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.