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iPhone 5c: The no-brainer upgrade for iPhone 4 or 4s

Philip Michaels | Sept. 27, 2013
The iPhone 5c is a full-featured phone with a more-than-reasonable price tag that targets iPhone 4 or 4s users.

That leaves the front-facing camera for the iPhone 5c as the only notable hardware upgrade relative to the iPhone 5. The 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera shoots 1280-by-960-pixel images and records 720p HD video; it also performs better than the iPhone 5's camera in low-light situations and delivers larger pixels. Overall, you'll get slightly sharper pictures than you would with the front-facing camera in the 5—and it's not even fair to compare the 5c's camera to the VGA versions found in the iPhone 4 and 4s. That's good news for self-portrait enthusiasts, as the shots of the handsome gentleman below will attest.

You'll also use that improved FaceTime camera to beam images of yourself during video calls to family and friends. In my testing, I found the improvement negligible: That video of my smiling face has to be compressed before traveling across a network to whoever's on the other end of the line, and I think they'd have a hard time telling whether I'm calling from an iPhone 5 or a 5c. That said, the 5c's capabilities in lower-light settings could prove handy here.

As for the other camera on the iPhone 5c, it's the same 8-megapixel iSight camera you'll find on the iPhone 5. That may not excite current iPhone 5 owners, but it's very exciting if you're still getting by with an older phone. My iPhone 4, for example, has a perfectly adequate 5-megapixel rear-facing camera that produces fine images—but take the same shot with an iPhone 5c, and you'll end up with a much more detailed final product.

Because your smartphone camera is always close to hand, it's the one you're most likely to use. Upgrading to an iPhone 5c from an earlier iPhone will mean better pictures.

Peak performer
Internally, the iPhone 4 I've carried around the past few years hasn't changed at all; however, the software I'm running on it has. Operating systems get updated. Mobile apps add new features. And that means a phone that could handle anything two years ago now shows its age.

That's one of the more compelling reasons for iPhone 4 and 4s users to consider an iPhone 5c upgrade: The new phone will deliver a noticeable performance boost without costing as much as the iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 5c runs on the same A6 processor that powers the iPhone 5. In our benchmark tests, those two models turned in comparable performance. The iPhone 5 tallied a slightly better Geekbench 3 score than the 5c and edged it in SunSpider JavaScript tests as well. Still, those differences, as well as the nearly identical scores for the iPhone 5 and 5c in GFXBench testing, can be filed under Close Enough for Government Work.


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