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iPhone 5c Apple case review

Fantastic but flawed, inexpensive but not cheap, Apple's iPhone 5c cases are worth getting if you want the complete Apple package, but there'll likely be a ton of better options soon enough.

The iPhone 5c is designed to be mass-market, to be popular, to be colorful, fun, and friendly in the same way as the nano-chromatic iPods of generations past. Part of that pitch is the iPhone 5c case, something as bright and bold as the phone itself. If... a little croc-ishly, non-ishly awkward. 5 phones times 6 cases allows for 30 colorful combinations. So how do they look, how do they work, and which are the best combinations to get?

Color theory

The iPhone 5c comes in Hulk green, Smurf blue, Pikachu yellow, Power Puff pink, and Space Ghost white. The cases come in all of those, matched as perfectly as polycarbonate and silicone allow, plus one color the phone doesn't come in, Batman black. Each phone will run you $99 or $199 on contract, $549 or $649 off, but each case only costs $29. That's a far lower cost of color. Apple's pitch is mix and match; get a few different hues for all your different dos. The result isn't a blend, isn't a color-wheel spun in art class that makes purples and magentas, cyans and oranges. You get an extension of the same pop art theme that permeates the phones themselves. You get an extension of the same dots that have bounced their way through Apple's recent marketing. You get something visually big, a contrast of texture, a scale of patten.

On that score and that score alone, on colors and combos, the iPhone 5c cases work and work well. They completely change the look, and can change it often and easily. Unfortunately, there's more to it, and to them.

Whole lot of holes

What makes the cases so colorful is that they let the phones shine through. To achieve that they all have large rows and columns of Home button sizes holes in them. 5 by 7 of them, 35 in all, arrayed in a grid pattern. In concept, it's great. It lets a ton of the color beneath shine through. Unfortunately, there's no finesse to them; they let part of the printing shine through as well. Most infamously, "non" or "hon" from the "iPhone" branding. And it's inelegant to the point of being distracting. Leaving a solid band that hid the branding and markings would, perhaps, have lead to a better result.

Fun but flawed, it mars what could otherwise have been a pretty fantastic look.

Grip and go

Beyond the color, beyond the cuts, the iPhone 5c cases are well manufactured. The soft-touch silicone on the outside looks and feels great. It contrasts not only the hard-coated polycarbonate of the phone itself but coats the smooth, slickness of that surface with far more give and grip. They're an absolute pleasure to hold, and beyond that, a reassurance whenever you put your iPhone 5c down that it won't slide off a sofa or carseat.

The microfiber lining on the inside is likewise top notch. What's more, the edges of the case come up above the phone, so you can put it face down without the risk of scratching the screen. There's enough room around the camera and the flash to avoid any reflection or distortion. There's a decent amount of room around the Lightning connector and 3.5mm headset jack, but not a lot, which could be an issue for people with especially beefy plus.

The finish is typical Apple. Near perfect. The circles are identically sized, identically spaced, and there's no fringing or flash around the edges. There's even an Apple logo on the back. And why not, Apple's the only accessory maker in the world allowed to do that.

The bottom line

The iPhone 5c case is available in 5 colors perfectly matched to the phone itself, and black. They're in plentiful supply, they allow you to change the look of your phone like changing jackets before you go out to party, and they have an Apple logo on the back. Yet they have a bewildering design that lets a smattering of non-sensical text show through.

After spending 4 days with the blue and yellow cases on my green iPhone 5s, I can't say I'm disappointed with them, but I'm not entirely thrilled with them either. And that's a shame, if only because of what could have been. Fantastic but flawed, inexpensive but not cheap, they're worth getting if you want the complete Apple package, but there'll likely be a ton of additional options soon enough.

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Thank you sir. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yeah see I don't know. It's too vibrant and contrasty for my tastes. I'll stick my blued black iPhone 5 with a red Draco V for now. Sent from the iMore App
  • Rene, when do you think we should expect decent 3rd party cases like this one? With a soft layer on the inside and HQ like the official one. I can't find anything so far around on the internet.
  • Fairly soon. Apple had home court head start, but they ramp up fast.
  • Excusing for a moment that the case is $29... The case makes the phone spell, "non." Come onnnn.... Who let that one by. Back to cost: the damn thing is $29.
  • The "non" was the most odd thing I've seen come out of Apple in sometime. I keep thinking it had to be an oversight, but after months of testing, how do you miss something so simple?
  • I really don't mind plastic at all. Still have a 3GS. I'm a big Apple fan, but I thought this was pretty funny. "Apple just released two new iPhones. An expensive gold one for the haves, and for the serfs, a sh*tty plastic lime green one that looks like your phone is wearing crocs."
    - Bill Maher ;)
  • That was a good one!
  • I think those cases are ugly. bleh! They make the iphone look like crocs, plus the clashing loud colors hurt my eyes. I don't know what apple was thinking with these. LOL The 5S that I just bought though is beautiful. It looks like the phone was made by a jeweler. Hard to believe the same company came out with these iphones in crocs. Hey to each their own though. we'll see if they sell and I bet they will.
  • I don't understand why these cases cost $29. They look like a $6.99 phone case on eBay with free shipping.
  • ok, so the "non" thing went by everyone. But when folks start trotting out the same, tired old cliches that "Apple pays so much attention to detail..." when expressing how great Apple products are, I hope they remember this "little" thing that slipped through.
  • Yep.
  • How can you review a case without talking about the level of protection provided? If it is just a fashion accessory with minimal protection, say that.
  • Excellent point! Apart from being able to flip the phone and place it face down without any risk of scratching, nothing else is mentioned. I read somewhere that the rounded holes gather dust and dirt. And when you remove the case you can see the dusty circles. Is it true?
  • I think these look fun and will be very popular. I just can't get past the letters showing through on the back like that, it seems sloppy, not something I'd expect from a $3 case on eBay much less one directly from Apple. Not real sure what the solution is but I don't have some of the greatest minds in the world working for me either - there should have been a better way. Oh well, first world problems. "I don't understand why these cases cost $29. They look like a $6.99 phone case on eBay with free shipping." Simple. Because people will pay it. Why not?
  • I'm not a designer or anything, but I would've done a better job ! c'mon! apple is known for nice designs... this one doesn't belong to apple..
  • I LOVE what you say and how you say at 2.46-48. Lol. You so foony Rene! I don't understand what you say after no. lol. then you laugh. bahaha.
  • I love the bright colors, but they could have done a better job, it's just a plain solid color. I agree w/some of you; the cases look like the plastic is very cheap, not good quality. I don't like the fact that the holes can gather dust or other particles in your phone, but it does add a cool contrast effect if you get a different color case. If you want a REALLY good quality, HARD PLASTIC case that is impact resistant, buy a Case-Mate case. I design cases w/my original abstract designs/art! Maybe for you ladies out there, or a gift for your wife, girlfriend, daughter, etc! I have a case myself and i am very impressed w/the quality. Also, the artwork is printed and embedded into the case, not like some cheap cases you see on Amazon or ebay where the design will rub off/peel in a few months. If anyone is interested, contact me. iphone 3, 4, 5/5S cases, too. I can't post a link here, thanks!