3 weeks with the new iPhones, and why I’m probably selling my iPhone 5s


It seems almost an age since Tim Cook, Craig Federighi and Phil Schiller got up on stage in September to introduce Apple’s latest smartphones. iPhone 5s and 5c were officially seen for the first time, and went on sale just over a week later.

I’ve had the pleasure of using both phones since they were released to the public. In that time, I’ve done a handful of comparisons and written full reviews for both the iPhone 5s and 5c. It’s been three weeks, and the honeymoon period is over. With every new handset there’s a period of time where it’s fun, exciting and cool. Just because it’s brand new. And, as I suspected before I got my hands on them, it’s the iPhone 5c I’ve enjoyed the most.

Before I give my reasons why, let me start by making this clear: The iPhone 5s is a fantastic phone. When Apple says it’s the most forward thinking iPhone, I believe it. 64-bit technology may not be much now, but in the future, as apps are optimized and developers start getting to grips with all the new possibilities, it will make a massive difference to what you can do on your iPhone. Touch ID is great too. But while it’s limited to unlocking my phone and approving iTunes purchases, it’s nowhere near its full potential.

Before getting these two phones, I’d owned an iPhone 5 for 12 months. So, when I upgraded to the iPhone 5c (initially) it was like getting a brand new phone. It felt different, it looked different. Performance wise, I noticed very little difference. It has virtually the same internals (bar the improved battery). But, oftentimes, it’s the aesthetics and ergonomics of a personal device that make the biggest difference to the user experience. I didn’t get that with the iPhone 5s.

Yes, unlocking my phone just by having my thumb on the home button is brilliant. But, when I take pictures, I’m not noticing any major improvement in the outcome. I’m getting a little more battery life, but it doesn’t seem to perform any faster, it looks virtually identical and feels exactly the same as my last phone. I came to the realization that I’ve signed up to a new plan to get a phone that looks, feels and performs almost identically to my last phone.

And that’s not the worst of it. With the iPhone 5 (and now with the 5s) I’ve always worried what would happen to it if I took it out without a case. This scratch-panic means I have to hunt around for an adequate case every time I’m going to leave the house. It’s such an elegant and beautifully designed phone that I just can’t risk marking it or damaging it in any way. Perhaps that’s a little obsessive, but, also inevitable. If Apple’s going to make some with such attention to fit and finish, using the kind of precision you’d normally see on jewelry, it’s always going to create the pressure that the user needs to treat it as such.

Then I come to the iPhone 5c. It feels amazing in hand, it looks completely different to my iPhone 5 and I don’t care if the plastic gets a little scratched. It’s plastic. And it’s white, so even if I do get it a little scuffed, the marks won’t show up as easily as they might on the aluminum and glass back of its counterpart. I can grab it, throw it in my pocket and go. I can hold it without wishing it felt different. I can look at it without feeling like I’ve already owned it for 12 months.

So it comes down to answering the question I get asked all the time: Should I upgrade from the iPhone 5? Short answer is no. For anyone with an older device 4/4s, either the 5c or 5s will feel like a brand new device and will perform so much better. But, unless you’re incredibly impatient, I can’t see any reason right now why you might trade your iPhone 5 for a 5s. A 5c? Yes, perhaps, if you desperately want a new device that looks and feels different.

But, right now, I’m planning on selling my iPhone 5s as soon as my wife has stopped using my old iPhone 5 (she’s due an upgrade in a couple of weeks). Like I wrote earlier, the 5s is a fantastic device on its own. But compared to its predecessor, in its current state – with only a few 64-bit optimized apps available – it offers very little in terms of noticeably improved features.

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  • I agree with your justification about the 5S. I’m a firm believer in getting at least 2 years out of your iPhone, and part of that because of how Apple does its design changes. Coming from the 4S, my 5S seems like a good leap forward. As a developer, I’m excited about the 64-bit processor. 
    My wife had an iPhone 4 for the past couple of years, and her 5C is a welcome change for her. Now she has an iPhone that feels great in her (smaller) hands, in a color that she loves (green), and with a working home button and other improvements that give her a better experience.
    My dad upgraded from a 3GS to a 5S (though, technically, he dropped his 3GS in the sink in July, so he upgraded from a $15 temp flip phone). The upgrade for him is a huge leap, not just in terms of internal specs (RAM from 256MB to 1GB, camera from 3MP to 8, etc) but in terms of screen quality (from a 3.5″ non-retina to 4″ retina). The upgrade was definitely worth it for him.
    My mother, however, has an iPhone 5 that she is happy with. iOS 7 has given it a new feel for her, but moving to a 5S would not bring her much of a change in terms of speed or user experience. It would just be an added cost for the latest and greatest, which would not give her a lot of added benefit. She’s happy waiting for next year’s iPhone (and cashing in on a phone upgrade via our carrier, at which point she’ll then have the newest iPhone to show off to us).
    So if you were coming from a 5, then it’s perfectly understandable why the 5C would make more sense and be a bigger change for you than the 5S.

  • distrbnce

    @JerenYun Ditto, I came from a 4S to a 5S so it’s a greaaaaaat upgrade for me. I expect the next one I’ll get is the 6S.
    The best part was the AT&T store paid me $200 for my 4S, so it was essentially a free upgrade. I expect this to happen again in 2 years. It’s a pretty great situation.
    And after having my ipad mini for a while, I’m okay with the way metal wears. They like my battle-worn x-wing and R2 companions.

  • ChrisByron1

    Dude, you switch phones waaaay too often. I’m on a 4. It’s scratched and such, but it’s a tool. I don’t toss a pocket knife if it has a dent, nor do I worry about it getting damaged.

  • BrainRoopull

    Your touching on one of the biggest flaws with the iPhones in recent years. Put simply, they’re ergonomic nightmares me site to a jewelry box than my real life. Sadly, many of the competitors have followed suit, being more concerned with form than function. The 5C is a step in the right direction, but there’s a lot more that can be done… A rubberized back that doesn’t slide around, more rounded corners & sides and dedicated physical buttons would be great.
    The lack of real tangible improvements from one device to another isn’t just an Apple problem, though. Save for Nokia with that ridiculous camera, the cell phone market is seeing very little useful innovation. I say that unless your phone is actually broken, nothing had happened in the last 2 years to warrant purchasing anything.
    That is unless you look at your phone as a fashion statement. I that case, you probably didn’t bother to read past the first line anyhow.

  • mcoutts81

    Thanks for writing this Cam. Agree with your sentiment.
    Returned to iPhone after having a couple of android phones. Last iPhone I owned was a 4. Had every other iteration before that and got myself a cheap 5 for a week or so before upgrade was due. (Wife has it now).
    Like you I was a huge fan of the style of the 3G/S. Having went from 3G to 3GS I noticed a big difference. Again going from 3GS to 4 the screen quality was excellent. I knew I wanted a 5C after announcement. Immediately felt it would be perfect as my daily driver. Not disappointed. Feels great and iOS 7 looks great on it.

  • shoesmith81

    I’m going to keep hold of my iPhone 4s and go for a brand new design in the iPhone 6. 
    Even though I have not owned an iPhone 5 the 5s seems old to me. 
    Going to take a two year contract out once the 6 is released so I can always get the new redesign moving forwards.

  • manishrana50

    @shoesmith81 Same here, After sometime iOS7 got pretty smooth on iPhone 4S (Motion off and increased contrast)

  • frankdicosmo

    Maybe it’s to do with age, but changing a design that isn’t broken seems like change for the sake of change. I don’t want that. I’m glad Porsche and Mercedes don’t do that.

  • davidsoffice123

    TiP_Cam why u selling your 5S?

  • LazarevskiRudi

    TodaysiPhone i have used 3,4 and curently 5. Without bigger display in the future, Apple will stuck in the past. The most important thing.

  • earcos

    TomRaftery all due respect, but that post is pure bullshit :P

  • TomRaftery

    earcos LOL! Fair enough, just trying to help with your impatience. :)

  • earcos

    TomRaftery hahahaha, you’re a good man :)

  • Thank you for this article. I am upgrading at the end of the year from my iPhone 4, and I’ll be happy with the 5C myself. It will be an upgrade from the 4. I’m hesitant to download the iOS7 since my phone has slowed down considerably, and it’s only an 8GB.

  • paw_ad

    TodaysiPhone because u are faggot!!!

  • Vaishnav_kasi

    TiP_Cam but then IOS 7 in iPhone 5 has it’s effect n a bit of lagging here n ter. Wud be gr8 if u cud write aft a week of using iPhone 5 !!

  • KellyCoxen

    What a great article! I enjoy that Cam explained his rationale the entire time, very thoughtful! Two cases that I would suggest for those of you that are serious about protecting your Iphone 5, the Griffin Survivor and the Otterbox Defender, they can both withstand a lot of impact and are even rain proof to some extent. I personally own a Griffin Survivor and the external has taken quite a beating because I like to longboard…a lot…. I just checked out this article on keeping your Iphone in brand new condition and it has quite a bit of info, i’d say its worth a glance if your in the market for a new case, who knows, it may give you some good perspective.