The 'unapologetically plastic' iPhone 5C was introduced by Apple last month, however before it's official launch there had been numerous leaks and rumours pontificating about how Apple was making a cheaper iPhone to make headway in China and other developing markets. The analysts were confident that this plastic offering would be more acceptable to these cash starved provinces and the result would be a wild stampede as these poorer citizens would snap up the latest wondrous offering Apple had created exclusively for them.
Unfortunately, for the analysts at least, things didn't go quite as they predicted. Apple did indeed introduce a line of plastic, or polycarbonate, phone models and they were available in a variety of eye catching colours. They were cheap, well cheaper, a little bit anyway, but nowhere near as low as was forecast. Yes, this is where the many analytical predictions fell down.
It would appear that the poor cash strapped countries (a term that always held a hint of racism I felt) were not the intended market. The market was just the average consumers. These were not to be the phones that Apple folks queued hours for, that was the three coloured variants of the 5S. These were not the handsets to combat the cheaper Android versions. These were not the handsets destined for the cash starved citizens of the globe, surly food, clothing and shelter are more important items to these folks than the latest smart phone from California anyway?
No, these were just phones for normal folks. Consumers that might not want the all singing all dancing technology built into the 5S. Who didn't care about fingerprint scanners and 64-bit technology. The folks that just wanted an phone to be a phone, but maybe with just a few added bells and whistles after all.
Has Apple made the right call with this direction? I think it is far to early to say just yet, although a number of the same analysts that had predicted the cheaper phones are now saying that Apple is doomed.
The 5C was never going to be the high demand on launch day phone. As I say, that was reserved for the 5S, which ironically you couldn't reserve for launch day. No, the 5C is more of a long term affair. With the Winter Holidays approaching I suspect a number of folks will wander into various Apple stores around the globe and spy these colourful plastic devices they might well feel the tug of the consumer demon and part with their cash, but it is far from a foregone conclusion at this time.
I did pop into an Apple store just recently to see how these phones felt. My initial impressions weren't very enthusiastic. Although the build quality does feel solid there was a lightness and almost hollowness to the device that just didn't excite me for a tactile experience. Maybe I am used to the solid glass and metal of my previous iPhones (not including the 3GS) and the sensation of holding the plastic model was just too much for me to overlook. Then again, it's just a freaking phone, with a slightly smaller price tag so maybe I should just get over myself?
Apple has proven many times that it knows it's markets. It has obviously also made mistakes and gotten things wrong from time to time during it's history. I'm not going to suggest that the 5C is one of these missteps yet but I've still yet to see one in the wild (namely on the London Underground, the best place to view what the regular London folks are using). However, if after Christmas I am still not seeing the 5C in greater numbers then maybe Apple might have to be more apologetic about it's plastic after all.