iPhone 5c: The iPhone That Isn’t Worth Buying for $0

The iPhone 5c is the most affordable iPhone Apple sells, but you should avoid at all costs. While it’s free with a two-year contract, I cannot recommend this device to anyone since Apple crippled it. Read on to why we don’t recommend buying the iPhone 5c and what you should buy instead.

The iPhone 5c debuted alongside the iPhone 5s in late 2013. The iPhone 5c is essentially an iPhone 5 wrapped in a plastic skin that differentiates it from the metal iPhone 5 and the newer iPhone 5s. When it debuted, the iPhone 5c debuted it cost just $99, which was $100 cheaper than the iPhone 5s. The original $99 version of the iPhone 5c came with 16GB of storage and there was a 32GB model available that cost $199.

Those two original iPhone 5c models are no longer available and Apple’s replaced them with an 8GB version of the iPhone 5c.  That’s simply not enough space for iPhone users in this day and age. Keep in mind that only 4.9GB of the 8GB iPhone 5c is available to the user, with the remainder reserved for iOS 8 and Apple’s built-in apps.  Going with a 8GB iPhone 5c likely means you won’t be able to update to the next version of iOS without completely wiping your device. How do we know that? Because iOS 8 requires 6.9 GB to installiPhone 5c

Buying an iPhone 5c means you won’t have enough room to download even a single HD movie after downloading a handful of apps and shooting a few of your own videos. Yes, more and more data is stored in the cloud these days, but nothing beats the convenience of local storage. Two of the biggest complaints we get about iPhones is that they never have enough battery life and they always seem to run out of storage. Battery life can be improved by optimizing settings, uninstalling certain apps and buying an external battery pack or case.  But internal storage cannot be ‘fixed’ once you buy an iPhone.

The iPhone 5s starts at $99 and is the cheapest iPhone we recommend. At $99 it comes with 16GB, which is the same starting point as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. That’s still not enough for many users, but it at least provides a reasonable starting point. It’s also very likely that we’ll start seeing significant price breaks on the iPhone 5s as we head into the holiday season. Apple just cut the price of the iPhone 5s in half, but that probably won’t be enough to clear out stock at retailers considering the iPhone 6 will be sitting right next to it and there are tons of options that allow people to buy the newer iPhone with no money down.

The iPhone 5s has several key advantages over the iPhone 5c, which are easily worth the extra $99, including the extra 8GB of storage. The iPhone 5s has a much better camera that includes a two-tone flash for more natural lighting. It also comes with Touch ID, the fingerprint scanning feature that makes it easier to unlock iPhones and make purchases on the App Store and in iTunes. The iPhone 5c comes with a dated processor (A6) that isn’t speedy enough to perform some camera functions such as burst mode and slo-mo mode The iPhone 5s has Apple’s M7 motion processor that lets it provide information to apps such as fitness trackers.

The iPhone 5s also allows users to bump up to 32GB for only $50 more. It’s very easy to argue that 24GB of extra storage over the iPhone 5c is worth $149 alone.

Some users may not have $99 extra to spare for the iPhone 5s, but that can be worked around too. All major U.S. carriers have payment plans that bring the upfront cost of buying the iPhone 5s down to zero. You’ll have to do the calculations yourself to see if this ends up saving you money in the long run, but it definitely does for many since carriers are trying to move people off of traditional contracts and onto plans that offer monthly discounts in exchange for paying full price for devices. For example, the Verizon Edge payment plan spreads the full cost of the phone ($549 for the iPhone 5s) out over 20 months. That means a Verizon Edge customer will pay $27.49 per month for the phone. Verizon Edge payment plan for the iPhone 5c is $22.49, just $5 less per month. The monthly Verizon Edge payments are partially or fully negated by the $15 or $25 monthly service discounts Verizon applies depending on how much data you buy.

The iPhone 6 is miles ahead of the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s in a number of departments, but we don’t expect to see discounts on the latest iPhone any time soon.

Any way you cut it, the iPhone 5s is definitely worth $99 more than the iPhone 5c. We recommend paying the difference up front or you’ll be left paying for it in the near future when you run out of space and your iPhone 5c becomes nearly unusable.

16 Comments

  1. Rebecca

    09/24/2014 at 2:56 pm

    You can get a 5c with 32 GBs for $50. Cheaper than the 5S and has twice the GBs. This is extremely misleading.

    Reply

    • Xavier Lanier

      09/24/2014 at 3:13 pm

      Rebecca, it looks like some carriers do have 16GB and 32GB iPhone 5c units in stock in limited supplies. However, the 16GB and 32GB iPhone 5c models are no longer available from Apple. We don’t recommend buying the iPhone 5c from AT&T because the carrier is selling them as “closeout equipment” and will not take any exchanges or returns. We recommend proceeding with caution if you’re buying a closeout model.

      Reply

      • Pranav

        08/03/2015 at 8:03 am

        Xavier, screw you. It is obvious that you are an android fanboy. So just shut up and keep quiet. Nobody needs to read your worthless reviews. You should be fired. So what if people buy iPhones. You’re just jealous because iPhones sell more. Just keep quiet you idiot.

        Reply

  2. Mark

    09/24/2014 at 5:54 pm

    I got an Apple 5c 16 Gigs works fine for me

    Reply

  3. Neal Cassady

    09/24/2014 at 9:28 pm

    This article is only applicable to those who have yet to upgrade from the iPhone 4. I’m going to (naively) assume that since the release of 6, going forward the vast majority of 5c owners already own it. And I’d be willing to bet that most are fairly happy with it. When it comes down to it, the only difference between the 5s and 5c is the aluminum vs plastic aspect and the thumb ID software. Prior to the release of 6, those two differences listed above did not justify spending an extra $100 to those who needed to save the money. Once you stick a case on the 5c you no longer experience the plastic backing and quite frankly will not think twice about the useless ID software. Again, prior to the release of 6, the 5c clearly had a pricing advantage over the 5s as they are the exact same phone. Extra flashes, workout motion sensor software and the like be damned as most of us could care less about those functions.

    Reply

  4. Royce

    09/27/2014 at 12:19 pm

    I got an iPhone 5c a few days ago, 32GB for 29.99 on 2yr term. I fail to see any issue with this device whatsoever. I know that it’s fragile, got a case to protect it. This article is extremely misleading to consumers, telling us we shouldn’t buy a specific product. Essentially, the media is attempting to assimilate each and every person into one image. This article is no different. The only difference is there’s no mention of “be cool, get the 5S” but instead of rare issues with the device. Anyone who gets an 8GB iPhone clearly doesn’t know that iPhones require a bounty of space, as they have since the introduction of the App Store. And since when did iOS 8 take 6.9GB? On my 5c it took 1.7GB. That’s going directly from 7.1 to 8.0.2.

    Are you implying that iPhones are crap and we should all use Android? You should know that my Sony Xperia device is now at the city dump because Wi-Fi didn’t work. Android? You’d have to be insane to want one of those paperweights. iOS 8 trumps Android 4.4.4 any day. I prefer simplicity and elegance in a phone. The 5c is the simplest. Nothing fancy in the OS, but colourful on the outside.

    I have not had any issues with my 5c, and God forbid I get an iPhone 6 Plus, I’ll be dealing with “Bend: Apple’s newest, smartest technology”. My 5c fits my needs perfectly.

    There’s my 2 bucks. (I put in more info than 2 cents would buy) Sorry if I offended any Android fans out there. Android is a downgrade, even compared to a Windows Phone.

    Goodbye.

    Reply

  5. T-Bone

    09/30/2014 at 11:53 am

    And paying an extra $149 for an additional 24GB of storage is ridiculous considering you can buy a 3TB external drive for that price.

    Reply

  6. julie parenti

    10/05/2014 at 5:12 am

    i want you all to know i appreciate all of this passionate info: pros & cons. thank you.

    Reply

  7. Nikhil

    10/10/2014 at 6:39 am

    Such a biased review! Apple fanboy there? Its such a badly written review that doesn’t even explore the possibility of simply purchasing a 5c with larger storage. Remember, not everyone will be using the phone the same way you do.

    Reply

  8. Jenny

    10/13/2014 at 8:46 am

    the review is only talking about the 8gb version! if you are still able to get a 5c with more storage, this review has nothing to do with you!

    Reply

  9. Jennifer M.

    10/21/2014 at 9:41 am

    I just got the 5c from verizon. It’s the 8gb one. I would have probably liked a 16gb one, but I just couldnt swing the $99 and at the time I ordered, I did not see where I could get the 5s for a low price and split up the payments. I dont know if I could have done it anyway as we are in a very tight $$$ situation right now. However, I am not much bothered by the 8gb sice I have never been one to use much space at ALL. I don’t put movies, songs, or even many pics on my phone. Only have a few small games that interest me installed. I’m a really light user of space and always have been. So I’m just saying for me, my situation, the free 8gb iphone 5c works really well. No, it’s not gonna be a good option if you really need a lot of gb space or if you are really interested in the fingerprint scanning stuff. It depends on the person and their situation. I love my 5c, nothing for me to complain about at all. It’s a great phone. :-)

    Reply

  10. El

    11/23/2014 at 6:03 am

    Wow, some readers are too ________, to understand the point! 8GB with a 2 year COMMITMENT, is not a deal, it’s a HOOK, and after updating software you will have NOTHING for space. This means you wont have space for most apps and will need to depend on cloud $ervices to make room on your Camera ROLL so that you could take incoming pictures/video. Never mind text space and media content! GEEZ!??

    Reply

  11. Hate my 5c

    01/31/2015 at 11:35 pm

    I upgraded to a 5c back in Oct.
    the first phone I received had tough screen problems and returned it for another phone. This phone isn’t a lot better! Every time I try to use it when plugged in to charger the phone will open apps while trying to work in another app or open apps when the phone is stationary on the table not even being touched!! I have called people while charging when I wasn’t even in the room with the phone!! Now I am stuck with a payment plan on a phone I hate!! And can’t upgrade again for a year!! As far as I’m concerned apple should do a recall on all 5c phones!!

    Reply

  12. mark

    01/08/2016 at 6:53 am

    When I contracted for an iphone 5c only the 8gig version was offered. Apple discontinued the larger memory option.
    If I had know that I was going to take so many pictures, or had read your advice, I would have paid the difference for a large memory 5s. However, it is quite a good device. I must say that apple should work on improving the phone. My old lg flip had better reception than any iphone.

    Reply

  13. 5c's Suck

    03/24/2016 at 9:19 am

    Most likely THEE worst apple product introduced to the public, I don’t know whether to blame my service provider or apple itself. Whichever, whomever needs to understand that when it involves device malfunction, dropped calls, bad reception or slow downloads, this one takes the cake. I originally thought that the “little brother version” of the 5s was going to be a more practical decision considering that I’m not big into the latest trends pertaining to electronics, boy was I wrong. saving that extra $100 or $150 isn’t worth the headache down the line or the lost data or the poor LTE speed. Thumbs down (I don’t recommend this piece of junk at all) DROP IT ONCE, BE PREPARED TO DROP SOME MONEY!! It’ll nickel and dime you.

    Reply

  14. phlatulentphreddy

    09/18/2016 at 2:43 pm

    Have a 5c that i have had for about a year and a half. Unit now has an issue with cellular service and having done a restore on the unit via itunes and run a diagnostic on unit that kept restarting and not completing and swapping out sim card can only conclude that I have a $550 paperweight. I am now using an older samsung phone that costs a third of the price and WORKS! Apple Support was of no help since my Handy Dandy warranty had expired and I suspect it is an issue with the antenna soldered to the mobo breaking lose though I have never dropped it and have it in an otterbox. Poor build quality – no acceptable for such an expensive item. Had a mac mini that had display port issues that I returned a couple of years ago. Won’t be buying another apple product anytime soon. Suggest that the company’s quality control is lousy these days and for the price you can do better though I like the ecosystem. The one thing a cell phone has to get right is that it has to let you use it for a PHONE!

    Reply

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