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Apple's cheap 5C turns out to be just another iPhone
IS THE new Apple 5C smartphone really the budget beater it’s cracked up to be?
Pundits would have us believe that the handset, unveiled at a much-hyped event (is there any other where Apple is concerned) in California tonight, is the Cupertino company's response to the cheap Android army that has steam-roller iPhone sales and made investors jittery.
To reduce the cost, Apple has ditched the iPhone 5’s beautiful "machined from solid" metal construction for plastic.
The 5C has a tough metal-reinforced plastic body, uses the guts of the old iPhone 5 (which will no longer be available) and comes in a variety of eye-catching colours. It has the same retina screen and comes in 16 and 32GB varieties.
It will also share the new iOS 7 operating system that has been redesigned to be simpler and easier on the eye by Apple’s Sir Jony Ive.
So far so good, but there’s a snag.
If you want to buy an unlocked 5C the cheapest version will cost £469. That’s £100 more than Samsung’s top-of-the-range Galaxy S4. I can’t see the Koreans losing too much sleep over their market share.
The 5C won’t bring Huawei, ZTE or HTC out in a cold sweat, either.
Most of all, it isn’t going to trouble Google’s Nexus 4 which sells sim-free for a truly sensational £159.
Of course, you could buy an iPhone 4S (still on sale) but even that costs £349 and it’s positively ancient by smartphone standards.
Ronald Klingebiel, Assistant Professor of Strategy at Warwick Business School, said: "The new iPhones are innovative, but they are still iPhones. Strategically, the direction seems unchanged.
"The lower-end iPhone is to address price competition in an increasingly commoditizing market, but the likes of Lenovo and ZTE achieve sufficient quality at much lower cost. At the upper end, the business model is about to change.
"There is a chance that the majority of value capture, which had migrated from the handset to the combination of OS and app store, will move on to apps themselves, reducing the cut for middle men.
"New entrants are gearing up to prise open the tight lock between handsets, operating systems, and app stores: Sailfish, Ubuntu, Firefox, and even Tizen offer next-generation operating systems that support the trend towards interoperable HTML-based apps. This could lead to an unbundling of the industry value chain and reduce Apple’s possibility to extract value from the iOS-app store nexus."
So why has Apple created the 5C?
Was it because shareholders are fed up with Apple’s usual policy of launching a new iPhone and just selling last year’s model a bit cheaper?
But the 5C still is last year’s model, albeit with a cheaper case and a range of "funky" colours. It’s not an iPod Nano to an iPod Touch.
So what of the 5S - the new flagship? Apple’s Phil Schiller told the audience: ‘‘iPhone 5s is the most forward-thinking smartphone in the world, delivering desktop class architecture in the palm of your hand.’’ He raised a massive round of applause as he introduced the fingertip scanner - named Touch ID - which, he said, would provide a ‘‘simple and secure way to unlock your phone with just a touch of your finger.’’
The security feature is built into the home button and uses a laser cut sapphire crystal along with a sensor to take a high-resolution image of a user’s fingerprint.
But the more important change is the move to a 64-bit architecture which makes the new handset faster and more responsive than its predecessor. The smoothness of the iOS operating system is one of the things users cite most often when asked to name the best feature of their handsets.
For now, the 5S will offer the best user experience, from launching apps and editing photos to playing graphic-intensive games, of any smartphone.
The 5S will be available in the UK for a suggested retail price of £549 for the 16GB model, £629 for the 32GB model and £709 for the 64GB model.
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