iPhone 5s vs. iPhone 5c – Plastic vs. Metal Design Comparison [Gallery]


IMG_2324Having now got my hands on both the new devices, I’ve decided to run a series of posts and videos comparing various aspects of both the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s. There are clear differences to the way both devices looks, and both has its up and down sides. Both being iPhones, they have clear similarities too.

From the front Apple’s trademarked front panel is obvious. A black rounded rectangle face, with a circular home button at the bottom and a centered front facing camera and earpiece at the top. While many manufacturers have opted agains the use of any physical buttons on the front, Apple has stood by its decision to create a single press-able button, and making it more likely to stay for the long term by implementing its clever Touch ID sensor.

IMG_2342The two buttons are exactly the same size, but the clickable area in the new Touch ID sensor-equipped model is smaller. You’ll notice immediately that there’s no longer a square app icon in the middle, and the 5s’ home button has a metal ring surrounding it with polished, chamfered edges. All in all, it gives the entire face of the iPhone a much classier look. To touch, the two are also different. The 5c has the usual concave glass surface, whereas the Touch ID sensor has a flat (if not ever so slightly convex) surface. Although the home buttons on both work the same, the clicking mechanism definitely feels different to what I’m used to on the 5s. It’s not as reassuring.

IMG_2330On the bottom edge, all the same ports exist. Both feature a speaker to the right of the Lightning connector, and a microphone to the right of the headset jack. But the way they’re covered is entirely different. iPhone 5s features 16 individually machined holes in the metal surface acting as the speaker grille, whereas the 5c only has 4. More than likely that’s down to the structural properties of metal vs. plastic. There’s no doubt in my mind that any more holes in the plastic surface would make it very likely to crack. That’s no concern with aluminum. Likewise, the microphone has 10 individual holes machined in to the metal on the iPhone 5s, and only one on the 5c. Headset jack, Lightning connector have metal surrounds on both phones, but the 5s is noticeably shinier and has a chrome finish, much like the device’s diamond cut edges.

IMG_2340And, since we’re on to the edges of the phones, let’s compare those. iPhone 5s features the same elegant, diamond cut, chamfered edges found on the iPhone 5. Even after 12 months, they still look as stunning as they did a year ago. Perhaps more so on the gray version versus slate. The 5c, being plastic, features no such luxury. Instead, its plastic rear shell has something of a thin lip surrounding the front of the phone. It’s understandable why many thought the pre-launch leaks were nothing more than an iPhone 5 in a plastic case. It does kind-of look like that: An iPhone 5 in a very slim case.


All the way around the iPhone 5s are curved edges, yet another unique design feature when compared to the 5s. It may not look as nice as the 5s’ angled chamfers and flat edges, but it feels so much more comfortable. In hand, although much more pleasant, the 5c is noticeable heavier and a tiny bit thicker. One other notable difference is the four black “gaps” in the aluminum frame at the top and bottom of both sides of the 5s. I’m sure they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t have a very necessary function: making sure the external antenna works properly. We don’t want a repeat of the iPhone 4’s “antennagate” conspiracy.


On the buttons front, here’s another distinction between the two. While both feature the same shape and sized mute switch, the volume buttons are completely different. 5s’ are made of the same aluminum material used to craft the chassis and are circle with the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ symbols placed center in each. iPhone 5c has individual pill-shaped buttons made of plastic, to match the rear shell. In day to day use, both sets have a really nice tactile response. They click nicely. No surprise though that the 5s’ are much more solid feeling.

IMG_2326It’s from the back where we see the biggest difference between the two devices. The 5c is all one piece of plastic, and appears a lot rounder at the corners because of its curved edges. The 5s has the same two-tone glass and metal back as the 5, but this time has different color choices. I have to say, the 5c (as much as I prefer holding it) does look a little cheap from the back. Thankfully, it’s reinforced with steel and feels really solid and well constructed.

IMG_2338The other – less noticeable – difference is the camera setup. Both feature an 8MP lens with a noise canceling microphone in between the lens and LED flash. But, the iPhone 5s’ LED cutout is pill-shaped and features two LED lights. One is the usual white light, the other is an orange temperature. Both combined supposedly create more natural looking skin tones.

IMG_2344Plastic vs. Metal is a continuing thread even down to the way the SIM trays are constructed. Both are exactly the same size, and the main tray from both devices is made of metal. 5c is finished in the same matte black found around the Lightning connector and headset jack. But, the external, visible part is white plastic whereas the 5s has a gray finish to match its device.

For me, the iPhone 5s looks much better than the 5c. It has a classy, refined look and feel thanks to its unmatched level of fit and finish. Those diamond-cut chamfers are beautiful, and the new gray color looks really good in person. I mean that. I’ve almost started liking it more than the slate version from last year. Although the 5c may not look as premium, you can’t put a price tag on great ergonomics. And it’s one of the best feeling phones I’ve used since I gave up my iPhone 3GS 3 years ago.

Take a look through the gallery below and let us know what you think of the two new designs.





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  • hrasda

    if for some reason you want to see a iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C being smashed to pieces, here is a Drop test video for the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C http://www.amongtech.com/first-iphone-5s-iphone-5c-drop-test-videos/