Even the iPhone 5c's plastic is better - here's why

iPhone 5c lineup
iPhone 5c lineup (Image credit: Apple)

There's been quite a bit of discussion about Apple's decision to use polycarbonate for the iPhone's case. Is the plastic on the iPhone 5c a sign that Apple's legendary focus on product quality is slipping? Absolutely not. Let me explain why.

We've been critical of some manufacturers' use of plastic cases in the past. And that's raised the ire of a few commenters here on our forums and on Twitter.

"Polycarbonate is just another word for plastic!" say some.

Polycarbonate is plastic, yes. But all plastic is not polycarbonate.

Polycarbonate has been used for years in the optical industry, to craft eyeglass lenses that are shatter-resistant and thinner than standard plastic lenses. Many of the sunglasses that are available use polycarbonate lenses; windshields on motorcycles, on planes and helicopters; some computer screens and e-ink devices - polycarbonate's use is myriad. It's a lightweight material that's easily molded into different shapes, It's a good electrical insulator and it's very heat resistant, too.

Apple's use of polycarbonate as a manufacturing material for the iPhone 5c is not unique in the world of smartphones. Nokia, for example, uses polycarbonate to make the cases used in its Lumia 925 and 1020 smartphones. HTC used polycarbonate on its One X; Samsung has used polycarbonate on some of its Galaxy models.

According to Apple folklore, Steve Jobs had the original iPhone's production retooled at the last minute because he discovered that when he carried a prototype iPhone in his pocket, the screen got easily scratched by his car keys. Corning worked overtime to produce Gorilla Glass to fit the phone instead.

And the big downside to polycarbonate is just that: while it's shatter-resistant, it scratches easily. That's why Apple has taken a step that some other smartphone makers haven't - they've lacquer coated the polycarbonate back of the iPhone 5c to make it more scratch resistant.

The iPhone 5c will scratch if you try hard enough, so it's still a good idea to put some kind of case on it that will protect it. Whether you go with Apple's cases or one of the many cases from third-party manufacturers now getting ready to flood the market is entirely up to you. But one way or the other, protect the phone.

The complaints we've had about the use of plastic-backed phones isn't in the use of plastic itself - it's in the build quality and the quality of the materials used. A cheap phone made of crappy components feels cheap and looks cheap.

So, to summarize: Yes, Apple went with a plastic back. But it's not just plastic. It's polycarbonate. Which keeps weight down, is shatter-resistant, heat-resistant and just an all-around better material. It's coated to keep from scratching. It's better.

There's nothing cheap about the build quality of the iPhone 5c. That's the difference.

Do you agree? Or do you think Apple's use of plastic was a mistake? Or do you think I'm splitting hairs with this polycarbonate stuff? Sound off in the comments.

If you're still sitting on the fence about the iPhone 5c, here are some links that might help you with your decision:

Peter Cohen
  • Yeah it should shut up a lot of people who said that the aluminum scratched easily and why didn't Apple use plastic. So Apple took it one step above lacquer coating so well just have to see if it does hold up. Good article tho
  • I couldn't care less if my plastic on the back of my phone gets scratched. The glass on the front, however, is a different story.
  • yeah that's what i've always thought. Even the back of my 4s can be replaced for like $15 by a third party retailer. I have a case because i'm scared if i drop it i'll shatter the entire thing front and back and dent it to the point were it won't work.
  • Plastic still looks like total garbage compared to the metal phone. 5c is okay for those that don't care about quality craftsmanship. And the market exists for sure. But not for me.
  • To each their own. It fits a demographic for those who don't care about metal and just want a good smart phone with apps that they don't have to spend a lot of $ on. $100 is more feasible to many budget conscious people. I know people who make decent money but felt that they couldn't justify $200 for a phone. iPhone 5c silences that for many! Sent from the iMore App
  • Iphone 5c costs more than an Iphone 5, same insides only crappy plastic on the outside. How is that for budget conscious people?
  • All of the mid-level DSLR's like the Nikon D7100 and Canon 70D use polycarbonate construction (backed by a partial magnesium frame in the Nikon). Short of major damage, these cameras go-on for years. There are still people out there who using D70's, so it's more than enough for a phone that gets replaced in two year's time.
  • D70 user here; can confirm.
  • I would buy an iPhone 5c in a heartbeat if it had the same matte, textured black polycarbonate that Nikon uses. It hides scratches SO much better than glossy and easier to grip.
  • Polycarbonate may be better than other plastic but it isn't better than aluminum, it looks cheap and feels cheap compared to aluminum, and it's a stupid idea to use plastic on a product that costs 549$. They should've used aluminum like they did with iPod Touch 5th gen. To us point of a plastic iPhone was it being less expensive,since it's not less expensive what is the point of it being plastic, just explain this. I mean if there was no 5c, 5 would be 549$ with better build quality. Apple screwed us if you ask me.
  • Two words: profit margin.
  • Two words: new buyers Sent from the iMore App
  • Two letters: BS
  • Apple used plastic on their $1000+ Macbooks for years. Plastic is a better material for the outside of electronics. Plastic absorbs less heat, it's more pliable and wireless frequencies pass through plastic material better than metal. The only thing that metal has over plastic is a more "premium" feel. But that's just our vanity kicking in. (opinion)
  • And their plastic macbooks had the bad habit of cracking and chipping off after a year or two, i know because i had a white macbook that the plastic started chipping off before i got a macbook pro and then my friend got the last version of the white macbook and it cracked and the rubber started peeling and fell off the bottom. Plastic does not last apple should just stick with metal, steve jobs would have never made anything cheap because he prefers quality. Quality at apple has gone the way of the dodo bird.
  • I can live with the cracks and scrapes on my 2010 macbook far more easily than the dents and acid pitting on my wife's 2008 MacBook Pro, sure the pristine 2008 I have is pretty but it soon wouldn't be if I took it everywhere with me, the price premium of the 2010 for broadly similar specs and an alu case just wasn't worth it and I'm sure it would look horrid at this point. That said l'd love a 5s but for the £150+ difference on contract the 5c is a better choice especially given that it lives in a case.
  • you are ignorant my friend........all top end phones are released at $599-$799.........all phones, except a very few (htc one, iphone 5/5s) are plastic.........you literally have no idea what you are talking about...sorry!
  • ^^^ thank you!
  • Do you know that people complained when Apple didn't make a new cheaper iPhone and just priced last years model at $100? Do you know that people complain when Apple makes a new cheaper iPhone and discontinues last years model? The moral of the story is you can't please everyone. At least the 5c has a better battery and camera than the 5. If you want Aluminum throw in an extra $100 and get all the other perks that comes with a 5s
  • Actually the batter on the 5c gets same talk time as the iPhone 5 and the camera is the same. Specs are only bumped up in the 5s. It is the premium phone. 5c is the iPhone 5 with a metal frame and plastic shell. Sent from the iMore App
  • Sorry but your wrong. Battery is bumped up and FaceTime camera is better according to Macworld article. "From a hardware perspective, the 5c is very similar to the iPhone 5: It uses the same processor (Apple’s A6), the same graphics circuitry, and the same screen. The main differences are that the 5c includes a slightly more capacious battery, compatibility with more bands of LTE, and an updated FaceTime HD camera that features larger pixels and a better backside-illumination sensor."
  • Thanks.. I dislike it when people talk with authority but have no idea what they are talking about. There is even an article on this site about the higher capacity battery in the 5C.
  • You're welcome and I don't like it either :)
  • Seriously. Thank you. People always have something to complain about. You know, shatter resistant plastic wont shatter, and aluminum dents. And come on. Lacquer? That stuff is what gibson finishes their 2500$ guitars with. Can't be too cheap. On top of that it has pretty colors. And doesn't inhibit radio signals like metal. Guess what else? It's colorful.
  • I'm not sure how "Apple screwed us". How have we been screwed? Do we own this product and somehow got slighted in quality after the fact?...I don't think so. How can you be screwed by something you don't own. How can Apple screw people by by opinion or expectations created by others. Apple screwed nobody they don't owe us or you anything. They are a business and to expect more than that is to delude oneself. I like Apple because they go higher than other competitors and I have had great service historically but I don't delude myself by thinking they are the Jesus of the smartphone industry and that they "owe" me something.
  • While I love the look of the IP5/IPS when it's brand new, looking down at my now 1-year old iPhone that has mostly gone naked most of its life, it makes me sad to see all the scuffs, scratches, craters in that shiny aluminum. Yes, the all metal/glass construction looks amazing new, it just doesn't look so amazing 1 year in. And if you cover your phone up with a case, then you totally lose the aesthetic anyways. Let's face it, the IP5 was really meant for a glass viewing case, not your dashboard/table/cement pavement and what not.
  • Lacquer is softer than plastic, and will most likely scratch even easier. I wonder if they have a "special" lacquer that's more scratch resistant than the others in existence. On a more serious note, though, polycarbonate has worked out well for other manufacturer's, and I don't see it being any different for Apple. What this should really do is shut the people up that hated HTC and Nokia for touting the benefits of polycarbonate vs other materials. Samsung plastic is still cheap feeling, and shiny (slimy), regardless of whether or not it's polycarbonate.
  • Agreed. I'm not sure how the author can claim lacquer can assist in scratching resistance when it is so soft. If anything the lacquer will attract more scratches. Perhaps Apple lacquer has magic qualities.
  • Because it's made from unicorn blood. It's magic lacquer.
  • i knew it!
  • Well, maybe it's perhaps not lacquer, but poly? Which isn't exactly cheap either. And thinking about it, wouldn't yellow, check, or wear like nitro lacquer, or any other lacquer for that matter. Apple probably wouldn't use LACQUER, but some clear gloss finish. And who cares? Auto sandpaper and rubbing compound takes scratches off anyways. ;)
  • Apple uses the term "clear lacquer hard-coat" whereas this article used "lacquer coated." Apple also says it goes through "multiple finishing processes." So just saying "lacquer is soft, therefore fail" is not helpful or really a good argument at all. The fact is you don't know how the finish is done so you shouldn't really conclude anything at all.
  • I sense an ever so slight bit of fanboyism here. I didn't say that polycarbonate isn't a good material. I think it's perfectly fine to make a phone out of. And no, we don't know the exact process that they use. I would need to do quite a bit of research (probably anyway, which I'm honestly not going to take the time to do for these comments) do see where pencil hardness relates to mohs hardness, but here's a chart with different hardness levels of lacquer: http://www.woodweb.com/knowledge_base/Testing_Your_Coatings_Hardness.html So there you go. I'm going to just take a guess and say that pencil hardness isn't anywhere near the level of the mohs scale, based on the fact that they're pencils.
  • Fanboyism? Really? Why can't we just have opinions...?
  • I enjoy the color of Nokias polycarbonate body phones. Poly carbonate is cool. Everyone should use it more.
  • Samsung plastic isn't shiny for long though. Gets realy dull and dirty looking real quick, at least the ones I saw people holding a year ago at a fair where people were videoing their kids. The Samsung Galaxy phones were easily spotted by their dirty dull finishes. The Apple iPhones because they looked sharp. The others mostly just looked like cheap wannabe's. And then I was using a Pre3, so was not a case of being an Apple fan.
  • Why don't we wait and try the product out personally before we create an article about how good it is first? Just a thought.
  • I just want to know if you can easily replace the back if it does get scratched or if I want to change colors.
  • That's a good question. I'm sure this'll be answered by iFixIt as soon as they get their hands on one and do a breakdown.
  • With no visible edges and lines, I think the back plastic will be very difficult to remove by average Joes like us. They built the aluminum casing and frame inside the plastic case. I think also, part of these apple cases are there to protect from scratches, ala bumper to improve reception. I guess we will see.
  • If you watch the production video, it appears that the internal frame is glued into the shell. I doubt it will be replaceable.
  • You can on the 3GS. You just have to take it apart. If it went together it'll come apart. ;)
  • Samsung and other android fans have criticized Apple for their aluminum bodies - Here you go, trolls, enjoy. I feel very proud though that Johny Ive did call it "plastic" instead of spinning it as some super-duper plastic space age material like Samsung presenters do. But, those that still think it's.. um.. cheap - you have nice aluminum option unlike Samsung for example.
  • I agree with you about a good majority of android fans saying that (except HTC One owners). But we can all agree that Samsung's use of plastic is very terrible. It looks cheap and feels cheap. The 5c doesn't look cheap. It looks like a Lumia, and Lumia's look good in their plastic shell. Apple is just taking a stab at Microsoft with their "we have a a lot of colors" BS. Oh and can some agree with me that the Note 3's plastic leather is disgusting?
  • My sister has the Samsung Galaxy S4 I looked at it last night. She's had it for 2 months she's shattered the screen twice from lap height drops once with a case on and once without a case on. The "metal" bezel around the screen is not metal. It's cheap dollar store plastic that's chipping and turning white. Apple would never make a cheap phone like that, plastic or not. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yeah even my 3GS has a metal bezel. And guess what? A plastic back! ;D Samsung made apples 3GS processor though.
  • From my vantage point it's been the other way around. Mostly I see iPhone fans berating fans of other smartphone manufactures that their "cheap plastic crap" doesn't hold a candle to the premium metal iPhone.
  • Peter, You sound like someone who is defending a recent purchase. Plastic is plastic, no one complains about plastic breaking, they complain about screens scratching and glass breaking. And seeing how they obsoleted the iPhone 5 for this device, $99 with a 2yr contract isn't 'less expensive' than what people were purchasing the 4s for now. So I don't get how this is a good move by apple in any regard other than their margins will be better cause this is easier to make. Steve
  • "they complain about screens scratching and glass breaking." It'll be interesting to revisit this a few months from now and see how the 5c compares on the screen front. I'm unaware of any differences in screen quality or composition between the 5 and the 5c.
  • Yeah, I don't think there is any change either. But the hard plastic will make the shock absorption a lot different than the softer aluminum (iirc). I won't be surprised if people that don't opt to get a case will have a better chance of breaking the screen in a drop.
  • I wouldn't be surprised it they had *less* chance of breaking the screen in an iPhone 5c either though. Plastic is more flexible and not that hard. On the one hand, the screen on the 5c seems to be *above* the level of the case, which is alarming and one would think, a "bad" design in terms of shattering the screen, on the other hand, it kind of looks like it has a gasket around the outside edge. The thing is we just don't know. We do know however, that Apple is likely to have done all the standard drop tests and so forth so it's very, very, unlikely that it will be worse than the aluminium cases and much more likely that it will be better.
  • "Plastic is more flexible and not that hard." Actually I believe polycarbonate is more rigid than aluminum, thats why aluminum dents and polycarbonate doesn't, it transfers the shock through out the device, hence the higher probability of breaking a screen. "We do know however, that Apple is likely to have done all the standard drop tests and so forth so it's very, very, unlikely that it will be worse than the aluminium cases and much more likely that it will be better." We don't know that for fact but I would also assume they tested it, but unless the added aluminum rim they added helps that I don't believe they can change physics ;)
  • Well, you're not making a lot of sense and it seems like you're trying to take the piss out of me whereas I was being open to multiple points of view. If aluminium was more flexible than plastic it would deform not dent, a dent comes about due to a failure in flexibility. I think you are using soft/hard and flexible/non-flexible interchangeably as suits whatever argument you are making at the time. Yes ... technically, Apple doesn't announce their testing process so we don't know "for a fact" that they have tested it. On the other hand, this is standard practice in the industry and has been for at least 50 years or so and Apple is a leading manufacturer. To imply/argue as you do that they may not have done the standard sort of drop testing is disingenuous at best. As to the "added aluminum (sic) ring they added," (great grammar BTW), I don't know what you're talking about and I suggest that perhaps you don't either.
  • Apparently you didn't listen to jony Ives video where he explains the metal frame inside the plastic case. And you must have missed your physics class too. Deforming metal is a way of absorbing shock, that's why there are crumple zones in cars instead of rigid frames and bodies. Typical of you though, shoot your mouth of without doing any homework. You can tell when someone has run out of knowledge in a discussion, they try to change the topic by making insults or not picking.
  • There are ALOT of hairs to split. That plastic while strong, definitely won't bend as much as aluminum. Just because aluminum dents doesn't mean it's less flexible, it just means it holds its flexed state. Plastic (this variety) won't flex at all. It's really brittle in the respect that it'll crack before too much flexing. It's not silicone...
  • Aluminum would vibrate more, being a metal and obviously harder than plastic. Tensile strength is different than hardness. The metal is superior; but plastic is still good too... Meaning the vibrations could possibly transfer to the screen. But it doesn't matter, they make cases for that.
  • So you are of the belief that phones like the Lumia 1020 are better in protecting the screen than the 5s. Interesting.
  • Actually, by choosing Polycarbonate they have a much more involved production process than the use of another plastic. After molding it has to be cleaned, polished, buffed to a shine again and then coated with a scratch resistant lacquer (not scratch proof just one that helps reduce scratching). I am pretty sure that the process is less involved than iPhone 5 case or the 5S case and it was probably a driving decision when it came to the launch of the 5S. To allow for maximum output for the 5S cases they had to design a new device for the 'downgrade' with a body that less costly or less intensive when it came to production. Personally I don't think there will be any more difference between breakage or scratching of screens between the 5 and the 5C. In fact the 5C may actually be less prone to breakage when dropped because there is even less glass, none on the rear at all, and a solid body and sides increases strength compared to a phone with a light aluminum body with cutouts on the rear for two glass panels which reduces the integrity of the whole body. Include the metal inside the body that is also used as an antennae I would suspect that unless you throw it on the ground really hard onto the very corner where the glass of the front panel sits it will be fine. Though any piece of glass that hits on a corner is more prone to breaking and all phones suffer from this problem regardless of make and model.
  • No where else in Apple's product line do they just sell the 1-year old model in lieu of a mid-tier option. The act of selling last year's model for a discount was always an aberration. What they did was much more in line with what they always do. And when thinking about the psychology of your average shopper, it's going to be more effective.
  • Man you are such suckers for hype. Apple has done absolutely nothing new here. It's coated PC and it is used everywhere. But you have to jump up and down and say "Apple is not just plastic, it's special plastic" I like and use Apple products, but you Apple lemmings will buy every magic bean story you're fed. It is a petroleum product too, so those of you hugging trees...well...you know.
  • "It is a petroleum product too " And that's another awesome thing about it. The iPhone 5c is made of DINOSAURS!
  • Not just dinosaurs, but truly magnificant and so beautiful retina dinosaurs...that's so awesome
  • And those dinosaurs come with 'the world's most popular eye', the 8 megapixel iSight eyes
  • These Dino and retina comments are hilarious. :D
  • I had no complaints about the early iphones besides cracking (not scratches) along the mute switch or volume buttons. I wasn't a big fan of the glass iphone 4 at first but it grew on me. I did like how it kept in excellent condition. I have to admit the black & slate looks nice and remains my favorite to look at. But I'm not a fan of it due to scratches, chipping, etc. The iphone 5 cries for a case due to this and also because it's too slippery to use without one. I'd rather see the return of the iphone 4 glass sandwich but the plastic is fine as well though i can't see buying year old phones redone in plastic.
  • Listen Peter frikkin people love to gripe. Like someone in the comments said their were complaining that Apple should make something to compete with other smartphone makers. Some wanted a plastic iPhone, some want a bigger screen, people just love to complain. These new iPhones are bold and great looking. I myself will be getting a 5s. But just like you said I can't see Apple going 'cheap' on the plastic. Great piece. You guys continue keeping it real. Sent from the iMore App
  • Plastic in the SmartPhone business is 90% all the same. The lacquer coating you refer to is strictly applied for cosmetic reasons. The lacquer coating will scratch long before the plastic will. The build quality on the new iPhone 5C is well put together, I like it, like it allot. I prefer the 5S, I must have the fingerprint scanner and all the other upgrades. I sold my iPhone 5 so I could update to the newer phone. I was really hoping for the 128gb version but maybe next year. Going back to the plastic built iPhone, many are talking about the quality of plastic, no difference it;s all the same. The difference is in the manufacturing as in shape and thickness. I own many Android devices, most are the Samsung devices which I really enjoy because they are easily repaired by myself, easily hackable and get allot of Great Dev support. The only difference in the quality of builds is in the construction, the removable back door on most Samsung devices gives the phone the so called cheap feeling because of the seam. That removable back is a great feature that most Android users want, gives the opportunity to change your own battery, update to a larger battery and the ease of working on the phone. Just recently I broke my sd-card inside the slot it slides into, won't tell you how it happened (alcohol related) I was able to remove the sd-card tray which was also the sim card tray all in one large piece. Ordered the new part on Amazon for 20 bucks and repaired it myself. That was a very easy repair, any tech shop would have charged a few hundred bucks. Sorry for the rant but I thought I would give you my opinion on build quality. Plastic is plastic, it is all in the shape and thickness. The lacquer is strictly cosmetic, I like the shiny look although it's a finger print magnet it still looks good. That shiny lacquer will scratch much easier than just plain old plastic. Apple did a great job with their all one piece design, it gives the phone many limitations but I like it. Saying all this I am buying that sharp looking 5S in Gold I think with 64gb of storage.
    PS The plastic built Smartphone doesn't have issues with it's many radios. Building with metal can foul up the signal strength and in gps the accuracy. Building with plastic is much easier and owning many Samsung phones the radios have always been very strong. The gps is always very fast to lock on and accurate. Plastic is very friendly with radios.
  • I thought it was interesting that apple chose to improve the front camera in the 5C, but not in the 5S.
  • It has to have SOME advantage...
  • The scratch resistance or polycarbonate vs standard plastic is irrelevant. People buy it based on looks, and unfortunately it looks much cheaper than it actually is. It looks cheaper than a 3G or 3GS thanks to the squared shape and the colour covering the sides.
  • have you held and seen one in person? Because reporters from most of the major tech sites have, and they all say the same thing: it looks and feels great in person.
  • I for one think it looks fun. :)
  • Not many people have mentioned the plastic 5c is 20 grams heavier than the aluminium 5s. That's quite a bit in my opinion and also, not what you'd first expect.
  • Wow, you guys are really reaching for stories this week aren't you? At least this isn't quite as bad as the posts dedicated to choosing a color. Except for, of course, the facts about lacquer pointed out in the comments. Personally, I prefer soft-touch plastic. Fewer fingerprints, better grip, and very durable. It isn't shiny and it doesn't glitter in the sun. Luckily for me, being a man, I could care less.
  • "It isn't shiny and it doesn't glitter in the sun." The iPhone 5c is all about Team Jacob, apparently.
  • Again, being a man, I had to look up what Team Jacob was. I decided I'm not interested in learning the details as to why that statement may or may not have been funny, so I'll just trust you on that one.
  • Yeah Peter. He a man. Never forget that - he probably has a 4x4 with truck nuts on the tow bar and likes to dutch-oven chicks in the tray. Likes his technology with valves and arseless chaps on his weekends. He a MAN I tells ya.
  • Yes maam, I am indeed a man. But I am not a hick. Nice try.
  • Well you certainly give off the vibe of one. You are so desperately trying to prove that you're a man that I'm wondering what your angle is.
  • LOL, I'm desperate? I'm not the one trying to equate basic masculinity with being a hick. And I'm not making false claims about the superiority of Apple plastic. I'm just stating facts that seem to have offended you. Now, I could speculate as to why that may be, but frankly I don't care what your motives are. And Peter's motives for the article are obvious to everybody except the hopeless fanboys who can't think for themselves.
  • Your whole first post criticising the colour stories (crypto anti-gay?) and talking about "being a man" came across that way to me too. Then you double down with "not being woman…" The only part of your original post that wasn't full of passive aggressive "manliness" and had actual *content* was the middle sentence about the soft touch plastic. The point is that you were coming across all sexist, so those that take offence to that are going to fill in whatever their mental image of "sexist guy" is. For "scruff01" that's the hick image, for me it was more like "douchebag in a suit." :-) You are probably neither of those stereotypes but your words inspire people to imagine them nonetheless.
  • LOL!
  • Lumia 925 also uses aluminium as part of the design. But the fact still remains that polycarbonate is plastic, and plastic is plastic. No amount of Apple marketing BS will change that. Plastic is OK for Lumia 520, which costs USD 100; at USD 600 (or 700-1000 here in Europe), we expect more, sorry, if all you are going to do is pack iPhone 5 inside it. I can tolerate plastic on Lumia 1020 type of device, but not on an iPhone that is simply a normal phone. What, then, is left for 5C to differentiate itself, expect the Lumia 620-cribbed desing? Nothing. Plastic was a mistake.
  • You could say though that the iPhones heritage is in Plastic. The iPhones preceding the iPhone 4 were built around a plastic body. They were highly successful devices and were all equally priced with the iPhone 5S and then as they became the older models they price matched the iPhone 5C. In fact I know plenty of people that are still using their iPhone 3GS phones and are still happy with them. They do look a little beat up but hey, they are a minimum of 4 or 5 years old by now, without using a case, and even the most shiny metal body's on a phone will look like crud after years of use in the same way. In fact it is far more disappointing when a phone with a shiny metal case gets scratched and beat to crap. I have a friend that bought the HTC One and 6 months later his phone looks terrible. Even my iPhone 5C with a the thinnest of thin clear plastic cases looks in mint condition. The case has a few light scratches but the phone when it is removed from the case is in pristine condition. Something that it would never be if it didn't have that little 1/16th inch thick case on it.
  • I am reading a lot of fanboyism here in many comments. Facts are: plastic - polycarbonate or not - are cheaper and easier in production and doesn't look or feel as nice.
    Now I don't have any problem with the use of plastic on an iPhone and I don't even care about the discussion which is more durable. What I do care about is that if they hadn't invented the iPhone 5c, the regular iPhone 5 would have been the same price.
    In other words: the plastic is fine by me, but there's no other way to justify the pricing than by saying Apple's greed has gone worse. In Europe we don't get iPhones subsidized, we will have to buy it (5c) for €599. In that price range I can have an HTC One, Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z, ... These are high end devices, not mid range. So the pricing is wrong, not the plastic!
  • The big test will be in how it holds up to daily use.
  • Look, there's nothing wrong with plastic, period. The reality is that it has several advantages that have nothing to do with cost. It is certainly better than having a glass back, and so long as it is well done is not something that should factor into a buying decision unless you are vain.
  • There's nothing wrong with the plastic, the price is wrong!
  • It's steel reinforced which should make it feel really solid. I'm not worried at all about build quality. It's more about aesthetic and feel than a question about quality.
  • I like the iPhone 5c. The variations seem like they were born to run iOS 7 and its new color scheme. Also, nobody criticized the iPod nanos when they came out in colors and were not appreciably less expensive than the iPod (classic) and not as full featured. I am not understanding from what is this displeasure emanating among the haters. If one does not like it but wants an iPhone, he or she should simply go for the iPhone 5s unless money is an issue, in which case there is always the free iPhone 4s (and I bet there are still some places selling the iPhone 5 at a discount). Considering most people do not lock their phones or care what processor is in their phone, I suspect the iPhone 5C will sell just fine, especially among those coming from feature phones.
  • " … nobody criticized the iPod nanos when they came out in colors and were not appreciably less expensive than the iPod (classic) and not as full featured …" The iPod nanos were a new and different product or product category. The criticism of the iPhone 5s comes about because it is simply last year's iPhone in a plastic case for $100 less. It's more of a marketing/sales move than a "new product" even though it's being presented as such. It's not really a good deal money-wise. It doesn't help that it's almost the opposite of what ever single industry watcher and investor had assumed was going to be announced.
  • I respectfully disagree. I see the iPhone 5C as no worse a deal as when Apple sold the white MacBooks for $999 when a MacBook Pro encased in a solid block of metal could be had for not much more. The iPhone 5's innards (exs. A6 chip, improved camera, larger screen, better battery life, Lightening connector) are quite an improvement over the iPhone 4S, so it is hardly anything to spit at. If the iPhone 5C's starting price was $0 on contract, I have a hard time seeing people spend the extra $200 for the iPhone 5S, so Apple would potentially be shooting itself in the foot. Plastic was never a bad word when it comes to making iPhones when Apple was selling the iPhone 3G and 3GS, both very much iconic phones, so why now? As for the industry watchers that made the wrong assumptions, many of these were the same people who are upset if profit margins go down on the iPhone but still want Apple to make a 'cheap phone,' which is not something Apple will ever do, as it would mean compromising their principles. In the meantime, Apple continues to sell a lot of the iPhone 4 in the developing world. "It's more of a marketing/sales move than a 'new product' even though it's being presented as such. It's not really a good deal money-wise." I am not exactly sure what you were expecting. Sure, the iPhone 5S could be argued to be a better value, but tell me what company doesn't position their products with the hope of upsell. As for the iPod analogy we have been discussing, how was the iPod nano anymore a new product than the iPhone C? Both have been at one time or another plastic versions of the metal, flagship products but minus some features. I am still on the fence about deciding between a white iPhone 5C and a silver iPhone 5S. I believe both look sharp in their respective ways, but I think I am going to wait until I see them in person before making my decision.
  • I agree. I don't care what processor it is, just so long as its fast enough to justify paying for it.
  • I have always liked plastic, especially quality plastic but I worked for years in the plastics industry working on automotive products. A few months ago someone poo-poo'd the idea of the use of a polymer or a plastic in the body of an iPhone. I said back then that many plastics are more resilient to breakage. For example Polyurethanes are far more resilient when it comes to dropping but it is difficult to consistently maintain colour and suffers from issues such as "White-Out". Polycarbonate is a great material though, just as Peter points out it needs to be highly polished and lacquered with a scratch resistant clear coat. Would I buy an iPhone 5C? If my iPhone 5 was stolen or damaged beyond repair and I wanted to save a little on the 'out of contract' price and wanted a new iPhone without fighting it out on an auction on eBay then it would be my first choice. Colour though would be another matter, I only bought the white iPhone 5 because it worried me that the black finish would show scratches easily and I noticed that they don't have Black as a colour choice. In fact the extra weight of the PC case has advantages. I've panicked so many times that I don't have my phone and had to pull over and pat myself down (or maybe I just enjoy patting myself down tee hee hee) and that weight would be more noticeable. In fact my biggest dislike of the iPhone 5, and why I won't race to upgrade to 5S is that it feels too light. I like a little weight in the phone and that extra little bit makes a difference to me.
  • Just wait till you hold iPhone 5c in your hand. Then decide if it feels cheap. Plast has a bad reputation because of the other phonemakers are producing bad products for a lower price.
  • Wow! This is so weird. I read the blogs from this site everyday. Over the past couple of years, I've read the average comment berate other phones for using plastic and the iPhone was premium for using metal. Now that Apple has come out with a plastic phone, PLASTIC IS AWESOME. I would like to see some consistency. #fanboyism
  • Haha maybe the guys who insulted plastic were all, wtf I'm out of here. xD
  • "Polycarbonate is plastic, yes. But all plastic is not polycarbonate." Since this is an actual journalistic publication, I'm going to go ahead and be anal about the logic of this line. These two sentences are directly contradictory. "All plastic is not polycarbonate" is logically equivalent to "no plastic is polycarbonate" and both are false statements. What you meant to say was "not all plastic is polycarbonate."
  • Don't be such a fanboys justifying everything what apple does.
    iPhone 5C is not a premium phone. It looks just cheap!!! When you buy something from apple you expect just more. You expect high quailty materials like aluminium and not a plastic!
    We always mocked samsung for making premium phones from plastic and suddenly it is ok ? No...it is not. Thanks god for iPhone 5S
  • It's not marketed as premium, in their defense. It's marketed as a budget version of the 5s.
  • I'm bemused by the controversy. Unless mistaken, weren't the iPhone 3G
  • Weren't the 3G and 3GS polycarbonate. I Loved the look and feel of my 3GS. Sent from the iMore App
  • Damm you have a point...
  • Same here. I never could own one because my carrier did not carry iPhones, so I used a Palm Treo and (later) an Android back then.
  • Plastic is good but actually people expected the prices to be much lower especially when they heard in the rumors that plastic is being used.
    Poly carbonate plastic is good and actually this design and style of the phone gives you a youth-centric feeling while carrying this phone, which actually makes this iPhone a bit different this time.
  • I will preface this with: I am buying a 5S. Begin message. Please. Please just stop. Last year, and every year before that, iPhone users would, at every given opportunity, excoriate Android owners for their "plastic phones." The irony, of course, being that a plastic case is first purchase the vast majority of iPhone users make, as the "beautifully chamfered edges" and soft aluminum body of the iPhone is extremely prone to scratching & denting from drops or pocket/purse detritus. Expect the 5C and 5S to have the lowest resale value in history as 2014 rolls around and brings an iPhone 6 with a much larger display, and no one wants the tiny 4" screens anymore. A tiny 4" screen that is not even capable of natively playing back the HD video content the devices own camera records, not without scaling and resizing. A display that cannot display even meager 720p Netflix or YouTube videos without downscaling to the iPhone's absolutely bizarre 1136 x 640 resolution - a display that, in late 2013 - is 2 years obsolete, and still used largely to preserve profit margin. In a world where all premium competitors are using full 1920x1080 HD at pixel densities pushing close to 500ppi in a 4.7-5+ inch sizes, Apple's low resolution, miniscule "Retina Display" is shameful. Next year, we will all be gobsmacked over how wonderful it is to read email, surf web pages or read Reddit on a device that's delivering nearly 50% more usable screen area at 50% higher ppi and more than twice the display resolution. What you say? You will be able to watch YouTube, Netflix and your own camera video in actual full 1080p HD, as it was recorded, and meant to be viewed? Astounding. iPhone's camera, A7 processor, fingerprint sensor, iOS 7 software, app & accessory ecosystem are all amazing, but guys - serious, gut-check, intervention with love here - 4" low resolution screen is not cool. Fix it. iPhone 5C polycarbonate is not made from unicorn tears, rainbow glitter or powdered angel hair. It's a plastic phone. To be precise, it's last years' phone, with a colored plastic shell on it, and convinced that it's somehow magical, millions of buyers will commit the ultimate irony of purchasing a plastic case to protect their magically special plastic iphone. Plastic on plastic. 2012 iPhone 5, but in white plastic. Last year's cpu, last years display, last years camera, last years' everything, but for $550. The 5C exists only for two reasons -
    1, We are all unwittingly taking part in a Marketing Psychology / Gullibility study perpetrated by aliens, or 2, The iPhone 5C exists only convince buyers that the iPhone 5S is a good value- which it is, as it's basically the cost of a 5C plus an OtterBox case and an extra cable or two, vs an iPhone 5S with a $2 monoprice bumper on it.
  • So what's your point? Just felt like ranting? Oh wait. Yeah, the only technical spec that Samsung can still beat Apple with is, wait for it ...
    ... screen size. That's it. Apple haters used to be able to quote processor speeds and buzzwords ("Your wife will love the dual-core Tegra chipset"), graphics chip specs, and several other copy-and-paste hardware talking points. And they tried oh so hard to convince themselves and anybody else that SD card slots and removable batteries were actually good things. Were you (gut-check, intervention with love here) one of those people? It's OK to admit it. Not any more. Apple's custom AX chips are now the industry standard. It might take Samsung until next summer to bang out a vanilla 64-bit ARM chip. Without a separate motion co-processor. But the hardware is the easy part. It always is. Just imagine how long it would take to migrate Android and/or Tizen over to a 64-bit architecture. If and when Samsung releases a 64-bit phone, its flavor of Android will be limping along in 32-bit mode. For years and years. So yeah. If what you say is true, then the Apple haters have exactly one year left to talk up any aspect of any Android device's hardware. After that, it will be radio silence. Better to not mention Apple at all. Because when any competitor mentions Apple, they lose. (E.g. Microsoft's pitiful ad campaigns.)
  • Who said anything about Samsung? And what does this have to do with processors? This is turning into a typical "Apple vs ______" argument. The bigger point here is this - 5C is a dud. It's last years' phone. The iMore writer positioned it as special. It isn't. It's just plastic. Anyone could make it. Millions of people are walking around with coated polycarbonate eyeglasses on, millions of americans are watching college football players bang polycarbonate helmets together this afternoon, and millions of people will pick up, and use thousands of polycarbonate objects throughout their day to day life without a second thought. And yes. The 4" Retina display is shameful in 2013, and unthinkable in 2014. A 4.5 - 5.0 " iPhone in 2014 with A7 chip, TouchID, and iOS 7 (plus whatever cool devices or accessories are introduced to make full use of the M7 coprocessor) may be, quite simply, the perfect smartphone.
  • Hehe, don't mind SockRolid, he's just displaying the usual knee jerk reaction to criticism about Apple, and that is to go into defensive mode and compare it to Samsung or Nokia. I mostly agree with you, although I will give Apple a little credit for tying to improve battery life on the 5c.
  • Improving battery life, and more importantly adding LTE bands. It was a weird situation here: the iPhone 5 came with three LTE bands of which only one is a band that is actually used in Europe :-S
    But correcting past mistakes doesn't justify the steep price of the iPhone 5C to me.
  • Too bad its selective by region, so you might buy an iPhone 5c in the USA that does not have your frequency, but buy one in Singapore that does. I wish it was universal, but there might be technical barriers.
  • Yeah this was apple vs apple. Not apple vs android.
  • High quality plastic: iPhone 3G and 3GS, and now iPhone 5C. Solid, strong.
    Low quality plastic: All Palm devices. Creaked, cracked, easily scratched.
  • Polycarbonate plastic was invented in 1953 and started appearing in consumer products in 1958. Wiki it. There is nothing magical about the iPhone 5C. Apple simply ordered their Chinese contract manufacturer to use a specific grade of polycarbonate with a specific finish. Which comes back to the point of irrelevance, as most buyers will put a case overtop of it. It's still last years' phone.
  • And what's wrong with the iPhone 5? Millions of people are using one right now. And probably will be for another year. What, in terms of specs, makes the 5C a bad phone?
  • Most Android manufacturers new model year devices have
    1, faster, new processor
    2, faster, new graphics processor
    2, increase in display size
    3, increase in camera megapixels or features
    4, significant improvement year to year in battery life .. the 5C has:
    1, last years processor
    2, last years graphics processor
    3, last years display size & substandard resolution
    4, last years 8 megapixel camera with no hardware improvements
    5, very tiny improvement in battery performance .. in a colorful plastic box, being sold as a "new phone." Only it's last years' phone. It's not a BAD phone, per se, it's just.. last years' phone. Being sold as a new phone. Because you can buy it in a blue shell. Last years' phone. But it's new, see? Look, I can buy multiple plastic cases from Apple for $29 apiece (Apple's cost, probably $3 each) to make zany color combinations! Why does Ford bother redesigning their best-selling F150 pickup truck every year, with things like EcoBoost engines, entire passenger compartment redesigns, seats, dash, instrument clusters, body sheet metal changes - They could just sell the SAME truck every year, but put different exterior mirrors on it, and change the paint colors they use in their spray booth at the factory - Look, it's the new Ford F-150C! Oh, everything's the same, but you can buy it THIS year in Glacier White, Sky Blue, Safety Red and Sunset Orange! It's the best!
  • Having last year's specs doesn't in and of itself make the 5c a bad phone. What makes it a bad phone is the price. I just don't get that at all. It's astonishing, in fact. But the Apple apologists are tripping over themselves to defend it, so who are we to argue? Don't get me wrong, I love my Apple gear - if my iMac blew up tonight I'd rather sell my nuts to an irate Chinese monkey than resort to using Windows - but there's only so much one can take. Short and simple, the iPhone 5c, as priced, is a rip-off.
  • .. particularly as it was estimated last year that the cost to make the iPhone 5 was about $200- and that was WITH the aluminum case, which is much more labor & time intensive to make than the 5C case. (google: "cost to make an iphone 5" - Washington Post article.) Apple could have sold the 16gb 5C for $399 and still doubled their cost, but the most sacrosanct thing in Cupertino is "the mark." NEVER LOWER MARGINS. And mysteriously, we get the same 1136 x 640 substandard 4" display in even the premium 5S model, because .. because why, exactly? Because Tim honestly thinks it offers "superior reflectivity and color accuracy" ? Really? - Because the 4.7" IPS LCD the HTC One uses is 1920x1080 full HD at well over 400ppi, the exact same technology as the iPhone 5 screen, just a hell of a lot better. But that part COSTS more, and there's the rub. Apple figures it's better to protect their > $400 per device profit margin by bull*#itting you into believing a 4", 1136x640 display is somehow superior - than it would be to actually offer such an option to their customers. The Galaxy Note 3 is expected to retail for $799 when it hits the market. Why won't Apple sell a 5" iPhone for $799 with the latest, greatest display technology in it? They could preserve their precious margins while not constantly stiffing their users with tiny, low resolution screens. 5C is still last years' phone. Don't make Uncle Jony record another White Room video to convince you all the cool people are buying them. Because he'll do it. PS: Why is true black no longer offered in the 5S, replaced with "Space Gray" ? Because black anodization is too expensive. Google: "black anodization is the most expensive"
    Protect the margins.
  • ^^^^ +1
  • +1
  • Add to that Samsung devices. Read the Verge review for the first Note 10" tablet. Creaked and when you pushed down on the back there was give, almost like the whole thing was hollow.
  • SPLITTING HAIRS. There's too many slippery & interchangeable terms thrown around to take this article seriously despite its original intentions. People complained that plastic was cheap & now that apple does it; its "better".
  • Personally, after checking out the 5c in stores, I'm thinking they finally made a phone I like again. Y'know, something I'd trade my sleek, ergonomic beast of a 3gs for.
    It does kinda suck that you don't get the a7 chip though, I'm happier without the fingerprint stuff though. Also, the new motion processor is pretty interesting to me since I make apps as a hobbyist.
    Anyways, finally they made another smooth back iphone, so I'd definitely pick the 5c, even though white is the only colour that looks any good, so much for the colourful phone.
  • I somewhat feel the same way cause I liked the features the 5S offered but I wanted something that was still original that didn't have that "Touch ID" feature I don't know why I wasn't driven towards the 5S and I instead went for the 5C but still the 5C offers some great features especially the design it's fresh look and feel to the phone wouldn't you agree?
  • So I've seen all of the pros and cons about the iphone 5C but if you've never had an iphone or a smartphone of any kind and since I went straight to the iphone 5C because it was affordable and a sufficiently we'll produced product then is it bad that I chose this phone over the 5S or not anyone please give me an answer I'm having second thoughts and I'm deeply disliking these second thoughts.
  • This is my first Smartphone or any phone buy for seven years. I went to the store intending to get the 5S. But found the strip around it a little sharp (just as I have found Apple's mouse) and could see it not being too comfortable to hold. For that reason I picked up the 5C which is very comfortable to hold and the build quality is classy (no worries about cheap plastic). Having chosen blue, now wish I'd chosen green, but heyho I'm like that with choosing paint for my walls. I primarily chose an Iphone because I recently bought an Ipad to drag myself into the 21st century. Enjoying the seamless interplay between them. I also am hoping Apple might increase the screen size when Iphone 6 emerges - even another half inch in width would help, but despite my failing eyesight I am managing to read most of the content with a bit of zooming and adjusting.
  • I'm tried of every one talking about the plastic back it's not garbage it actually pretty good I drop my IPHONE 5C more then you can think and it still hasn't broke or scratch so get your facts right before you go telling lie about it y'all always has something to complain about
  • I agree with you you are a smart man unlike all the other idiots who think the plastic is trash
  • Every one who says the plastic is cheap and has pore quality you guys are the biggest idiots in the world the plastic on an iPhone 5c is stronger than most metals and more scratch resistant than aluminum if you think you are smarter than one of the worlds leading technology companies think again
  • I don't think plastic is bad at all. I actually prefer the warmer feel it tends to offer over metal. I live in South Dakota and your phone is usually frosty to the touch if it's metal. I agree though not all plastic is equal too, there's cheap plastic and good plastics. polycarbonate is a very strong material it's even used in bullet proof glass applications. So it can't be that bad of a material overall. It's just different in the aspect that it's not metal, but when the 3G and 3GS came out they sported polycarbonate though it wasn't as well made as it is now.
  • The only mistake they made in the using of the plastic was that they didn't make a black color.