The iPhone is one of the most recognized consumer products in the world. However, like Henry Ford and the Model T, Apple's top-selling product has often come in only one or two colors. That changed in a big way in September 2013 when the company introduced its first handset that took its cue from the rainbow.
Looking back, the iPhone 5c isn't remembered as a great handset. It wasn't even the most impressive iPhone released that year. And let's kick it while it's down: earlier this year, our readers called the iPhone 5c their least favorite iPhone ever released. Nonetheless, its colorful presence and distinction for being Apple's first budget handset are what make the iPhone 5c the most significant product from Apple in 2013.
Black and white no more
The first iPhone arrived in 2007 in one color, gray. The following year with the iPhone 3G and continuing until the iPhone 5 in 2012, Apple released its yearly handsets in two colors, black and white. In 2013, the company changed the lineup for its top-selling product in two new ways.
Until then, Apple had taken a "tick-tock" approach when it came to releasing iPhones. As such, in even years, it always revealed a newly designed model with most of the same features as previous versions. In the following odd year, meanwhile, Apple would introduce an iPhone that looked very much like its predecessor but included souped-up internals and many firsts. For example, the iPhone 4s in 2011 introduced Siri, the voice assistant that's now found on various Apple products, including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.
The iPhone 5s, announced the same day as the iPhone 5c, was like other odd-year iPhone releases in that it looked nearly identical to the handset it replaced (the iPhone 5) and also included new features (Touch ID, and a new white/gold color).
A budget iPhone
Apple didn't stop with the iPhone 5s, of course. Instead, it also announced the iPhone 5c, which besides being offered in multiple colors, is considered Apple's first "budget" iPhone.
Until then, Apple had priced iPhone models in the United States at $199, $299, and $399 intervals, depending on the amount of storage. It was this way going back to the iPhone 3G in 2008. (The first iPhone launched at $499 and $599, although its price eventually dropped). The iPhone 5s was no different. with the 16GB model going for $199, followed by the 32GB model for $299, and the 64GB model for $399. The 16GB iPhone 5c went for $199, while the 32GB model was $299, which represented a savings of $100 over the iPhone 5c. (There was no 64GB iPhone 5c model.)
More about the iPhone 5c
When it arrived in stores on September 20, 2013, the iPhone 5c was available in five colors: blue, green, pink, yellow, and white, with a black glass front. Featuring a hard-coated polycarbonate shell instead of the aluminum found on the iPhone 5s, the 4-inch iPhone 5c shipped with an Apple A6 processor, 1 GB of LPDDR2 RAM, and included an 8-megapixel back camera, and 1.2 MP front camera.
Alongside the iPhone 5c, Apple also released a special case collection for the handset model. Available in black, white, pink, yellow, blue, and green, the cases featured holes cut out that showed the color of the iPhone's back. Made of silicone, the cases were lined with soft microfiber and provided for 30 different color combinations between the cases and iPhone colors.
Just 12 months after its arrival, the iPhone 5c was discontinued along with its many colors. In its place, Apple introduced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and a form factor that it would continue to use for four years. In 2018, Apple finally found color again by releasing the iPhone XR and its six colors. And earlier this year, with the iPhone XR still on the market, Apple revealed the iPhone 11, which is also available in six hues.
Like all tech products, the iPhone tends to get better with each passing year. In 2013, Apple released the iPhone 5c. Though largely forgotten, the iPhone 5c lead to much better and more colorful handsets in the years to follow. And because of this, it will always have a unique place in Apple's history.
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Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.