The Price Is Right: Should You Buy The iPhone 5c Or iPhone 5?

When Apple rolled out the bright lights and party favours for the new iPhone launch, we were lucky enough to get not one, but two new iPhones: the flagship 5s and the colourful 5c. The 5c is still almost a carbon copy of the iPhone 5 under the hood, so which one should you buy? A used iPhone 5 or a shiny new iPhone 5c?

Welcome to Gizmodo’s new semi-regular feature, The Price Is Right, where we take a look at particular devices to find out whether or not you should spend your hard-earned coin on top-flight gadgets, or whether cheaper models will do the job. Got an idea for us to crunch the numbers on? Tell us in the comments!

The Situation

We're coming up on iPhone launch season again, but don't think that it means you'll get a cheap price on a 5s, 5c or even the seemingly ancient 4S in the lead-up. Apple products traditionally don't get cheaper in the lead-up to new devices coming out. Anecdotal reports from retailers reveal that they don't make a whole lot of cash flogging Apple gear in the first place, meaning that rampant discounting on the eve of a new model is a thing of myth and legend.

So that puts the onus on you to search for a bargain. Despite the high price tags of Apple's luxury phones, you can actually get a decent price on an iDevice if you do some savvy shopping. The real question is, what do you want in your iPhone?

Reports around the iPhone 5c before its release centred around cheap: the new, cheap iPhone for the masses was set to take the market by storm and propel Apple to new heights of profitability.

When the 5c was unveiled, however, we noticed that it was nothing more than rumour mill hype-mongering: just the premium-priced product we had before in a different body.

The Specs

Let's revisit the iPhone 5c and its predecessor, the iPhone 5.

The iPhone 5 was released in September of 2012, and features a 4-inch (1136x640) screen, a dual-core 1.2GHz A6 processor, 1GB of RAM and an 8-megapixel camera.

The iPhone 5c was released a year later (almost to the day), and packs in the same 4-inch (1136x640) screen, a new dual-core 1.3GHz A7 processor, 1GB of RAM and the same 8-megapixel camera.

The iPhone 5c differed in a few small ways under its new coloured plastic skin, in that it featured a new antenna design built into the case for added rigidity and better signal, and a slightly larger battery: 1510mAh versus the smaller 1440mAh power pack in the iPhone 5. The only other real difference comes in the graphics power on the 5c versus the 5. The updated A7 processor, despite being faster overall, also features a new graphics engine which renders everything from games right down to the animations and motion in iOS 7 and eventually iOS 8 much faster and smoother.

But all in all, it's about the same phone.

Flash forward almost a year and we're at a crossroads: the industry now favours quad-core processors over dual-core and much higher resolution screens.

Of course, that doesn't matter to a lot of iPhone fans: they buy phones either out of love for the company or love of iOS. And when you think about how the rubber hits the road on iPhones, lower specs on paper tend to perform as well as high-power devices in the real world. The dual-core A7-powered iPhone 5s, for example took down the quad-core, Tegra 4-powered Nexus 7 tablet by a comfortable margin in our benchmarking tests, thanks to careful control of the operating environment and deep software integration with the hardware. So don't be fooled by specs on paper: the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5 still have enough power to get the job done.

So which one should you buy? The answer to that comes down to how much you want to spend versus what you're comfortable living with. Let's start with the economics of the iPhone 5c.

The Price

Right now you can get the iPhone 5c outright from Apple starting at $679 for the 8GB model. It doesn't really matter if you buy the 5c outright from Apple or another retailer: it's as near as makes no difference exactly the same price everywhere.

If you don't want to shell out top dollar to get the 5c outright, you can always stick it on a plan. That's one benefit to buying current-gen devices!

Telstra sells the iPhone 5c (8GB) for an extra $4 per month on its $55 Mobile Accelerate Plan for 24 months, Optus will sell you an iPhone 5c (8GB) for an additional $15 per month on the $35 MyPlan for 24 months and Vodafone offers it for $10 extra per month on its $30 plan.

Of those plans, Vodafone offers insanely good bang for buck over 24 months, but is it cheaper to get the iPhone 5 outright instead?

Apple discontinued the iPhone 5 as soon as the iPhone 5s and 5c came onto the market. If you want a last-gen iPhone brand-new-in-box, you're going to overspend on an iPhone 4S, which Apple will sell you for $529 in an 8GB spec. For that price, it makes economical sense to shop around for a better device.

The iPhone 5 is still an excellent phone, and features everything current-gen iPhones do: a 4-inch screen, a Lightning Connector, and compatibility with iOS 7. The problem is finding where to buy one.

You can pick up a used iPhone 5 on eBay for anywhere from $200 if you nab yourself a last-minute bargain, right up to $450 for a popular auction. Storage specs on an eBay iPhone vary, and of course you're missing out on warranty coverage when you pick it up from a stranger.

The other thing to keep in mind is the condition of a used iPhone 5 when you buy it. The iPhone 5 body was notorious for scuffing on its chamfered edges, with paint chipping off the body as a result. If you're buying a used one, make sure to look at the corners to see if it has been kept in good nick.

There is a second, more reliable option for buying the iPhone 5 online, however. Apple actually has a secret refurbished, certified iPhone store on eBay which sells the iPhone 5. You can pick up the 64GB iPhone 5 for $US499, which works out to around $532 when converted. Of course, you'll need to factor in shipping charges but you're still coming out ahead on bang for buck.

So, if you want to get a well-specced iPhone for cheap, head to eBay and either buy one used for sub-$500 or a certified one for a little extra. If you want the new design and better graphics processing capabilities over time, shell out for the iPhone 5c.

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