After rumors made it abundantly clear that Apple will be delivering yet another S refresh to its flagship this year, rather than a proper upgrade, yesterday’s event become all about the iPhone 5c for me. I was quite excited to see Apple leave its comfort zone and do a smartphone that’s quite different from anything they have done so far.
As it turns out, though, the modest only upgrade that is the iPhone 5s, was only the second biggest disappointment of the night, with the iPhone 5c turning out to be the most notable consumer-stabbing, sales-serving excuse of a product. I know those are some strong words, which is why I waited with this article to see if the bitter taste in my mouth will go away, but sadly it didn’t.
Let’s get something out of the way first – the iPhone 5c is a pretty good smartphone. It’s fresh looking and adequately powered to be a decent mid-ranger, plus its camera has proved to be good enough for the last-year’s flagship. So how bad can it be?
It’s actually the way Apple intends on positioning the iPhone 5c really grinds my gears. It’s not a replacement of the iPhone 4S, which will still remain in service. No, it replaces the iPhone 5 while changing the phone’s target group altogether thus leaving upgraders from the iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S with no choice but going for the more expensive iPhone 5s.
The iPhone 5c takes the place that was supposed to be taken by the iPhone 5 – a cheaper, last year’s model that now should have provided more bang for buck than is usual for Apple’s products. So instead of getting the option to buy an iPhone 5, upgraders looking a cheaper new iPhone are instead faced by a product that’s too thick, too plastic, and too toy-looking to be worth the upgrade. On top of that, Apple’s asking price for the 5c is the same as the iPhone 5 would have had, had it not been discontinued.
So that’s the first blunder right there – the long-rumored affordable iPhone is not all that affordable, but it still lacks the premium build of the iPhone 5 to make up for it. Yup, the iPhone 5c costs about €100 more than the metal-clad HTC One (this is for the respective 32GB versions). That’s simply ridiculous, but then again, Apple has never been known for reasonable pricing, so if that was all, I would have let it slide.
It’s what Apple did to the iPhone 5 that is the bigger problem. Replacing a slim, light, aluminum-clad handset with a thicker, heavier plastic-made one (okay, okay, hard-coated polycarbonate) makes absolutely no sense. Put side-by-side and priced equally, the iPhone 5c would stand no chance of being picked over the iPhone 5 by the majority of users.
Which brings us to the main issue – Apple’s reasoning behind the whole development of the iPhone 5c. It’s not about an upgrade to the iPhone 5 (which it clearly isn’t), it’s not about the new design (which is worse than the old one), it’s not about offering a budget product (which again, it’s not), it’s all about boosting the sales of the iPhone 5s.
You see, last year many users went for the cheaper iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 instead of buying the latest iPhone 5. These people voted with their wallets, telling Apple that the iPhone 5 isn’t innovative enough. Those people simply wanted any iOS device went for the cheaper phones since they still had the premium build quality and offered not much inferior user experience.
Well, this year, Apple again fails to acknowledge this vote (and the pressure from its own board of directors, obviously). They still came up with a slight upgrade over last year’s flagship in an effort of cashing in on the current design as much as possible. Instead of stepping up with the innovation and making an iPhone for everyone to fell in love with it, they simply threw another half-hearted effort hoping it would still do for this round of the game.
Instead, to ensure the high sales of the iPhone 5s, they made the cheaper iPhone 5c less likeable. Here, have a cheaper looking iPhone 5c instead. They are sending a message out there – you cannot have our current flagship design for less money. And this might as well turn into a trend for the company in the years to come.
The company chose to cripple last year’s model just so everyone goes for the most expensive, even if unspectacular flagship, instead of going the other way round, by making the new flagship so desirable that no one would actually consider the midranger.
It’s a strategy that might as well work, given how many people have already heavily invested in iOS apps, but it’s not the right way to treat long-standing customers.