Apple introduced two new iPhones at once for the first time this year, with the unveiling of the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S. While many people had been expecting one of those phones to be an inexpensive model, it turns out that cheap is in the eye of the beholder.

The iPhone 5C may start at $99 when you buy it with a 2-year contract, but it costs $549 and up if you buy it without a contract. While that’s $100 less than the starting price for the iPhone 5S, it’s still a lot of money.

Some folks are back-tracking on assertions that the iPhone 5C was designed to be a budget model and instead saying that the new iPhone with the plastic case is simply the first step in offering two iPhone models at once — much the way you can buy a MacBook or MacBook Pro, you can now get an iPhone 5C (standard) or iPhone 5S (premium).

That’s surely at least partially true. But that doesn’t mean the iPhone 5C isn’t a budget phone… by Apple standards.

Apple iPhone 5C

Sure, the iPhone 5C  if it costs around twice as much as a Google Nexus 4 or Xiaomi MI3.

It’s unlikely Apple ever had plans to offer smartphones at or near cost, the way the Google and Xiaomi do. So unless the company was planning to make a really crappy phone, I’m not sure what price people were expecting a “cheap” iPhone to debut at.

What Apple has done for the last few years is offer year-old smartphones at a moderate discount. It’s an easy way to offer shoppers a bargain price without devaluing the latest Apple products by suggesting that other models with lesser specs might be just as good.

When Apple launched the iPhone 5 last year, the company continued to sell the iPhone 4S for $99 with a 2-year contract, and the iPhone 4 for free with a contract. At this year’s launch event, Apple discontinued the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 altogether.

Now you can get an iPhone 5C for $99 on-contract, or an iPhone 4S for free with a service plan.

That makes sense, since the specs for the iPhone 5C are nearly identical to those for the iPhone 5. The major difference is that the new model has a plastic case and comes in a variety of colors. It’s also probably cheaper to produce thanks to the falling costs of components, and the materials used. So Apple can offer it at a lower price.

Of course, if Apple hadn’t introduced a new plastic model, all signs would have pointed to the company dropping the price of the iPhone 5 by $100 and continuing to sell it.

And that is what Apple does to create a budget smartphone. What’s new is that for the first time instead of simply offering an older model at a lower price, Apple introduced a new model at a lower price.

But lower doesn’t necessarily mean low, and Apple’s new cheaper iPhone still costs more than many top tier smartphones on the market. And that’s fine, because it’s one of only a few phones designed to run the iOS operating system, so Apple can charge whatever it likes. And with an Apple A6 processor, a 4 inch, 1136 x 640 pixel display, an 8MP rear camera, a front-facing HD camera, and up to 32GB of storage, it’s not like the iPhone 5C is a bad phone, even by 2013 standards.

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10 replies on “Is the iPhone 5C really a budget phone? Yes… But only by Apple’s standards”

  1. I agree with Brian and Tplone… plus add Apple’s sheer financial greed into the equation for good measure, and I smell the beginnings of the demise of a former American technology giant due to its own shortsightedness in not addressing the lower end of the market with the release of a suitably lower priced model when it had it’s final chance to do so. Let’s face it, they have had enough opportunities already and yet have continued to ignore the growing dominance of Android models for that very reason. Meanwhile the market moves on without them as they price themselves out of the running.

    I am not an Apple fanboy yet I do own an iPad, and I have always admired the design aesthetic of their products. However, the desperate blindness exhibited in this article defies comprehension, and the immediate drop in share value Apple experienced on announcement of the 5C’s pricing should act as a clarion call to their board!

  2. Anyone who wants a genuinely honest and unbiased assessment of this laughably outdated flagship 5S can simply read up on what happened to the value of Apple after the announcement:

    Disappointing iPhone 5S unveiling wipes $30 billion off the value of Apple stock

    The guy writing this article may pretend to be telling the truth as he see’s it but probably isn’t. He’s not blind. The 5S is a full two years behind in smartphone tech. The screen isn’t even 720p (which will make the 5S three years behind by the time the 6 rolls around).

  3. If you have the choice of a cheaply made Chinese phone and cheaply made Chinese Apple you use your brain and get the well made, but half the price of Apple, Chinese phone.

  4. When writing about phone prices it would be very helpful to mention both the contract and non-contract price for comparison sake. What will be the new non-contract price for a 4S? Maybe the 4S is the real budget phone. With all the hype about Apple trying to crack the domestic China market you can’t blame people for thinking that the 5c was going to be the phone to try that with but $549 is not a budget phone for other countries since almost all have to pay the full cost up front. Even the 4s probably isn’t that phone since you have the tiny screen going up against cheaper, better spec’d, and larger screened Androids. Maybe Apple could market the 4s as especially designed for the smaller Asian hand. Another “innovation” from Cupertino.

  5. Finally! A phone and OS to match the Candy Crush color scheme!

    Exactly what my girl friend wanted…

  6. Brad, you should probably measure this iPhone 5S to a standard of common sense and truthfulness.

    The 5S is a complete joke. Sad day in tech news when a blogger such as yourself fails to point this out.

  7. Honestly, iOS 7 looks uglier than Touchwiz.
    Honestly, why would people pay $549 for a 16 GB iPhone 5C when a Nexus 4 16 GB sells for $249?

  8. I wanna see the backlash against that interface. It’s much worse than the Windows 8 interface.

Comments are closed.