For once, flagship phones weren't all Apple had to talk about. At its Cupertino event today, the company announced the iPhone 5c, a decidedly lower-end version of its once-flagship device. We've had a couple of minutes to check out the device, and basically? It's an iPhone 5, only a lot thicker and a lot more plastic. And a lot more colorful.
It's actually a bit surprising how high-end Apple's made the plastic phone feel, though it certainly doesn't hold a candle to the new 5s, which is far more premium and attractive. The 5c is almost like a toy, a rugged, comfortable device that doesn't feel much heavier than the iPhone 5 despite being noticeably larger. According to Apple, the device has a larger battery than the iPhone 5, which along with its plastic shell goes a way to explaining its bulk.
If you're going to make a plastic phone, though, this is how to do it. From the cohesive shell to the smooth and glossy back (which did pick up a fair number of fingerprints) the device feels far better than Samsung's or LG's plastic options. Even the rubbery cases look nice, their open-circle backs fitting in nicely with the color palette. They cover just the wrong part of the text on the phone's back, though, so with a case on you just see the word "non" all the time. Strange.
The colors look, well, fantastic — it's hard to believe it took Apple so long to make colored iPhones. The 5c comes in yellow, red, green, white, and pink, and we're particularly smitten with the blue. Despite the colors, we're still a little bit curious why Apple made this move, releasing a slightly cheaper device rather than going for a much less expensive model.
It may not have Apple's new A7 or M7 processors, but the 5c felt plenty fast and usable. iOS 7 ran smoothly, and the camera was if anything faster than normal — though part of that is surely the new camera app in iOS 7. The biggest question the phone has to answer, really, is why it exists: at $99 on contract it's not a lot cheaper than the iPhone 5S will be when both become available on September 20th, and even the higher-end device comes in a few new colors. The 5c is considerably nicer than we expected, but is it nice enough to take away from Apple's higher-end options? We'll have to wait and see.