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The leaks were real: Apple is indeed bringing an iPhone 5C to market and, in a surprise move, the 5C is one half of a tag-team release that will see the iPhone 5 vanish completely from the lineup. The iPhone 5C will occupy the second tier of Apple’s iPhone lineup, coming in at $99 for the 16 GB model and $199 for the 32 GB model. Apple’s other new iPhone, the iPhone 5S, will sit in the higher $199/$299 slot. These are on-contract prices.

Photo credit: CNET
Photo credit: CNET

The iPhone 5C is, to steal a line from famous Apple designer Sir Jony Ive, “unapologetically plastic.” The device trades in the aluminum casing of the previous-generation iPhone 5 for a single-piece plastic casing, reinforced by a steel skeleton on the inside of the phone. There are multiple colors to choose from, including yellow, green, light blue, gray and red.

Those who like to customize their iPhones, at least with cases, may like Apple’s new solution for that. The company plans to release a line of cases in multiple colors with holes cut out that let the color of the iPhone peek through. You can mix and match colors between the iPhone 5C and the case, putting together a look that is uniquely you.

It isn’t quite a custom build on the level of the Moto X, but it’s neat, nonetheless.

Internally, those who have used an iPhone 5 aren’t going to see a big performance difference between that device and the iPhone 5C, which will use the same A6 processor. You will notice a bump up in battery life, thanks to a larger battery, and you’ll also be able to enjoy better video chats thanks to a better front-facing shooter. That lens is of the improved FaceTime HD variety, optimized for better performance in low light. The rear camera remains at the 8 megapixel mark.

You can pre-order the iPhone 5C (and the 5S) beginning on Sept. 13. The device will go on sale Sept. 20. It’s safe to expect the phone on all major U.S. carriers. Will it show up on prepaid carriers like Virgin Mobile and Cricket? We’ll have to wait and see.

Guess what? Apple is apparently keeping the 4S around. The price? Free. Most (myself included) initially thought that the 4S would be phased out due to its 3.5-inch screen, but that will not be the case.

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