iPhone 5c vs OnePlus One comparison review: Apple’s cheapest new iPhone challenged by the most intriguing new Android

OnePlus One is not, as the name may suggest, a dating club for 1980s divorcees. It is, in fact, an exciting new smartphone. The OnePlus One runs Android and boasts the usual quad-core chip/RAM/HD screen of a high-end Android. But there are two key things that you should know about the OnePlus One: for one thing it is super cheap – selling for only £229 what many phone makers would sell for £600. And for another – you can buy it only direct from OnePlus, and only with an invite.

It is an intriguing proposition. So we decided to put it up against the least expensive new iPhone – the iPhone 5C. We’re Macworld readers so we presume that you go Apple or go home. So we’re going to make no excuse for searching for reasons to choose the OnePlus One rather than the iPhone 5c. Ultimately, if you have your iPhone 5c you are probably happy with it.

Read our comparison review of iOS 8 and Android Lollipop

iPhone 5c vs OnePlus One comparison: Price and availability

Despite being the cheaper new Apple phone, the iPhone 5c is not a budget phone. The OnePlus One is not an impulse buy, but for what it offers it is super cheap.

The One from OnePlus is a high-end smartphone at a mid-range price. It’s an Android smartphone running an OS based on 4.4.2 KitKat, with high-quality specifications, but in the UK it retails for from just £229 for 16GB, and for £269 for 64GB. That’s around a third of the price of the most expensive smartphones with which it shares key specifications. The catch? You can buy the One only from OnePlus, and online. And that’s not all. You also need to get an invite to buy, either by asking someone who has bought a OnePlus phone for an invite or by entering contests and promotional events hosted on the OnePlus Forums or social media channels.

You have to buy it SIM free, too, but that’s always the cheapest way to buy a phone anyway.

The iPhone 5c is available in 16GB and 32GB models and is priced at £469 and £549 respectively. You can buy it right now by walking down to the nearest Apple store, or picking it up on contract from any of the four main networks.

So the OnePlus One is a lot cheaper, but harder to buy. (See also: iPhone 5s vs Sony Xperia Z2 comparison review.)

iPhone 5ciPhone 5c

iPhone 5c vs OnePlus One comparison: Specification

The OnePlus One’s spec is that of a £600 handset. You get a Qualcomm MSM8974AC Snapdragon 801, a quad-core Krait chip clocked at 2.5GHz. It’s paired with 3GB RAM, and graphics are taken care of with a Adreno 330 GPU.

Connectivity specs include 4G LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0. In use the One feels zippy. Transitions are snappy, and even running multiple processes the OnePlus One keeps things moving. Benchmark scores bear this out. As ever, take synthetic benchmarks with a pinch of salt. They offer a guide to performance and nothing more. But in Geekbench 3 the OnePlus One managed average scores of single-core: 969 / multi-core: 2570. In the GFXBench T-Rex onscreen test, an average score of 28.5fps (1,596) is very good if not top of the shop. And we got a very good result for javascript performance in the Sunspider benchmark: 877ms is excellent in this test.

The iPhone 5c is no slouch, however. It has an A6 dual-core processor running at a 1.3 GHz clock speed and paired with 1 GB of RAM. iOS 7 running on the iPhone 5C feels smooth and responsive. Running Geekbench 3 shows that performance is almost identical to the iPhone 5; the iPhone 5c scores 710 in the single-core test which is only three points less than its predecessor but a little below OnePlus One’s score. The 5c is based on hardware that is a couple of years old, after all.

The iPhone 5c managed a GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD test at 37fps. The phone scores an impressively speedy 788ms in the SunSpider 1.0 browser test.

Apps and web pages load swiftly, however, and panning around Apple Maps isn’t jerky at all. It feels like you’re using an up-to-date smartphone despite the 2012 components.

There’s nothing wrong with performance on the iPhone 5c. No-one will pick it up and consider it a ‘slow’ phone. But the OnePlus One is a full-blown 2014 flagship. It’s a market leader. (See alsoL iPhone 5s vs Nexus 5 smartphone comparison review.)

iPhone 5c vs OnePlus One comparison: Storage

There are two storage options for the OnePlus One phone, and one big disappointment. The options are 16GB and 64GB – strangely no 32GB but it’s becoming very rare to see 64GB on offer outside of the iPhone. And the disappointment? There is no storage expansion slot.

We tested the 64GB model, which came with 54.8GB free out of the box. And that’s pretty good. But we do regret the lack of expandable storage. Of course, you can’t expand the storage on the iPhone 5c either. The iPhone 5c comes in 16GB- and 32GB flavours.

So if you want big – 64GB – storage, the OnePlus One is the way to go. But come on guys: give us expandable storage. (See also: iPhone 5c vs Lumia 630 comparison review.)

iPhone 5c vs OnePlus One comparison: Build and design

We know the iPhone 5c, and we’re fond of it. The iPhone 5C is the iPhone 5 but with a colourful new coat. The five colour options match the theme of iOS 7 and are certainly bright. We like the white and blue models but we’re not so keen on the pink, yellow and green. Your view may differ (we see a lot of pink iPhone 5c handsets in the wild).

Unlike the more understated OnePlus One phone has a polycarbonate plastic casing. It measures 124.4×59.2×8.97 mm and weighs 132 g. A 9mm phone is quite big for today’s standard, especially with the smaller and lighter shell that the iPhone 5c has in comparison to the much bigger-screend OnePlus One. But the 5C doesn’t feel thick or chunky – the case is glossy, smooth and feels nice in the hand. It shares the same rounded corners and look of the white MacBook. This is the most ergonomic iPhone since the 3GS. Build quality is excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Apple. There’s not an internal rattle or gap in the casing to be found. Despite being predominantly plastic, the iPhone 5C retains that premium Apple feel.

The only caveat is that the buttons do feel a little on the cheap side and have a loud click when pressed, especially the volume buttons. And you can’t remove the case to get at the battery – but nor can you with the OnePlus One.

The OnePlus is well put together, and made of what feels like high-quality materials. A big, understated slab of black, look closer and you will find subtle curves. There’s a chrome outer rim surrounding the large glass display, which is slightly raised beyond the rest of the handset.

The only major caveat is that the bezel at the top and bottom of the OnePlus One’s display is bigger than we’d like. For the record the OnePlus One measures 153 x 76 x 8.9 mm and weighs in at 162 g. It’s neither the thinnest nor the lightest big-screen smartphone on the market, but it feels good in the hand. Solid, but ergonomic.

The back of the handset is made of a material we can’t place, with a finish we haven’t seen before. It’s rough like carpet, but soft to the touch. Like a material finish. That sounds bad, but it isn’t. Everyone who picked up the OnePlus One in our office commented on and liked this.

The OnePlus One is available in black or white. We tried the black model, and we like it. It’s different to other phones on the market, and in a good way.

These are very different smartphones in terms of both design and build. The iPhone 5c is a smaller screened handset, all bright colours and cheerful chunkiness. The black and chrome OnePlus One is more understated despite its much larger size. Both are well made and designed. Which you prefer will be your personal choice. (See also: iPhone 5s v Galaxy S5 comparison review.)

iPhone 5c vs OnePlus One comparison: Display

And now we come to the reason for the difference. The OnePlus One is built around a large 5.5in IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen display boasting 16M colours. The resolution is impressive: not the best on the market, but plenty good enough at the best at this price. Spread over 5.5 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels makes for a pixel density of 401 ppi. And how does it look? Sharp. Impressively so.

The iPhone 5c has a 640 x 1136 pixel (326 ppi) LED-backlit IPS LCD display. It is still the 4in Retina display which was introduced with the iPhone 5. Although the screen looks crisp and colourful, it’s no longer class-leading. Full HD is the standard now and, on larger screens, it makes browsing the web, gaming and watching videos easier and more enjoyable.

Resolution isn’t everything, but we found the OnePlus One’s display to be more crisp and clear than the iPhone 5c’s. Not to the extent that it matters, however. (See also: iPhone 5C 8GB vs Moto G, Lumia 520, Nexus 5 comparison review.)

OnePlus OneOnePlus One

iPhone 5c vs OnePlus One comparison: Cameras

The OnePlus One has a 13 Mp Sony Exmor camera, with dual LED flash, and f/2.0 aperture. OnePlus tells us that the One camera has six physical lenses for greater detail, even at lower light conditions. It offers geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama and HDR, and captures video of up to 2160p (4K) at 30fps.

We haven’t had time to test the camera as much as we’d like, but our early impressions are decent. The OnePlus can’t match the superior cameras of the Galaxy S5 or the Xperia Z2, but it is perfectly adequate for a smartphone camera. You can take good photos with it. Around the front is the 5 Mp selfie camera. This captures video at 1080p (Full HD) at 30fps for video calling.

The 5C has the same high-quality 8Mp iSight rear camera as the previous model and so you can rest assured that pictures and video will be excellent for a smartphone camera.

Overall both phones’ cameras are good if not top notch. Good enough, we’d say, considering the prices of both. (See also: Moto G vs iPhone 5C smartphone comparison review.)

iPhone 5c vs OnePlus One comparison: Software

The OnePlus One runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which is a sufficiently recent version to be great. But it is a customised version of Android. Indeed, it is different to Android, running an interface known as CyanogenMod. (OnePlus has now confirmed that within three months of Google releasing the final code for its forthcoming mobile OS the OnePlus One will also get Android L.)

Recent Android is great. Broadly similar to iOS.

With the OnePlus One you get access to Google Play. And when first you boot the OnePlus One you are asked if you want to run a custom OnePlus theme skin. If you opt not to go for this (we didn’t) you get a very vanilla Android interface. It’s all but a Nexus phone in that respect.

The interesting aspect is that you can install CyanogenMod themes that allow you to build your own skin for your smartphone. Choosing a specific theme allows you to tweak app icons and system fonts, your wallpaper, lock screen and so on. You can also specify changes to the way your smartphone works. But there is a caveat: the themes cost money, mostly. You won’t break the bank buying them, but personally I’d rather live with vanilla Android.

But, of course, we love iOS7, and we love even more the fact that the iPhone 5c will be updated to iOS 8.

As a Macworld user you will be used to Apple’s slick iOS interface. Its intuitive design is loved by millions of users worldwide. The iPhone 5c also has access to the most accomplished app store in the business also, with minimal security threats and plenty of apps, songs, books, movies on offer. (See also: LG G2 vs iPhone 5s comparison review.)

iPhone 5c vs OnePlus One comparison: Battery life

The OnePlus One comes with a large Li-Po 11.8Wh (3100 mAh) battery cell. And we have been impressed with battery life.

With light use, 24 hours after charging, 67 percent of the battery life was left. That’s a strong performance: we hadn’t been doing much beyond email, messaging and social media, but that kills our iPhone 5 in 24 hours. Of course the battery will degrade as time goes buy.

Nonetheless, 48 hours after charging there is still 39 percent of battery life. And in the second 24 hours we made a point of streaming video clips, using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and running benchmarks to simulate heavier use. The OnePlus One charges quickly, too, so we’ll forgive the US charger and adaptor with which it ships to the UK. It doesn’t always want to charge via USB, even when we can get it to mount via the USB port and cable. Odd.

OnePlus tells us that the battery life is helped with an energy efficient display which adjusts the level of backlight and differentiates between dynamic and static content on the screen to reduce power consumption. We’ll keep an eye on battery performace over time. But so far we are very impressed.

There’s nothing wrong with the iPhone 5c’s batteery life. We’ve been impressed with the iPhone 5C’s battery life. Unless you hammer the device with contant gaming or video playback, it will last a couple of days with regular and varied use. The phone holds its charge incredibly well when not in use – our sample sat on just one percent for a number of hours.

But on initial tests at least the OnePlus One beats out even the iPhone 5c. (See iPhone 5S vs iPhone 5C comparison review for more on the differences between Apple’s two phones.)


The OnePlus One is an outstanding entry to the smartphone market. If you want a large screen phone, and you can live with Android’s data-harvesting ways, it is a brilliant alternative to the iPhone 5c. You just have to be able to get one. But don’t expect to operate it with one hand.


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