After months of rumours and leaks, Apple finally announced the iPhone 5C yesterday. The biggest surprise about the phone wasn’t the design, though - it was exactly as leaks as predicted - but the price. Here in the UK, the phone will go on sale for £469 off-contract, and it’s similarly expensive across the world. In the United States, Apple will sell the handset for $549; in China, it costs $733; and in Australia, it will set customers back $739.
The internet immediately leapt into action. “This isn’t a budget phone!” it cried. That’s certainly true, but the internet was also the entity that billed the iPhone 5C as a cheaper iPhone in the first place. Apple never alluded to or promised anything of the sort.
That doesn’t mean that the coloured variant is good value for money, or that you should even buy it. Let’s consider exactly what the iPhone 5C is: it’s an iPhone 5, just in a cheaper plastic shell. That’s it. It has the same processor, the same camera, and the same software.
The two major differences are a better front-facing camera and LTE support. The former is a nice upgrade, but not exactly critical in day to day use - FaceTime, after all, isn’t anywhere near as popular as it should be. LTE support, though, is a big upgrade over the iPhone 5, which was solely limited to EE here in the UK. The iPhone 5C gives LTE customers freedom of choice, which is always a good thing.
Apple’s price for the phone, however, is unreasonable. The company is essentially trying to sell you a year old phone with a brand new lick of paint - multiple licks, in fact - for the price of a flagship.
You need to consider the playing field right now too. The iPhone doesn’t exist in a bubble, as much as Apple would like you to think it does. If you want an easy to use phone that’s available in a wide variety of colours, then Nokia has you covered with the Lumia line - some of them even support LTE. If you want a great mid-range handset, then it’s hard to go wrong with the HTC One Mini. Heck, even HTC’s flagship, the One, is cheaper than the iPhone 5C. You can buy one right now on Amazon for £425. No, really.
The fact of the matter is that the iPhone 5S is a much better value proposition. For just £80 more, you get Apple’s stellar industrial design and build quality, a vastly better camera with larger pixels (similar to the HTC One and Moto X) and stabilised video recording, a new home button with a fingerprint scanner for added security, a thinner and lighter device, and a processor with 64-bit architecture for additional future proofing.
Maybe that’s exactly what Apple is going for. Maybe you’re supposed to look at the iPhone 5C and opt for the more expensive model instead. Maybe it’s a ploy to keep investors happy by announcing something "new". Maybe it will raise the iPhone’s ASP (Average Selling Price). Maybe it’s simply cheaper to manufacture the iPhone 5C than to keep producing the regular iPhone 5.
Here’s the thing: you and I shouldn’t care about any of those issues. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is if this phone, as it stands, is worthy of your consideration. I personally don’t think so. I think it’s bad value for money, and I think the iPhone 5S is a far better choice.
If you want an iPhone 5, well, just buy an iPhone 5. It looks better than the iPhone 5C, has the exact same internal hardware, and will run iOS 7 just fine. You’ll be able to pick one up second-hand for a good price too: Apple handset owners tend to flood the market with last year’s model ahead of iPhone related announcements, driving prices down in the process. And if you really want an iPhone 5 in plastic or a different colour, just buy a case. It’ll still be much cheaper than the iPhone 5C.
Anyone looking to upgrade from an iPhone 4 or 4S should jump straight to the iPhone 5S. It’s that simple. iPhone 5 owners have to face a harder decision. How much does a faster phone with LTE support matter to you? Maybe not enough to justify the added cost.
My advice would be to stick with the iPhone 5 if you’re happy with it. It’s still an excellent phone in its own right, and will easily last you another year. LTE prices will also have dropped by then, and 3G is perfectly fine for light web browsing and social network updates.
Whatever you decide to do, just don't buy the iPhone 5C. No matter how you look at it, it's a bad deal.