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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.

But compare the iPhone 5c's numbers to those for the iPhone 4 and 4s. The iPhone 5c's Geekbench 3 scores roughly triple the iPhone 4s's. The 5c completed the SunSpider JavaScript test in about half the time the 4s took. The new phone dramatically bested the 4s on GFXBench for graphics, too.

If those numbers mean little to you, consider this anecdotal evidence. Games that push the processor of my iPhone 4 to its limit perform without a hitch on the iPhone 5c. Ski Safari, a thoroughly enjoyable side-scrolling game, stutters on my iPhone 4 as the phone struggles to keep up with the endless action; it runs flawlessly on the 5c. I had stopped playing one of my favorite shoot-'em-ups, Zombie Gunship, because the torpid action on the iPhone 4 had made the game essentially unplayable; on the iPhone 5c, I'm back to panning easily around the screen, looking for zombies to blast back to kingdom come.

Battery boost
The improved performance doesn't come at the expense of battery life. With my iPhone 4, I've found that keeping the phone charged until I leave for work in the morning usually gives it enough juice to last until I get home in the evening. I've found the same to be true of the iPhone 5c, during my limited time with it, though it seems to have a little more juice left at the end of the day.

Our lab testing bears out my experience. In our looping video test, the 5c hung on for 10 hours, 19 minutes—42 minutes longer than the iPhone 5 and 1 hour, 48 minutes longer than the iPhone 4s. Notably, the Android-based HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 conked out after 6 hours, 44 minutes and 7 hours, 1 minute, respectively, in this test.

Price points
Of course, no one clings to an aging smartphone because of an extreme partiality for all things 2010. Rather, they just want to get the most out of their dollar, and upgrading to every latest-and-greatest smartphone doesn't fit into that game plan. So this time around, Apple figured out a way to appeal to the frugal technophile: Come out with a phone that offers slightly fewer state-of-the-art features in exchange for a significantly lower price tag.

The 16GB iPhone 5c costs $99—$100 less than you'd have paid for an iPhone 5 when it debuted in 2012 and $100 less than you'd pay for a similar-size iPhone 5s today. A 32GB iPhone 5c gets a comparably discounted $199 price tag. (Alas, if you want a 64GB phone, you'll have to pony up for a 5s.)

This arrangement is a slight departure from Apple's previous discount phone policy, in which it would offer the previous year's model for a lower price. A nitpicker might argue that the iPhone 5c is last year's model, save for the colorful new look and improved FaceTime camera. We can debate about the number of feature angels dancing on the heads of discounted iPhones, or we can simply acknowledge that, for many owners of an iPhone 4s or older, a $99 iPhone 5c with most of the features of its pricier counterpart is new enough.


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