Apple’s pointless iPhone 5c offers nothing to Aussies

Apple’s pointless iPhone 5c offers nothing to Aussies

Summary: It was supposed to be a budget phone for the masses, but outside the United States Apple's iPhone 5c is being sold at eye-watering prices. It's last year's model at this year's prices – and it will be an also-ran before it's even hit the shelves.

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As the world collectively puts on its sneakers and gets ready to rush to the nearest Apple Store to pick up the company’s latest upgrade, punters are faced with an unprecedented choice: not one but eight new iPhones to choose from. Unfortunately, five of them are going to go down as one of Apple’s strangest marketing decisions ever.

I refer, of course, to the iPhone 5c (read CNET’s review here) – a bizarrely specified, cheaper-looking and largely uninspiring revival of last year’s iPhone 5.

Apple pointless iPhone 5c offers nothing
It's last year's phone, at this year's prices.

Walk, don’t run, to get yours from your local Apple Store; stroll right up past the hundreds of people lined up to pick up its far more capable brother, the iPhone 5s; and pick up one of those beautifully moulded plastic devices that is exactly as capable as last year’s phone. Then wonder what you just did.

Apple seems to have taken a leaf from the Australian factory outlets that dutifully import end-of-season stock from US stores, then take advantage of the opposing seasons to market last season’s clothes to unsuspecting antipodeans as the latest thing. Until Australians began travelling to the US more over the past decade, they simply didn’t know they were being fed overpriced leftovers.

While it’s not exactly a bad phone – the iPhone 5 has been hugely popular, after all, and not without reason – the iPhone 5c is simply a smartphone without a cause.

The world had concluded that it was a cut-price phone, and an attempt to extend Apple’s brand into markets where the iPhone 5’s relatively high price had been seen as a competitive disadvantage. But that was the Internet’s collective conclusion; Apple, for its part, has failed to clarify what it hopes to achieve with the iPhone 5c.

Sure, it’s less expensive on contract in the US – $US99 vs $US199 for the iPhone 4S. But once you leave the US, you’re through the looking glass.

In iPhone-mad Australia, the iPhone 5c costs $A739 ($US703) for the 16GB model and $A869 ($US826) for the 32GB model; it’s nearly the same price per month even when amortised over carrier contracts. I have not done a scientific survey but I assume similar situations in other countries too.

In Australia, at least, Apple Australia is charging $A30 more for the iPhone 5s than it’s charging for its entry-level MacBook Air. The 5c is a “budget” phone compared with the 5s in the same way that a BMW 5-series is a budget car compared with a Ferrari.

Nothing at all about those prices says “budget” to me, and I don’t think they would appeal much more to the commodity end of the smartphone market to which Apple was supposedly targeting this product.

The sting from those prices is even worse when you consider that last year, the iPhone 5 bowed in Australia at $A799 ($US760) for the 16GB model, $A899 ($US855) for the 32GB model, and $A999 ($US950) for the 64GB model.

Sound familiar? Do the maths: Apple’s so-called ‘budget’ phone has dropped in price just $A60 at the entry level, and $A30 at the high end, for technology that is basically a year old.

The only way that the iPhone 5c can be considered a ‘budget’ phone is if you compare it to the newer, and far more desirable, iPhone 5s (read CNET’s review here).

Rather than lowering the price of the iPhone 5c, Apple has actually compensated by gouging Australians on the price of the iPhone 5s, which costs the same in 16GB configuration as the 32GB 5c ($A869/$US826) and goes up to an eye-watering $A1129 ($US1074) for the 64GB model.

Yes, that’s right: in Australia, at least, Apple Australia is charging $A30 more for the iPhone 5s than it’s charging for its entry-level MacBook Air. The 5c is a “budget” phone compared with the 5s in the same way that a BMW 5-series is a budget car compared with a Ferrari.

As Inigo Montoya famously said: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

It really didn’t take the concentrated R&D efforts of the world’s largest technology company to deliver us a high-priced phone whose biggest appeal is the fact that it comes in five different colours. It’s not like this phone has the same revolutionary appeal as, say, the original iMac – whose design turned its quirky colours into a computing revolution.

To be fair, Apple never technically used that word; the whole rest of the world did. The company hasn’t said the 5c was meant to be a “budget” phone; it is only marketed as “the most colourful iPhone yet”.

But did Apple really need to take the rather significant step of diluting its brand – and potentially confusing customers – with a second new phone that costs basically the same as its flagship device, but more colourful? Is this really all Jonathan Ive could think of?

I think by now we’ve all figured out that we can make our phone any colour we want using a $10 case bought at the local mall. It really didn’t take the concentrated R&D efforts of the world’s largest technology company to deliver us a high-priced phone whose biggest appeal is the fact that it comes in five different colours. It’s not like this phone has the same revolutionary appeal as, say, the original iMac – whose design turned its quirky colours into a computing revolution.

Apple’s decision to market the iPhone 5c off-contract at eye-watering prices shows either that the company somehow doesn’t understand what the rest of us consider to be a budget phone, or that it simply doesn’t care.

There just doesn’t seem to be much to recommend this product, except as a way for Apple to convince punters to spend that little bit more to upgrade to the 5s. The 5c will be ignored by the same people who ignored last year’s iPhone 5 because it is too expensive – and it will do nothing to win budget buyers away from the influx of cheaper Android-based smartphones that actually cost less.

Having failed that low-end market completely, it’s hard to see the iPhone 5c as anything but a pointless anomaly that will hit the market with a thud. It does, however, heighten my desire for the far sexier iPhone 5s, so maybe Apple’s non-budget ‘budget’ phone strategy is working after all. I’ll see you in line.

What do you think? Will you be rushing out to pick up the iPhone 5c? Or will you walk past it and join me in the queue for the 5s?

Topics: iPhone, Apple, iOS, Mobile OS, Smartphones

About

Australia’s first-world economy relies on first-rate IT and telecommunications innovation. David Braue, an award-winning IT journalist and former Macworld editor, covers its challenges, successes and lessons learned as it uses ICT to assert its leadership in the developing Asia-Pacific region – and strengthen its reputation on the world stage.

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62 comments
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  • It is a scam

    The 5c is a Scam! It is essentially an iPhone 5 but, the plastic back replaced the aluminum back and yet the price hasn't dropped.

    If their idea of a budget models to raise the price of the top end and charge the same rate for a lesser product, they're never going to appeal to emerging markets.
    slickjim
    • It's amazing. Apple NEVER said they were making a budget phone.

      A bunch of stupid analysts did. This is just like those fools who thought Tina Fey really was Sarah Palin when she made that joke about seeing Russia from her back yard.
      baggins_z
      • Sarah Palin DID

        say "you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska" (yes, another insignificant island that belongs to Russia) in order to explain why, despite her total lack of experience in foreign affairs, she was VP material, which makes her statement only slightly less foolish than the common quotation. Similarly, I wouldn't be surprised if Apple started the word-of-mouth campaign that the iphone 5c was a "budget" phone as a deliberate part of its overall marketing campaign. How else could they market an inferior product at the same price, except by attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of unquestioning consumers? This lets them avoid accountability.
        hmmm,
        • Sarah Palind DID NOT say what is "attributed" to her via

          the Tina Fey Saturday Night skit. That is the crux of the matter, and you are helping to propagate a lie with your utter ignorance too.

          And, the island which Palin was referencing as being in Alaska, is in Alaska, and not an island that is part of Russia.

          Read and get educated: http://www.snopes.com/politics/palin/seealaska.asp

          "In the middle of the Bering Strait are two small, sparsely populated islands: Big Diomede, which sits in Russian territory, and Little Diomede, which is part of the United States. At their closest, these two islands are a little less than two and a half miles apart, which means that, on a clear day, you can definitely see one from the other."
          adornoe
          • Wow

            I'm afraid you've blown any credibility you had. Read my comment where I clearly distinguish what she said from the SNL skit quote, and note the significance of her actual quote, then come back to me when you actually have relevant comments to make, anonymous.
            hmmm,
      • What is the point?

        Regardless of whether they did or not... and they didn't... what is the point of the 5c? It is way over-priced and a lesser phone than the iPhone 5 if what I've read is true (basically iPhone 5 technology in an inferior case).
        MelbourneTweetr
    • Trying actually reading.

      "Apple’s so-called ‘budget’ phone has dropped in price just $A60 at the entry level,"
      yoshipod
    • It is not a scam if it makes Apple billions

      it is known as "business"
      Timothy Cook
  • Should be thinner

    It would appeal to me if, say, iPhone 5C is exact dimension as of its brother iPhone 5 / 5S. But since we're here mostly a kind of tech savvy people, 5C wouldn't stand a chance knowing the existence of 5S.

    Well, for me it just another year until I have enough budget to buy one (iPhone 7, anyone?). Here in Indonesia we buy any phone unlocked with all its full price plus tax and import/shipping cost. Go figure how much it would be priced.
    albalain
  • BlackBerry Beats Apple to the Punch With Z30

    It’s not often that this happens, but it seems as though BlackBerry (BBRY) has its fingers on the pulse of what smartphone-buying consumers want — and is reacting to that demand more quickly than Apple

    http://investorplace.com/2013/09/blackberry-beats-apple-to-the-punch-with-z30/comment-page-1/
    sagec
    • Better buy one while BB is still in business...'cause their time is limited

      They are planning on laying off 40% of the company.

      http://money.ca.msn.com/investing/insight/blackberry-might-lay-off-5000-report
      IT_Fella
    • Right

      Unfortunately for BlackBerry, "what smartphone-buying consumers want" is "not a BlackBerry."
      futureman3000
  • The "budget", "cheap" or smiliar words were never mentioned by Apple

    Many people craving for a cheap iPhone wanted to believe so hard that that day would come today - it wasn't meant to be like that.

    iPhones are expensive, 5s, 5c, previous models, ... If in the US (eventually in other places) on contract prices dilutes those insane prices, it's not happening everywhere.
    AleMartin
    • I think "budget" is a reasonable expectation...

      given that it uses cheaper material. But considering it is Apple, I suppose fair pricing is NOT a reasonable expectation.
      hmmm,
  • The answer is here

    If you are confused with Apple's strategy replace the word Apple with BMW and the word iPhone with the word car and reread your article. You will have the answer.
    joefrat
  • Well you just don't get it

    Really, you just don't get it! In other words, do not get one of these phones. Do not buy one. Next
    greywolf7
  • strange

    The strange thing is Apple fans are still lining up for the 5c even though it didn't bring anything new
    ThinkFairer8
    • unless you own an iPhone 3GS, 4 or 4S or don't have an iPhone at all

      are thinking about upgrading or getting your first iPhone. Interesting that you think every person in the universe currently owns and iPhone 5.
      baggins_z
      • Well that would be good

        If they don't have an iPhone at all then they probably have something much better :-P I am just stirring you up, but I do believe my phone is much better than an iPhone :-)
        MelbourneTweetr
    • apple fans

      according to the iCult manual
      Jobs: 23:12:3 they must BUY & COMPLY
      broblk@...