iPhone 5s Vs. 5c: Key Differences

Apple's new iPhones share many features, but these significant differences should play a role in any purchase decision.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

September 11, 2013

4 Min Read

iPhone 5c, 5s: 10 Smart Design Choices

iPhone 5c, 5s: 10 Smart Design Choices

iPhone 5c, 5s: 10 Smart Design Choices (click image for larger view)

For the first time ever, Apple introduced not one but two new iPhones during a press event held Tuesday. The iPhone 5s is a premium device with top-of-the-line features, while the iPhone 5c is a slightly lower-cost model that comes in various colors to give it a more playful look.

The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c share many features, apps and functions. For example, they use an identical 4-inch Retina display, which has a resolution of 1136 x 640 and 326-ppi pixel density. They have identical wireless radios. That means they both offer GSM/EDGE/LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile, or CDMA/LTE for Sprint and Verizon Wireless. They also share Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS radios, as well as sensors such as a three-axis gyro, accelerometer, proximity sensor and ambient light sensor. Battery life is the same, as is the Lightning port on the bottom and the nano SIM card.

The iOS 7 operating system and pre-loaded applications are the same across both devices. They both have access to iTunes Radio, the new Control Center, updated Siri, and the revamped core apps, such as the calendar, email and messaging.

So what's different? Plenty.

[ For more on Apple's new devices, see Apple iPhone 5s, 5c: Pros And Cons. ]

-- Casing: For starters, the two iPhones look different. The iPhone 5s is made from anodized aluminum and the iPhone 5c is made from polycarbonate (plastic, if you prefer). The difference in materials nets the iPhone 5c a lower cost by about $100. The 5s will be sold in silver, gray and gold, while the 5c will be sold in white, yellow, green, blue and pink. They two models look entirely different from each other based on color alone.

Further, the dimensions are slightly different. The iPhone 5s measures 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches and weighs 3.95 ounces. The iPhone 5c measures 4.90 x 2.33 x 0.35 inches and weighs 4.65 ounces. The differences may seem minute, but it means some third-party items, such as cases and other accessories, will not be swappable between the two models.

-- Processor: The iPhone 5s has a new processor from Apple called the A7. The A7 is paired with what Apple calls the M7 Motion Processor. The M7 specifically handles the iPhone's sensors, which Apple says will be a boon to mobile health apps. The combo runs at 64 bits, and Apple claims it can compute at twice the speed of the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5c uses Apple's slightly older A6 processor, which runs at 32 bits. It won't be as fast at some tasks, though the real-world difference between the two is debatable. The A7 chip is more likely to support advanced functions and features down the road.

-- Camera: Both the iPhone 5s and 5c have 8-megapixel cameras, but there are notable differences. The 5s' camera has a larger sensor with bigger pixels. The bigger pixels are able to collect more light. The 5s' camera also has a bigger opening (aperture of f/2.2) to let in even more light. The 5c's aperture is f/2.4. The iPhone 5s has a burst mode that can shoot up to 10 frames per second, and a two-tone flash that Apple says can more accurately capture skin tones. Last, the video camera on the iPhone 5s can shoot 720p HD video at 120 frames per second to create slow-motion footage.

-- Touch ID: Perhaps the most significant difference between the two is Touch ID. The iPhone 5s has a built-in fingerprint sensor for unlocking the device and the 5c does not. The sensor can read thumb or forefinger prints in any direction. The fingerprint is stored locally and fully encrypted. Apple says it is secure and will be a better solution than passwords to lock the iPhone 5s.

-- Storage/Pricing: The iPhone 5s is being sold in three variants: 16, 32 and 64 GB. These models cost $199, $299 and $399, respectively, with a new contract. The iPhone 5c comes in only two variants: 16 and 32 GB. These models cost $99 and $199, respectively, with a new contract.

The new devices, though impressive in their own right, have plenty of pros and cons and fail to match up with what Apple's competitors are doing. For many, the spec bumps may not be enough to entice them away from larger screens and more control over the software.

About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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