The new iPhones have been officially announced- the 5s, successor to the current 5, and the new ‘inexpensive’ iPhone 5c. Pundits have noted the plastic case shown in leaked photos for some time now, expecting the less expensive material to mean that Apple is finally going to challenge various Android handset makers where they gain the bulk of their market advantage- the entry level and overseas markets. Many non-US markets lack the provider-backed subsides that make premium phones affordable (but paid for by higher, contract-enforced service contract prices). Much like Anton Ego from Ratatouille, I’m craving a little perspective.
As it turns out, Apple is apparently happy to forfeit the entry level and non premium markets to competitors. The 5c is essentially the (now about to be discontinued) iPhone 5; breaking their previous strategy of keeping older generations of iPhones in production at a reduced price to consumers. The 5c IS the iPhone 5, with an improved camera and battery, exchanging the sleek aluminum chassis for an “unapologetically plastic” (Jony Ive‘s words) body. In subsidized markets the 5c starts at $99 with a two year contract- the same price and contract that previous older generations were sold for. The unsubsidized price still won’t appeal to many looking for an entry-level phone; the 16 gig model will set you back $549 without the contract. The more powerful, more enticing 5s is only $100 more, so those considering a new iPhone will have a choice: those looking to save some money will be able to buy something billed as a new phone rather than last year’s model, but those that want the latest and greatest will have the same price points as the past few generations of new iPhones.
I understand the strategy; while Apple has a minority share of many markets they make the lion’s share of profit. They have never competed in the cost conscious sectors of any market, so it stands to reason that they would avoid it with their flagship product. An inexpensive model would both deviate from their focus on profit margin and possibly tarnish their cultivated image as a creator of superior goods. BMW doesn’t make a bargain hatchback, and Riedel doesn’t make entry-level plastic drinking glasses.
The Apple aficionados in unsubsidized markets aren’t completely out in the cold, however. Not only will the two new models be available (albeit at the higher, unsubsidized price), Apple has opted to keep the 4s in production as well. In the US it’ll be the ‘free’ model, with the lowest tier costing nothing with a two year contract. While not in the same price category as some of the cheaper Android handsets, it is more cost competitive than Apple’s newest smartphones.
Ultimately, what’s a consumer to think? I believe it’s a good, but understated, move on Apple’s part. The 5c provides some cost savings and offers value to those that don’t need the latest and greatest while not forcing them to opt for an older model. The 5s offers some groundbreaking improvements; the fingerprint sensor could be a huge boon considering that many authentication methods are so annoying that users (me included) forgo them. The new camera brings the iPhone back into competition with the higher level Android phones- while the megapixel count hasn’t gone up, the quality of the pictures and the overall utility of the camera has. There are aspects to the 5s that aren’t fully explored, like the new M7 chip and the iPhone’s new more powerful 64 bit operating system. While not earth shattering, the 5s follows the same growth pattern as all modern iPhones- an evolutionary improvement over the previous generation with some new technology added to sweeten the pot. The 3GS offered better cellular speed and video capture, the 4S had Siri. I think it’s safe to say that for the time being, the smartphone market has somewhat matured; I don’t expect any fantastic new technology to be introduced that would radically alter the market, even though those that complain that Apple can’t innovate anymore seem to expect as much.
I’m an iPhone 5 owner, and I’ll be sticking with my current handset. I love some of the improvements the 5s has, but it’s not enough to get me to pay the out-of-contract price for it. For those on the ‘S’ upgrade path, it’s a no-brainer; the 5S is light years better than the 4S and well worth the cost. Those that don’t want or need the extras that the 5s offers would be wise to save the $100 and opt for the 5c; it’s still a top tier handset.
- iPhone 5c approved for China Mobile, to cost ‘significantly more’ than expected (idownloadblog.com)
- Apple Doesn’t Want, Doesn’t Need, And Doesn’t Care About A Cheap iPhone (AAPL) (businessinsider.com)
- Everything You Need to Know About Apple’s Big Announcement: iOS 7, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s (businessbee.com)
- How to Buy a Discontinued iPhone 5 and Save Some Serious Cash (gottabemobile.com)
- The misunderstood iPhone 5c (idownloadblog.com)