iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C? Depends on you. The $199 iPhone 5S is the better product, but budget-wise the $99 iPhone 5C is the more sensible buy for most users. The 5C isn’t as fast as the 5S, but it’s plenty fast in its own right. It’s not as thin, but it’s plenty thin. It’s not as durable, but it’s plenty durable. The fingerprint sensor is cool but not essential. And so on. The 5S is the Mercedes. The 5C is the Toyota, at half the price of the Mercedes. Either one will do most users just fine, with plenty of creature comforts.
Users like me who push the the limits of what our smartphones can do for work purposes and need every bit extra that the 5S can offer, along with the relatively few people who actually need the top-end 64GB of storage capacity, are the exception.
If you’re a typical user on a typical budget, the only real argument I can make for the more expensive iPhone 5S is that a year from now you’ll be wanting to install iOS 8 on it, which will be designed for the even faster iPhone 6, and so it’s possible the 5S may run iOS 8 and its cool new features more smoothly than the 5C will. But that’s a big if, and it’s a year from now, so if you’re on any kind of budget it’s hard me to tell you to spend an extra $100 now on that future possibility alone.
It’s fascinating that the iPhone 5S is so far outselling the iPhone 5C. It could be that people are going in planning to buy the 5C and then upselling themselves to the 5S based on cool factor alone. Or it could be that the power users and early adopters eyeing the 5S are more likely to stand in line and buy right away, while the mainstream casual buyers eyeing the 5C are in less of a hurry and the sales numbers will reverse themselves later on. Not sure yet.
Apple does still offer the iPhone 4S for free with contract, and while it was the best phone in the world when it was introduced in 2011, it’s not advisable to buy one now. Apps and software features are more powerful and demanding now, and the 4S struggles a bit to keep up. Far more sensible to buy the $99 iPhone 5C and have a product that’s several times more powerful. Consider that you pay your cellphone carriers somewhere near $99 every month just to use the thing, so there’s no sense going cheap with the 4S and screwing yourself out of the functionality you’re paying to use each month.
That said, the iPhone 5C is the sweet spot of the lineup for most users. My only personal distaste for it is that I don’t love any of the five color shades they’ve chosen (I want red not reddish-orangeish-pink, or blue not neon blue), but that’s just me – and no one has ever accused me of having any sense of color coordination anyway