When we got our hands on the iPhone 5C, our very first thought was that it feels like the iPhone 5 permanently ensconced in a case. That was also our next four or five thoughts. Because basically, that's all the iPhone 5C is.
While the less expensive iPhone certainly doesn't feel cheap, it's obviously not the sleek, stylish iPhone you're used to. Presumably if you're buying one, though, you know that going in. And you may even prefer it.
What you might not know, though, is that the plastic polycarbonate shell is tapered along the edge of the screen, creating a gap that feels like a case you can't take off. It left us wishing for more seamless, edge-to-edge display; presumably Apple opted not to go that route to keep the phone's price down. It's not so much annoying as it is mildly distracting.
The 5C is also noticeably heavier than the iPhone 5S (a little more than half an ounce), although it's still so light (comparable to the Moto X) you'll forget it's in your pocket.
Setup was quick and easy, as you'd expect. The 5C was up and running on an iCloud backup in less than five minutes. It's not at all shocking that it's fast and responsive, because it has the same A6 processor as the iPhone 5.
In fact, using the 5C is essentially the same experience in almost every way as using an iPhone 5, aside from that hard candy shell. Audio calls were loud and clear, and FaceTime calls were sharp and crisp. Games were speedy, although if anyone has any tips on getting past level 77 of Candy Crush, they're much appreciated.
The biggest difference in the experience of the iPhone 5C is iOS 7. With a fresh, flat design, the new OS is vibrant and colorful, and it's gained a ton of new useful functions. It's polished and pretty (read our full review here), but the only iPhone 5C-specific is that the wallpaper will match the color of the phone you bought out of the box.
Overall, there aren't any surprises with this phone, other than your own personal, entirely subjective feelings about the colors and feel of hard plastic. Just know that if you're getting it because you want something different, what you're actually getting is more of the same.