Smartphones

iPhone 5C teardown reveals upgrades and design changes

Bill Detwiler cracks open the iPhone 5C and shows you the upgrades and design changes that make it more than just an iPhone 5 with a plastic case.

The iPhone 5C has the same processor, rear camera, and Retina display as the iPhone 5. But Apple didn't just slap a series of colorful plastic cases on last year's phone. On the inside, the 5C is a unique device, with hardware upgrades and design elements from both the 5 and new 5S.

On the outside, it's the iPhone 5C's colorful polycarbonate cases that really set the phone apart from the 5 and 5S. And thanks to this case, it's also slightly longer, wider, thicker and a bit heavier than the other two iPhones.

But peel back the case, and the 5C reveals itself to be a unique device, which borrows traits from both the other phones.

Apple iPhone 5C box contents
 Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Check out the full teardown gallery, Cracking Open the Apple iPhone 5C.

Cracking Open observations

Opening the phone still requires special tools: One thing that all three phones share is how you crack them open. You'll need a special pentalobe screwdriver to remove the external case screws and a suction cup (and possibly a few thin, prying tools) to remove the front panel.

Cracking Open iPhone 5C: Removing front panel
 Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Home button similar to iPhone 5: Unlike the new 5S, there's no ribbon cable connecting the Home button to the lower connector assembly. This simplifies the task of removing the front panel.

Familiar internal hardware layout: The 5C shares the same general hardware layout as the iPhone 5 and 5S, but there are both differences and similarities--outlined below.

iPhone 5 vs. iPhone 5C vs. iPhone 5S
 Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Better battery than iPhone 5, but no removal tab: The 5C has a slightly higher-capacity battery than the 5, but a lower capacity battery than the 5S. And like the 5S, it lacks the battery removal pull tab found on the 5.

Unique camera mount: The 5C's camera is covered with a metal bracket. The 5 has no bracket and the 5S' camera is covered with a rubber flap.

Motherboard similar to iPhone 5S: While the 5C may have the same A6 processor as last year's iPhone 5, the main system board has the same general design and connector placement as the 5S. You can't swap this board out for the one on your old iPhone 5.

Speaker and connector assembly similar to iPhone 5: One bit of 5C hardware that is more like its counterpart on the 5 than the 5S, is the external speaker and lower connector assembly. This isn't surprising given the 5S' new Home button with integrated fingerprint reader.

iPhone 5 vs. iPhone 5C vs. iPhone 5S front panel display
 Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

Same Retina display and new FaceTime camera: All three phones have the same Retina display, but like the 5S, the 5C has an upgraded FaceTime camera and redesigned screen connectors. The Home button (and its pressure contacts) are more like those on the iPhone 5.

Main board shields soldered in place: Unfortunately like the boards in the iPhone 5 and 5S, the EMI/RFI shields are soldered in place.

Case components are held in place with screws/adhesive: Unfortunately, the external speaker, Lightning connector, and headphone jack, vibration motor, flash, and a bevy of connector wires they are held to the case with a mix of screws and adhesive. If any of these components were damaged, removing and replacing them is possible--just not easy.

Cracking Open iPhone 5C: Removing motherboard
 Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

More than an iPhone 5 clone, still a pain to repair

I'm glad Apple took the opportunity to not just give the iPhone 5C a new case, but also upgrade the phone's hardware and tweak the phone's internal design. And while it's still no walk in the park the crack open, the 5C is no more difficult to work on than the iPhone 5 or 5S.

For a complete list of iPhone 5C specs, pricing information, and real world performance tests, check out Scott Stein’s full CNET review.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

2 comments
da philster
da philster

Excellent article, Bill.

Kudos on the format; article is all on one page for great readability.

Sure beats the slideshow format that many of us simply despised.

KBabcock75
KBabcock75

Great phone but a real failing on Apples behalf for making it so difficult to work on. The question now is did Apple do this on purpose or was it just to make assembly easier and cheaper. Either way it is not a win for the consumer.