many of the comments are simple, groundless opinions.

    2. Hear Hear !
      Test the devices and REPORT THE FACTS!
      I pay my subscription for solid, sound and tested facts.
      If this trend is to continue then the ‘Which’ that i know is in danger of
      losing its target audience.

  4. I see this report has been corrected regarding the screen size of the 5C. Unfortunately, the screen size of the 5S is also incorrect: it measures 4 inches, not 4.87 inches. Rather sloppy reporting, Mr Leedham!
    I do agree that the 5C is ”still too expensive” and, despite being a fan of Apple products, I’m not tempted to add an iPhone to my collection.

  5. It would be interesting for Which to broaden its horizons and look at the excellent Chinese makes now available eg THL and Xiaomi….why this continued adoration of Apple products?If Apple don’t change, I can see the same fate as Microsoft (laurel-sitting!!) I’ve recently bought a THL W200 for £133 Android 4.2.1. Its excellent – on a par with a Samsung S3/4…yet for a fraction of the cost sim-free. With a Virgin sim I spend just £8 per month for 1GB data, 600 mins, unltd texts

    1. Hear hear and well said ‘Whollyandroid’!

      I’m now finding it a little tiresome that ‘Which?’ seems to be devoted to Apple products which smacks somewhat of elitism esp in comparison with some newly emerging and brilliant Android OS products. I am minded of the initial reports on the excellent Nexus 7 which initially failed to gain ‘Best Buy’ status and the furore that followed emanating from a large number of irate people who happily own and use one of these devices. I note that this position has been corrected and that the N7 is now rightly shown as a BB!

      So come on ‘Which?’ – get real!

      I also agree that horizons should be broadened to take in up and coming manufacturers whose names might not be well known but who, as in the case of the Far East mobile phones, perform as well as mainstream products but with a considerably more economic price tag.

    2. Do you actually read what’s written before skipping to the comments? I doubt it. Not only is the report sceptical about the quality of the iPhone rather than positive but it also says wait till they test it.

      In addition, there is plenty of features on this blog about Android, such as this


      Some very useful stuff, although, I’d like to see more.

      Read more and you might be angry less.

    3. Having read your reaction to my comments ‘Howaboutthat’, I suppose that I ought to reply since you asked me a question – vis, “Do you actually read what’s written before skipping to the comments?”

      Answer – ‘yes I do’ and it was for that very reason that I wrote my short piece in support of an earlier contributor in the first place! I do not feel it necessary to make any further substantial comment apart from to thank you for including a link to the interesting ‘Which?’ comparison pages on mobile phone battery life; I wasn’t actually referring to this aspect but was picking up on several other posts which reflect a groundswell of comments and observations concerning ‘Which?’s apparent lopsided devotion to all things with an Apple logo.

      It’s a case of personal choice at the end of the day – all I want to see is balanced reporting!

  6. Galaxy S4 will knock- out Iphone 5C or 5S etc which are only cosmetic upgrades. Just like Galaxy S2 and S3 did to Iphone 4S etc. Iphone are smaller, resolution is not up to scratch, features are limited, whereas Samsung S4 rocks with bursting features. S4 has full HD, a better smarter camera,
    S Health, Remote Controller, Music Blaster, Removable Battery 2 Gb RAM, Eye Scroll, 64Gb additional storage via SD Card + 16 / 32 GB on board, OCR Recognition, Language Translator etc. Does Iphone have any of these features? NO, NO! One silly fingerprint recognition and a cheaper plastic body ugh!

    1. If Samsung has beaten iPhone why isn’t that shown when you look at analytic traffic of company websites, it’s always 80% iPhone and iPad traffic then it’s the rest of the devices

  7. Karim, you’ll get no argument from me when it comes to picture quality of Samsung but that’s as far as it goes when it comes to Samsung being better than iPhone.

    In mission critical apps and in a business standpoint, even the ageing 3GS knocks spots off android. Everything is one or two taps away whereas on an android, to do the same thing (and android can) it’s a lot more cumbersome. Reminds me of we design, if its more than two clicks away its a bad website.

    Also, apple keeps thing the same, android change them. Example, calendar on S3/S4 no longer syncs automatically and it’s difficult to find out how to enable the auto sync so if it was working before latest android os update, it no longer is! And if like us, you place entries in field operatives’ diaries, they will no longer see these new entries automatically unless they perform a manual sync

    For this reason (and a few others) our company has switched 100% to iPhones

  8. I totally agree, if Samsung S3 & S4 are better why do we not see this in your trials. My sons & daughter-in laws have the I phone & to me they are bricks, even my son has said my Samsung Galaxy S3 does more it is defiantly bigger & the comments are WOW ! Personally I would not even consider the iPhone although I have an1 Pad that seems to freeze all the time .I cannot wait to get my hands on the S4 but not at the end of my contract although the S3 is mine.

    1. Although the phone is important the thing that sells the iPhone and keeps folk using very old iphones is they actually last and the ecosystem of Apps. Until the competition can do that; build a phone that lasts and provides an ecosystem of usable interoperable apps then Apple will continue to be greedy and get away with it.

  9. Fact is they’re both Apple so will be better and easier to use than he android stuff – and they’ll feel better too!

    Will they win in lab tests – it doesn’t matter

  10. “…..and the fun of unlocking your mobile with a fingerprint……” Is there no limit to the excitement which we clearly have been so lacking for so long?

  11. The two key failings with these android phones is the lousy coverage and short battery life. Much worse than conventional mobiles.
    There are no comments on either of these points, andIi would only get one if those points are corrected.

  12. No mention of the thoroughbred coming up on the rails – the Nokia Lumia 925. Quietly gaining ground on the iOS & Android nags with a beautiful intuitive OS, apps to fill your boots and free music & satnav. Great camera too!

  13. Lousy coverage and short battery life??…Not in my experience at all of several Android Apple phones over past 3 yrs. Coverage is generally a matter of network choice and my battery typically still shows 50% at end of day after fairly heavy use throughout the day.
    In fact I have plenty of iPhone brainwashed friends who moan about their poor battery life.
    Imho, Apple are like Sony of the 80s…every accessory is an Apple only connection etc. Apple will do every thing they can to restrict competition….I know which company policy I prefer & it begins with an S not an A!

  14. Although the phone is important the thing that sells the iPhone and keeps folk using very old iphones is they actually last and the ecosystem of Apps. Until the competition can do that; build a phone that lasts and provides an ecosystem of usable interoperable apps then Apple will continue to be greedy and get away with it.

  15. Well I’m still using a Nokia 6820 with fold-out keypad – perfect. When I want to watch TV on the bus I might invest in something more ‘fun’.

  16. I use both an iPhone 5 and a Samsung S4 and so my comments are perhaps more objective than some…. The S4 does have more capabilities than the iPhone 5, some which, such as swipe typing make the iPhone 5 seem dated, and its display features are superior, but battery life seems better on the iPhone 5. But the only big reason why I keep using my iPhone 5 is for apps not available on the S4 and to listen to songs which I could not transfer because of iStores encryption!

  17. I bet the iPhone 5S does not have the brightest screen AND the best camera AND is the fastest AND the most pixels AND the longest battery life etc etc. That does not make it a bad phone. All phones will have to be a compromise. You have to weigh up all those things together with the software experience. And biggest isn’t always the best as in more pixels doesn’t necessarily mean better pictures. Please don’t get carried away with comparing technical specs. I don’t need to have the biggest fastest phone in the universe, I need one that does want I want it to do and the iPhone does that in spades.

    I suspect Apple are aiming the 5C at emerging markets and will discount it there. In the UK they don’t need to at present. But lately we have seen the 5 at hugely discounted prices so they can discount if they need to.

  18. Would some kind person advise an 87 year old man – currently using a Nokia C3-01 which can be easily connected to the Becker Telephone in my car – who is keen to surprise his 6 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren by joining the modern i-phone technology. Please use common or garden English!
    The WHICH review extolling the virtues of the new APPLE – I have an APPLE MAC Computer sounds great but seems unnecessarily expensive.

  19. So, if I buy a 5s, Apple will have my fingerprints on file. What will they do with that information? Will they share it with US or other national security organisations, as they appear to do with other information? Since the Apple source code is ‘closed’, no independent assessor can be certain what they do with it. Come on, Which? – check this out for us.

  20. Curious to know which apps r on iphone but not on android? The vast majority on google play r 100% free too…. I have no intention of boosting Apple’s profits ever! The bottom line surely is that Samsung et al using the Android os r taking more & more of the smart phone market as time goes on whilst Apples decreases as reported in all news stories this year and most of last. Obviously Apple have done a great marketing job since 2007, but small screen size and tinkering with small instrumental improvements is not enough going forward imho.

    1. Hmm seems to be answer question to kid he homework has Ben eaten

      1st the aps and lts of free one you see on android, cause no one would pay, as the ones that are good or aid, ie not on android oh yes on iPhone, iPhone decreasing comment again, is the you 1st year no? As there market share increased! Oh no sorry not for non paying non customers, o god this is becoming laughable, and then he usually ignorant killer pow! Small screen, you have a phone, not TV you wan bigger heh iPad bigger ? Try a tv, You want bigger try try the buying pubic in the 30 days via a mobile devices through a UK website iPhone or iPad not HTC if can remember that was the devices to destroy apple, it starts to sound like people telling how wrong Alex Ferguson was each season

    2. I think Howard is pointing out Android is excellent at targeting the mass market, but Apple have and always have targeted the top 10% of the market. Also agree about screen size, if I need bigger watch tv! Love that one Howard!

  21. Some above seem to find it difficult to envisage a life without smartphones. I still do not have or want one. I have read in the press some inane Twitter offerings (Do I care if some minor starlet is just entering the Cafe de Paris? NOOOOO!!!). Am I interested in what the likes of Penny Sparrow think about black people? NO!! Do I want to see pictures of the children of all and sundry? Nope!

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