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Compare iPhone SE and 5C

Updated on July 21, 2016
Max Dalton profile image

Max holds a B.S. in mass communications from SIU, an M.A. in communications from U of I, and is pursuing an MBA from Webster University.


The iPhone 5C and iPhone SE are both smaller, lower-cost iPhone models built for users who don't need a phablet, and can do without some of the latest and greatest functionality offered in the flagship models. However, there are some major differences between the two devices that, depending on how you plan to use smartphone you end of getting, may impact which device you get. The following article walks you through all of those differences so you can make the best decision for you.

The iPhone 5C comes in a wide pallet of colors.
The iPhone 5C comes in a wide pallet of colors. | Source

Colors and Casing

The iPhone 5C features a plastic body that doesn't hold a candle to the sturdiness of the iPhone SE's aluminum frame. If you're hard on phones and have a tendency to drop them, the tougher frame offered by the iPhone SE will be more forgiving. Regarding color options, the iPhone 5C offers a spirited color palette consisting of white, pink, yellow, blue, and green. Alternatively, the iPhone SE offers the more muted tones of silver, gold, space gray, and rose gold.

Storage Space

Both the iPhone 5C and the iPhone SE are available with only two storage options, compared with the three storage capacity options you get with the flagship Apple iPhones. The entry-level option for both devices is 16GB. However the second-tier storage capacity option for the iPhone 5C is 32GB, while the second-tier iPhone SE storage capacity is 64GB. Consider the higher-capacity storage options if you store a lot of music directly on your device rather than streaming it from a service such as Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, or even Apple's own Music app. Additionally, the higher-capacity options are also worth considering if you store a lot of movies directly on your device, or if you have a lot of large apps on your iPhone.

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Camera and Video Recording

This area is where the biggest difference between the two iPhone models exists: the camera. The iPhone 5C features an 8-megapixel camera while the iPhone SE rocks a 12-megapixel camera. Both iPhones offer a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. The video recording functionality is another area where there is a healthy difference between the two devices. The iPhone 5C offers 1080p HD video recording capabilities and captures video at 30 frames per second. Alternatively, the iPhone SE can capture 4k video at 30 frames per second, or 1080p HD video at either 30 or 60 frames per second. If you plan to lean on your new iPhone heavily for capturing special events or family memories, it may be worth the bump up to the iPhone SE to ensure you're capturing the highest quality pictures and video possible.

Battery Life

Often an afterthought but always critical, it's important to understand what kind of battery life you're going to get out of your device. The iPhone 5C battery offers 10 hours of talk time on a 3G network, or eight hours of Internet use on a 3G network. Alternatively, the iPhone SE offers roughly 14 hours of talk time on a 3G network, or roughly 12 hours of Internet use on a 3G network. Both device have a standby time of roughly 10 days.

The iPhone SE offers a fingerprint sensor, while the iPhone 5C does not.
The iPhone SE offers a fingerprint sensor, while the iPhone 5C does not. | Source


The iPhone 5C originally shipped with iOS 7, while the iPhone SE originally shipped with iOS 9. This is important to take into consideration because the iPhone 5C is much closer to the end of its life cycle than the iPhone SE. As a result, newer versions of the iOS operating system that you install on the device are more likely to have a major impact on performance (especially battery life) as they are built for the newer devices with the higher-end hardware. If you're looking to get at least a few years out of whichever phone you choose, it will be a safer bet to go with the iPhone SE.

Additionally, as newer versions of iOS are rolled out, a lot of the new functionality won't be included for the iPhone 5C because of hardware constraints (eg, the lack of a fingerprint sensor) or performance concerns on the part of Apple. It's important to remember that the lack of a fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5C doesn't just mean that you're without a convenient way to log in to your iPhone. As more and more apps are starting to offer the ability to log in with your fingerprint, you lose the ability to leverage that functionality for faster access to those as well.

© 2016 Max Dalton


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