In-depth review: The Apple iPhone 5c

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David Phelan dives deep into the colourful world of the iPhone 5c

Until now, iPhones have been almost like Model T Fords: available in any colour as long as it’s black. Oh, and white for some models. But now things have changed. You can have any colour so long as it’s blue, green, white, pink or yellow. The iPhone 5c is the lower-priced smartphone Apple has launched.

But don’t be fooled: it’s not a budget phone. If you want the cheapest iPhone available, you can buy the iPhone 4S, a highly capable handset that runs the latest iOS 7 software.

No, the 5c is a highly specced phone that shaves just a little off its price by being clad in polycarbonate instead of aluminium. It’s as powerful in every way as last year’s flagship, the iPhone 5, which it replaces. Talk that Apple would bring down the price by including a lower-rent screen or, more likely, drop the iPhone 5’s 4G connectivity, proved wrong.

In fact, the 5c beats the 5 in several ways. It has a bigger battery, a better front-facing camera and a more widely compatible 4G antenna, so more UK networks will be able to use it.

So, you ask, is this a phone that looks cheap even though it isn’t? Photos of the 5c don’t do it justice. This is a phone that oozes class: the beautifully machined plastic feels seductively pleasing in the hand. The super-glossy finish is so brightly coloured it seems other-worldly. And the way you can roll the phone smoothly in your hands as though it were a worry stone is compelling. Actually pretty much everything about this phone has been agreeably done.

There is a whole new audience for this handset. Those who thought Apple too starchy, too high-end or just too precious will be drawn in by industrial design that is much more friendly and accessible. The colours are super-bright, designed to match the new iOS 7 software which arguably looks more at home here than on the pricier iPhone 5s.

And while the shiny 5c can’t match the processor, camera or some of the features exclusive to the 5s, it’s no slouch, delivering a seriously useful eight-megapixel camera, pin-sharp Retina display and Apple specialities like Siri, the voice-controlled personal assistant.

And the inclusion of 4G means programs like Siri which only work with a speedy data connection, work even better. Try Dictation to speak your texts and emails – with a quick connection this is the easiest way to send a message.

I would guess that the 5c will be chosen by those who just prefer the glitz and gloss of the polycarbonate version, not people wanting to save a few quid.  Though that’s a neat bonus.

Each iPhone 5c comes with coloured wallpaper that’s tailored to match the outer casing – though of course you can change this as you wish.

Nobody handles plastic like Apple. While HTC can match Cupertino in stylish use of high-end materials like the full metal jacket on the HTC One, only Nokia comes close when it comes to polycarbonate.

The company’s Lumia 625, a new low-price phone with a big screen and a similarly glossy finish, or the super-cheap Asha 501 built for emerging markets both show design strengths and build quality similar to Apple’s phone.

But neither has Apple’s super-intuitive software or near-endless App Store. The Windows Phone OS is bright and intelligent, but the new Apple iOS edges it.

Not least because of new features like AirDrop to wirelessly transfer content from one iPhone to another – the phones create a wireless network provided the handsets are near enough to each other.

Apple’s skill in making smartphones has always been considerable: creating a desire for well-crafted, functional objects that added ease and fluency to everyday actions. Like the pinch-to-zoom magnifying gesture which is so appealing.

Now with the iPhone 5c it has proved it can make a phone from less serious materials that’s just as captivating.

The iPhone 5c could do so well that it affects sales of the 5s. But even if it does, it will surely steal sales from Samsung and others, and win back some waverers who were beginning to think they knew everything Cupertino had to offer.

Apple has created something new and exciting. Remember that moment when you saw your first iPod? That’s what this feels like.

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