This is a follow-up to my ‘I know it all and yet got some things wrong’ column on predictions on the two new iPhones. The reason for writing this one isn’t that I am gloating or have been humbled by how much I got wrong, but because Apple’s announcements have left most people dazed and confused.
A cheap Apple for all had been the buzz for months before the event. A critical business decision for the tech titan, a new weapon in its quest for getting a bigger market share, an iPhone for countries like India and China, where the average smartphones sells for less than half of Apple’s flagship phone – it was impossible for Apple to continue without a mass-market product and thus an economical iPhone was almost assured.
‘C’ for Cheap? see for yourself
And an economical iPhone did come: in the shape of the iPhone 5c. But only certificate holders from the Apple fanboy army could really term it as an economical iPhone. For the rest of us, the iPhone 5c is a bright and happy phone that comes in five colours – white, blue, green, yellow and pink. It’s got an A6 chip, a 4-inch retina display and an 8-megapixel camera. Think of it as an iPhone 5 in a plastic body or as one particular company, which thousands of individuals have been quick in pointing out – a Nokia Lumia running iOS! Apple also introduced some colourful cases for the 5c priced at $30 each. While they go very well with the new geometric design ethos of the OS, these cases also represent Apple’s first unforgivable design debacle (see image) where the happy round cutouts turn the legendary iPhone inscription at the back into ‘hon’. I don’t think Steve Jobs, with his eye for perfection, would have let something like this pass.
Still, there’s no denying the fact that this is an attractive phone that will appeal to the youngsters. Till you hit them with the price. The unlocked iPhone 5c 16GB is priced at $549, which would roughly translate to about `36,000 and by the time you add in duties and taxes, it’ll hit about `40,000. And that isn’t in the economy category for any country and any person!
‘S’ versus ‘C’
In fact, in China, the market Apple truly needs to get big sales numbers from, it’s even more expensive. Thus it seems that the iPhone 5c is a much awaited new addition to the iPhone portfolio, but a new addition without a clear thought or purpose. After all, it’s priced at just a $100 less than the vastly superior iPhone 5s and if someone has that kind of money, they may as well splurge on the 5s. But embedded deep within the iPhone 5c and its bizarre pricing may well be a very superior business model for the long run. But before I get into that, let’s take a quick look at the iPhone 5s.
‘S’ for Superior
This is the phone that carries forward the classic legacy of a premium iPhone, the all metal 5s. And now it’s also out in two new colours – gold and space gray. Apple also ups the ante with a powerful new A7 chip which is claimed as the first 64-bit chip to ever power a phone. Also added on is a new motion processor, M7 that continuously monitors data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass for better data output to fitness and others apps. While the camera continues to be 8-megapixel, Apple has gone the HTC way by adorning it with larger pixels as well as a wider aperture.
There is also a dual LED flash to give even skin tones and textures. And of course, the killer feature and why almost every major Apple fan will immediately upgrade is the home button or more importantly, what lies underneath it. Apple believes that your fingerprint is the perfect password and has embedded a fingerprint scanner under the home button. But as this is Apple and whenever they do something new, they generate controversy. Let me address the one buzzing all over the Net. Will Apple now have your fingerprints in its database and can that be misused? The simple answer to that is no! Your fingerprints remain locally on your phone, they are not transmitted to Apple or on the Net or to any database. Think of it as a simple, easy and very cool way of unlocking your phone.
Thus, at just $100 more, the iPhone 5s seems to be a no-brainer to buy and the iPhone 5c seems to be dead on arrival. Conventional wisdom would say that, but Apple is anything but conventional.
According to me, the iPhone 5c is Apple’s smart way of getting in an economy phone without losing the premium cult status tag that they have so carefully cultivated. The 5c will become the phone that will come to countries like India and China with a service provider subsidised business model. Think of it as a cross between 12 interest-free EMIs (something that has taken off like a rocket in India) and some discounting by your network provider. Thus the `40,000 iPhone 5c can be bought for `6,500 (about $99, same as the USA price) plus `2,500 per month added to your mobile phone bill with further subsidies if your usage goes above a certain amount. You get an iPhone at an economy price, your service provider get a great customer with high billing, Apple sells a tonne of these and still doesn’t get associated with cheap products, and everybody wins. Many have tried to guess what the ‘C’ in iPhone 5c really stands for. Many came up with cheap, China or even colour. If Apple truly follows the above business model, then maybe the only words that the ‘C’ could stand for would be cunning, canny and crafty!
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, September 22
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch