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Apple's new flagship smartphone, the iPhone 5S, made its debut today, but for the first time in the company's history, there was more than one smartphone announcement. Apple also released the iPhone 5C, a budget-minded, colorful $99 iPhone with a 2-year contract that replaces the iPhone 5 in the lineup (in that the iPhone 5's price point won't decrease, but it will instead be discontinued).
While both the 5S and 5C carry the same iPhone DNA, they're also starkly different. Thus, shoppers looking for a new smartphone may be wondering which model is right for them; is the iPhone 5S worth the $100 premium with a 2-year contract, or can the iPhone 5C satisfy even power users? We compared both phones to find out.
As expected, the new iPhone 5S is an evolution of the previous-generation iPhone, keeping most of the same design elements of its predecessor. However, internally the iPhone 5S counts on a number of significant upgrades, many of which the iPhone 5C didn't get.
For starters, the iPhone 5S is built around a new 64-bit A7 processor that, according to Apple, promises speeds twice as fast as the older A6 CPU, the latter of which can now be found in the iPhone 5C. That's not to say that the iPhone 5C is underpowered, but if you want top-notch performance from your games and apps, the 5S is unparalleled. Already we know that Infinity Blade III will take advantage of the iPhone 5S' 64-bit architecture to allow for better graphics and gameplay. So it initially appears that certain games will play better on the iPhone 5S. But if you think the new A7 chip is for gamers only, keep in mind that iOS 7 was also built with the iPhone 5S's new 64-bit architecture in mind. So all of the new built-in apps will run smoother and snappier on Apple's premium handset.
In addition to better overall performance, the iPhone 5S is the only iPhone to house Apple's new M7 motion coprocessor. The job of this chip is to gather data from the accelorometer, gyroscope, and compass so it can offload work from the A7 CPU, providing improved power efficiency all around. And because the M7 continually measures your motion data, the iPhone 5S will be able to run a new breed of fitness apps that will go beyond the typical pedometers we've become accustomed to. The iPhone 5C, unfortunately, doesn't feature this new chip.
Although the iPhone 5C got a new FaceTime HD camera, only the the iPhone 5S got a new iSight camera with a larger sensor and better low-light performance. True Tone flash, Slo-Mo video, and a new Burst Mode are among the other iPhone 5S-only camera updates. And it doesn't end there. The iPhone 5S also got a new security feature called Touch ID. This new touch sensor, which is built into the iPhone's home button, uses your fingerprint to unlock your phone and purchase apps and music from the iTunes Store.
With its new candy-colored shell, there's no denying the iPhone 5C's playfulness. However, on the inside this smartphone still means business. Sure, it's missing a lot of key features found only on the iPhone 5S, but at $99, it's the best deal you'll find on a new subsidized iPhone. However, for consumers still tied to a cellular contract, the iPhone 5C's $549 (16GB) and $649 (32GB) unsubsidized price is anything but affordable, in which case you'll want to look at refurbs of previous models for the most savings.
And while the iPhone 4S is now free on contract, it lacks the larger screen and 4G connectivity found on the iPhone 5C. And for these reasons we'd choose the iPhone 5C over both the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5S. And since the 5C is the "budget" iPhone, it'll most likely see discounts sooner than the iPhone 5S.
That said, if spending an extra $100 isn't a significant expenditure for you, then the 5S does have a lot of nifty features that make the extra money worth it, given your mobile behavior; and when it comes down to it, you're likely committing to an item for two years at least if you upgrade with a new contract, so you'll likely appreciate the bumped-up specs with time.