The Sad Tale Of iPhone 5c: Where Did Apple Mess Up?

By | March 12, 2014
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A comparative study of the market performance of the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s would show up stark contrasts. While the latter is currently nearing the iPhone 4s in terms of market share, the response towards the 5c has been, at best, lackluster.

The first attempt of Apple Inc. to develop and market a ‘cheaper’ handset has not been the raging success that it was hyped to be. Company CEO Tim Cook has already admitted this, along with a vague announcement that the sales are picking up. However, the truth remains that – after about six months of its release, the ‘low-cost’ iPhone 5c is still stuck with a market share of just a bit over 6%. This is in stark contrast with the burgeoning popularity of the simultaneously-released iPhone 5s, which have zoomed past iPhone 4 in terms of sales. So, what exactly ails the iPhone 5c? Let’s take a look:

  1. Competition from the way better iPhone 5s – Even a mobile apps company would shy away from releasing similar applications simultaneously – so it’s hard to understand why a bigshot like Apple allowed the iPhone 5c to face the competition from iPhone 5s. The absence of Touch ID was perhaps the most important factor that made the former seem not worth buying, even for many Apple fans. For a few more bucks, they could get the much more advanced 5s.

  2. Contrary to the company image – Microsoft focuses on competitively-priced products, while Apple has always been into making premium computers, mobiles and other gadgets that serve as status symbols – even if they are pricey. iPhone 5c was projected as a ‘cheap’ phone, and that directly went against the long-standing operational policies of the company. More people opted to stay safe, and went for the more expensive models that offered quality-assurance.

  3. Is the iPhone 5c really a low-cost handset? – The price range for the ‘C’ range of iPhones starts from $99, with the 16-GB model bearing a price tag of $549. On average, these figures are only about $100-$130 lower than the prices of iPhone 5s. Since iPhone 5c was supposed to target the lower-end customer segment, the price difference needed to be higher. Of course, whether the amount of $549 is ‘cheap’ is also subjective!

  4. Dwindling interest among buyers – A sample survey conducted by Apple last December revealed that around 9% of all potential buyers were actually interested in purchasing the iPhone 5c. Within the next three months, this figure had dropped to 6%. Clearly people are not too eager to get the low-cost phone model. That, in turn, indicates that iPhone 5c won’t be able to recover from its slow start.

  5. Nothing new on offer – According to experts from the field of iPhone app development in India, a repackaged product has precious little chances of being successful – and the flop show of iPhone 5c indeed bears this out. The device looked more colorful than the original iPhone 5, and that’s about all it offered in terms of newness (along with, maybe, the retina display). In effect, the ‘me-too’ feel about the 5c was too great.

  6. The plastic build of the phone backfired – Jonathan Ive might keep boasting that the iPhone 5c is ‘unapologetically plastic’ – but there’s no denying that this ad strategy has, in fact, been counter-productive. Even if we do not consider the many negative connotations of the word ‘plastic’ (unoriginal, anyone?), Apple should have realized that it was basically making a handset that was too similar to the Samsung Galaxy phones. The plastic structure of the latter has been negatively reviewed, and most people were not even expecting a plastic phone from Apple too.

  7. Was iPhone 5c believed to be the next iPod? – People love to own (and flaunt) a colorful iPod – but buyer behavior cannot be expected to be similar for the much more expensive iPhones. The iPhone 5c was launched in five alternative colors, none of which managed to make quite the splash the company that hoped for. The common practice among iPhone-owners is to keep their device in a proper smartphone case – which makes the color of the phone no longer viewable. A bit of additional market research would have helped Apple to avoid this mistake.

  8. Lack of sober colors – Looking for a black or a sober grey-colored iPhone 5c? You won’t find it! Apart from the white version, the 5C is currently available in green, pink, blue, and yellow(!). Given that black phone models almost invariably have high sales figures, it seems strange that the iPhone 5c did not give that option to customers. Probably a red model would have helped too.

  9. The older processor and device speed – Even if the metal body of iPhone 5s had not killed off the plastic build of iPhone 5c, the latter’s outdated A6 chip was always likely to keep its popularity stunted. The A7/M7 (motion co-processor) of the 5S was way more preferable, particularly due to the much higher device speed it ensured. Als already stated, it did not cost too much extra either!

  10. It was not a flagship device from Apple – iPhone 5 was a flagship device, and it was hugely successful. iPhone 5c is not a similarly featured Apple product, and neither does it pack in the punch in its features and functionality as the iPhone 5s does. Buying the 5c was akin to settling for the second-best alternative for many buyers across the globe, and the poor word-of-mouth publicity pushed it back further.

 

On top of all these factors, iPhone 5c also had to contend with the competition from Android handsets (which, in any case, have an edge over Apple). Remarkably, employees from even dedicated iPhone application development companies are not too eager to start using the 5c anytime in future. Apple might yet manage a remarkable recovery for the iPhone 5c (the recent price-cuts might be the start of such a strategy). With the iPhone 6 looming on the horizon, it is more likely that the 5c would simply be scrapped!

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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