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Apple Announces Low-Cost Plastic iPhone 5c, in Five Colors

TidBITS Managing Editor Josh Centers called it, in “The Case for a Low-end Plastic iPhone” (24 July 2013), as Apple last week announced the low-cost iPhone 5c, a new iPhone whose specs are similar to the existing iPhone 5, but housed in a colorful plastic case.

With Apple’s Jony Ive saying “iPhone 5c is beautifully, unapologetically plastic,” the iPhone 5c comes in a single-piece polycarbonate case, with every button and part (other than the screen) in color. As its name implies, it’s available in five colors, all reminiscent of brightly hued Easter eggs: blue, white, pink, yellow, and green.

Also available will be the iPhone 5c Case for $29, a silicone case available in six colors with polka dot-like cutouts on the back, so you get a two-tone effect between the case and the back of the iPhone. The cutouts are an odd design choice, in that they reveal a jumble of the text on the back of the iPhone, and are likely to pick up dirt and pocket lint.

For those more concerned with tech specs than the iPhone 5c’s pretty colors, it sports a 4-inch Retina display, an A6 processor, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi in both 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, and Bluetooth 4.0. There’s also a new FaceTime HD front-facing camera that boasts larger pixels, improved backside illumination, and support for FaceTime audio. The iPhone 5c’s battery has a slightly higher capacity than the iPhone 5’s.

Apple emphasized that the iPhone 5c supports more LTE bands than any other phone, which may make it better suited to emerging markets throughout the world, where the iPhone’s higher price has been something of a stumbling block to adoption.

In terms of dimensions, the iPhone 5c is slightly larger than the iPhone 5, gaining 0.6 mm in both height and width, 1.37 mm in depth, and 20 g in weight. The changes aren’t major, but will cause many iPhone 5-specific cases and accessories to need design tweaks.

The real news, though, is the price, which will be $99 for a 16 GB model or $199 for a 32 GB model, with a two-year contract. Off contract, the iPhone 5c will cost $549 for the 16 GB model and $649 for the 32 GB model.

The iPhone 5c, along with the simultaneously announced iPhone 5s, replaces the iPhone 5 entirely (see “iPhone 5s Announced, Knows You by Touch,” 10 September 2013). That’s important, because, as Josh speculated, had Apple stuck to the previous model of iPhone 5 at a lower price, it would likely have been a poor financial move, due to the relatively high cost and low yield of the iPhone 5. The 8 GB iPhone 4S will remain in the lineup for free, with that two-year contract.

Pre-orders opened for the iPhone 5c on 13 September 2013, with in-store availability (and presumably shipped phones) on 20 September 2013. It will be available in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the UK to start, with 100 countries and over 270 carriers included by December 2013.


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Comments about Apple Announces Low-Cost Plastic iPhone 5c, in Five Colors
(Comments are closed.)

tpetro-roy  2013-09-16 16:23
My opinion is that Apple made a serious error in not making the 5c in black. When my wife first saw the 5c, her only comment was, "They all look pretty feminine, don't they?".
Wandering Willy  2013-09-16 23:41
At A$739 for the low end iPhone c and A$869 for the low end iPhone s here in Australia, these are hardly competitor busting offerings. Not quite sure what Apple was thinking. The iPhone c should have been much cheaper if they wanted it to compete with the likes of Samsung, et al.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-17 08:34
It does seem as though Apple isn't really trying to compete at the low end of the price spectrum here, but to drop the iPhone 5 and its low yield from the manufacturing mix.
Any ideas why they didn't chose white face plates? And why no black model? Upsale to the 5s maybe?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-17 08:35
I'd guess they're trying to make the 5c and 5s look really quite different, so there's no confusion.
The 5c is $549 for 16 GB and $649 for 32 GB.

Compare that to the iPod touch at $229 for 16 GB and $299 for 32 GB.

If you assume that the added radio and the better camera make up about $200 (on the iPad the radio is a $130 extra), you see that Apple can pocket an extra $150 of profit with the iPhone. Quite impressive considering the stiff competition.

I'm pretty sure carrier subsidies are part of the problem. Way too many people believe they can get a phone for $200 when actually they're buying a phone for the (hidden) price of a decent notebook while in the process locking themselves to a provider for 24 months.

I can't wait for provider subsidies to disappear. Once they do, watch those iPhone prices come down. Not so good for Apple's stockholders maybe, but definitely good for buyers.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-09-17 08:36
Yes, I agree that the iPhone 5c is really a margin play - Apple needs to get those margins back up after they dropped because of the iPhone 5 costs/yields.
I remember reading two or so years ago that Apple basically makes 80% of the smartphone profit (which is probably close to all of the phone profit) with what was at the time less than 40% of the worldwide smartphone market share. That's a pretty impressive demonstration of Apple's preference of profit over market share.

Any idea what those figures are today? Is Apple still making most of the profits with just such a small share of the pie (I think it's about 14% now)? Considering the margin on the 5c I wouldn't be surprised. Of course we'll have to see if they can actually sell that many 5c. At these price points I don't think that's a given. Of course, I'm pretty sure it won't fail either.