iPhone 5C: Gorgeous, cynical and heartless

I feel a preface is required; The iPhone 5C is Gorgeous.

It’s also been well received by mainstream critics, with average reviews hovering around the 8/10 or 4 star mark. That’s a pretty amazing achievement for a phone that will soon be dropping into the mid-range market in terms of hardware specs.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a common negative, an ‘ah but’ if you will, amongst the reviews. This lower-end iPhone isn’t much cheaper than it’s all new brother. This isn’t really what I’m driving at here though. If the people at Apple think the £450 region is the right price point for their product, then that’s their decision.

The Problem? This time, they’re not allowed to determine the price point.

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Say what you will about Apple’s decision to bring out a cheap iPhone – which I assure you, I will – The iPhone 5C knocks any other plastic-bodied phone out of the water in terms of design. It may even be prettier than the 5S, with it’s odd choice of different-for-the-sake-of-difference colour combinations.

Indeed, it certainly shows Samsung and others how to make a polycarbonate body look premium. The simple two piece construction focuses on simplicity; whereas something like the Galaxy S4, with its fake metallic ring, attempts to look more premium than it can manage. ‘Unapologetically Plastic’ may be the least Apple thing I’ve ever heard from an Apple employee, it was certainly the right approach to take.

The phone itself is no slouch either. For something which isn’t a flagship model, last years hardware is still more than capable. You could complain that several competing companies have flagship android devices with specs far beyond that of the 5C, but as the recently resuscitated Motorola have proven with the Moto X, things other than hardware specs can be captivating value-adds to the non-nerdy amongst the general public. If there’s a single company in the right position to appeal to the wider audiences like this, then it’s Apple.

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But what of the iPhone 5? Look at it up there. Doesn’t it look antiquated, with that awful-looking operating system? Apple certainly made a good decision to release a major OS overhaul with a new S model. In promotional images at least, the 5S looks light years ahead of the iPhone 5; thanks to a UI that wasn’t designed over half a decade ago.

But in reality, the iPhone 5 is as up-to-date as the iPhone 5C. It has the same specs, it has the same OS, and it’s got the same body as the current flagship 5S. So where does it fit in the lineup? Apple would have you believe it’s no longer part of the lineup, as they no longer sell it; but it undeniably is, look at any networks website. It’s still being sold.

But I should return to the spirit upon which I started. This isn’t about the looks of the 5C, the build quality, the outdated specs or the price. Those aren’t definitive in terms of value to the consumer.

The problem I have? Let’s take a look at the previous price points of the iPhone.

  • iPhone 4   – £319
  • iPhone 4S – £449
  • iPhone 5   – £529

and now the current price points

  • iPhone 4S – £349
  • iPhone 5C – £469
  • iPhone 5S – £549

Ignore the abstract price increases year-on-year, again that’s not what I’m getting angry at here. That, again, is subjective. Let’s look at a couple of price differences.

  • iPhone 4S to iPhone 5 – £80 cheaper  (previous lineup)
  • iPhone 5C to iPhone 5S – £80 cheaper  (current lineup)

What a coincidence!

So, my question is this. If the iPhone 5 was still on sale, still being manufactured, as has been the status quo until now, what would its current retail value be? I’d say around the £469 mark. remarkable.

It is not the fact that the iPhone 5C is worse in any way than the 5, or that Apple is in any way obliged to keep manufacturing the 5. It is the fact that Apple have created a device to precisely match the iPhone 5 as it would have stood in their previously established lineup, but at a lower cost to them.

The iPhone 5C is not a better iPhone, it is not a cheap, nor cheap-er iPhone. The iPhone 5C is designed to enlarge a profit margin for a legacy product which was without doubt still profitable to manufacture and sell. And for that it simply cannot be forgiven.

Perhaps, at a lower cost, and a lower specification, the iPhone 5C would have made for captivating product. But the iPhone 5C is for the colourful, not for the sensible. And it is a good product for nobody.

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