Using a 2013 iPhone 5c in 2022


How do you know when your smartphone is too old? When can you start to feel that the phone you are using as your family driver has passed its prime?

Depending on who you ask, that threshold happens after about two to three years. If you go by Google Analytics or search for, “Why is my iPhone slowing down?”, that number is about the time the next iPhone comes out.

The 2013 Apple iPhone 5c was the first smartphone I ever cared about. I was in middle school at the time, and everyone who was anyone had the 5c. The pink, green, white, blue, yellow, and white plastic-backed devices were in the hands of every kid who successfully begged their parents for them. I was not so lucky.

After I broke two Samsung Galaxy S3s, due to little fault of my own I must add, I needed a new phone. Growing up, blue was always my favorite color, so I gravitated to the 5c because of its blue exterior. After I had saved up enough money to pay for the taxes and fees of the phone, I went to my dad and asked him if I could get it. Maybe it was the two Galaxies I had managed to destroy, maybe it was my less than perfect grades at the time, whatever the reason was, my pops said no because he didn’t wanna pay for it monthly. As an adult with a phone bill now I understand, but my twelve-year-old heart was crushed at this news.

I broke basically every phone that I got from eighth grade until the summer before my sophomore year. These included a hand-me-down Droid Incredible 2 that fell out of my pocket during a fair ride, a Galaxy S4 that I dropped out of my hoodie pocket which broke the LCD screen, and a final galaxy S3 that I don’t remember what happened to, I just know it died. After earning a 3.83 GPA in the second semester of my freshman year, my dad bought me the first phone I ever took care of, the Galaxy Note 5.

This phone started my love of tech and phones specifically. I was originally going to get the iPhone 6s Plus, the phone everyone else in my family had at the time. That summer, I did my very first deep dive into the smartphone world to decide which phone I should get. Youtube videos that originally started as me being ecstatic about my future iPhone led me to MKBHD, Flossy Carter, PocketNow, and Android Authority. I was convinced that the Note 5, not the iPhone, was the phone of my dreams, and the rest is history.

Fast forward nine years, and in front of me sits a blue iPhone 5c, next to my daily driver S22 Ultra. I was on eBay doing some sneaker shopping and stumbled upon the 5c, working, with a scratch-free screen, and no iCloud locks, for only $25. I jumped on it, still having a soft spot in my heart for the device. The phone itself is microscopic by today’s standards, only boasting a four-inch display. The phone as a whole is outdated, but that is how it was released as well.

When the iPhone 5c came out, it was released alongside the iPhone 5s, a monumental phone for Apple. This phone saw the birth of many features we see today, such as the touch ID, and the start of Apple’s foray into biometrics. The 5c however, was just the previous year’s iPhone 5, except with a painted plastic back.

The 5 and 5c are identical in almost every way, the main differences being the 400mAh upgrade on the 5c, and the starting 8GB model of the 5c, compared to 16GB on the 5. The 5c started at $99 for the base model on contract, the 5s at $199 on contract, and the 5 started at $160 on contract. In 2022, these prices made me cry, and miss the days of non-thousand-dollar phones. The 5c was released with the 2012 A6 processor, while the 5S was released with the A7. The 5c was cemented as the fun budget phone that was marketed to artists and children, and that’s about it. The iPhone 5c stopped getting support just four years later with the ios10.3 patch.

Having this phone in my hand creates a non-stop flow of nostalgia. The plastic blue back reminds me of every pre-S6 Samsung phone that I had, and a time when companies took hardware risks and not everything was a cold glass sandwich. The bezels of the device and the home button are glaring. The four-inch screen on this display reminds me of the fifth-gen iPod touch, another model this phone shares many similarities. Both the iPhone 5c and the iPod touch came in clear plastic shells that showed off the color of the product you purchased, unlike the premium cardboard box that the other iPhones came in.

Using this phone for the last few days has been… interesting. I am not able to download very many apps onto the device because of the lack of app support for ios 10.3 in 2022. The apps that I am able to download are mostly older games; Cut the Rope, the original Temple Run, Dumb Ways to Die, and my favorite, Jetpack Joyride. As someone with big hands, using this phone is extremely difficult. The small size of the keypad has garnered quite a few typos, and seeing where I am going in an intense game of JetPack Joyride can be ultra challenging.

The front camera quality was atrocious, with me taking a well-lit selfie only to have it come out looking like a pixelated mess. The back camera performance is better, though only marginally. In a well-lit environment, the eight-megapixel back camera isn’t half bad. The photos are horrible by today’s standards, but in a vacuum, they just lack sharpness, and the color saturation modern cameras have. The color reproduction struggles at times, having different grays or blues leads to a jumbled mess at times, but all in all, in a well-lit place it could be worse for decade-old tech.

Bottom-line: is this phone usable in 2022? No. Not even close but that is mostly due to the lack of modern ios support. The hardware is still nice and the screen was honestly much better than I thought it would be. Unless you can jailbreak it to get modern apps, or are just looking for a nostalgic device like I was, I cannot recommend the iPhone 5c in 2022, although my inner-child has definitely enjoyed my time in the DeLorean.