Apple Inc. (AAPL): Would You Buy An iPhone 5C?

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) just held its long-awaited iPhone event in Cupertino. As in every year since 2008, the company introduced a new high-end model. This one’s called the iPhone 5S and comes with new features such as a dual flash and a fingerprint scanner.

But unlike every other year, last year’s iPhone 5 didn’t simply fade into a reduced-cost support role. Instead, the old model was retired — a first for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) — and replaced by the new iPhone 5C.

So what’s new and different about this replacement model?

Apple’s press release for the 5C speaks volumes, right in the headline: “The Most Colorful iPhone Yet.”

Truth in advertising: These iPhones really are colorful. Image source: Apple.

That’s right. The 5C is so similar to the plain old iPhone 5 that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) focused on the iMac-like range of new colors.

It’s an “all-new design,” made from tough polycarbonate plastic with a reinforced steel frame. The steel component will boost the iPhone’s antenna, presumably giving you more bars in more places. The plastic body might get scuffs and nicks that the iPhone 5’s metal shell escapes, but otherwise seems sturdier and less prone to breaking.

Otherwise, there’s nothing new here. I mean, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) most assuredly re-engineered the entire phone from the ground up, both to fit everything into the new shell design and to be able to claim that it’s a brand-new model. There’s marketing value in those sweet words.

But the rest of the news focused on the new iOS 7 software (which will also run on older iPhones and iPads), with a hearty helping of aesthetic design talk. The phone comes in five pastel colors that will remind you of iMacs from a decade ago, complemented by six interchangeable cases. Design guru Jony Ive had a field day with the 5C.

But if you already own an iPhone 5 and don’t particularly crave a new color to express your personality, the iPhone 5C isn’t for you. You might want to look closer at the iPhone 5S, which does come with some new hardware features, or wait for the 2014 iteration. Or you could examine the plethora of Android phones with similar feature sets and prices (maybe even Windows phones for the truly adventurous).

In fact, you’ll pay a premium for the colorful designs when compared with leftover iPhone 5 reserves or similarly apportioned models from rival designers:

iPhone 5C IPhone 5 (Discontinued) Samsung Galaxy S3 Nokia Lumia 928 Nokia Lumia 920
Storage 16GB 16GB 16GB 32GB 32GB
Price Without Contract $550 $450 $450 $450 $440
Price With AT&T contract $100 $100 $100 N/A $50
Price With Verizon contract $100 $100 $100 $0 N/A

Data from Verizon, AT&T, Apple, and Hassan’s Diary.

I’m using the Galaxy S3 and somewhat older Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:NOKmodels here, rather than the newer Galaxy S4 or Lumia 1020. That’s because the competing high-end models should go head to head with the iPhone 5S, not the 5C.

Any way you slice it, the 5C is a drop-in replacement for the iPhone 5 that lets Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) charge a premium for visual differences. It’s not the low-cost category killer for developing markets that some Apple fans had hoped for, nor is it a significant upgrade over the model it replaced.

All things considered, I’m afraid that the iPhone 5C will be lost in the shuffle. The 5S will capture Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s traditional market of high-end consumers, while the 4S holdover gets the budget dollars. This model’s design focus looks like a very narrow niche.

Would you buy an iPhone 5C? Why, or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

The article What’s New in the iPhone 5C? originally appeared on

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out Anders’ bio and holdings, or follow him on Twitter and Google+.The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple. 

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