Why would anyone buy an iPhone 5c instead of an iPhone 5s?

By SteveJack

This article is based upon a previous Take I wrote earlier, but I wanted to get your feedback in case I might be missing something:

Apple’s iPhone 5S costs $100 more than an iPhone 5C — or $4.17 per month over the life of a typical two-year contract or, in other words, a completely negligible amount if you’re actually in a financial position to be able to buy and use a smartphone.

Let’s get real: If $4.17 per month means anything at all to you, you really can’t afford a smartphone to begin with. Over a two-year contract, the difference between the two iPhones is less than 14-cents per day!

The iPhone 5s is separated from iPhone 5c in many ways: Touch ID fingerprint recognition, materials quality, the camera’s larger 8MP sensor with 1.5µ pixels, ƒ/2.2 aperture, dual LED True Tone flash, Burst mode, slo-mo video, improved video stabilization, a 64GB option, and, of course, the A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor.

iPhone 5s vs. iPhone 5c

 
Unless you’re allergic to aluminum and/or fine craftsmanship, there is no reason why anyone who can afford an iPhone would not buy an iPhone 5s (unless you’re buying a first iPhone for your son or daughter). Even then, if you want a brightly colored polycarbonate phone or some feeling of extra protection from drops and dings, slap a plastic case on the iPhone 5s. There, it almost weighs as much as the 5c now.

The bulk of any smartphone cost is the data, not the phone.

Am I missing something or is the price difference between the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c too insignificant to ever consider opting for the 5c?

Why the hell would anyone buy an iPhone 5c instead of an iPhone 5s?

It seems to me that Apple is using the iPhone 5c as a tool to push buyers to the 5s (well, at least those buyers who can grasp a simple value equation).

Once Apple gets the customer to the websites or into the stores and the prospective buyer can see and/or hold both phones and learn that they’re only separated by a mere $100, my guess is that Apple figures they’ll have plenty of upsales occurring. Upsales that will boost Apple’s iPhone margins nicely.

Oh, BTW, Apple’s going to sell a boatload of both models (and millions of 4S units too)!

Are you listening, margin-loving Wall Street?

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, former web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

146 Comments

    1. Ridiculous opinion piece,

      Steve Jack, you should know better. It’s not about $4.17 per month, it’s about an upfront cost of $99 vs. $199. A big deal for many people.

      Not to mention the millions of teens, moms, grandparents, and people with minimal incomes in 3rd world countries whom 64 bit, or an A7 processor will never make a difference to may actually prefer the colored models.

        1. Perhaps, but that assumption/decision is not yours to make.

          Being connected has become a priority for many people in the modern world, even in third world countries. The alternate was for those on limited income was an Android phone, today Apple gave them a better option.

          1. It’s right… Yet, for those people the 5C price is still way too expensive. Samsung has the biggest part of the cake only because it sells its copies much cheaper than Apple.
            Apple wouldn’t do a real low cost phone, probably because it doesn’t care of selling more. Its all more about selling with a better margin.

            1. It isn’t about margins, it’s about selling trash products that really don’t work very well.

              Apple (PJR) has always stayed away from peddling junk, samsung has made a fortune doing it.

      1. SteveJack is being an idiot. The 5C is not aimed at the U.S. market, it is aimed at international markets where you don’t have subsidies. There, an iPhone 5C costs about $550, where a 5S costs $850-$900. That’s a big difference.

      2. That’s true… Psychology is important. Last year, you could ask the equivalent question, who would by an iPhone 4S for $99 when you can get an iPhone 5 (bigger screen, faster processor, better camera, etc.) for $199? Yet there were customers who chose the iPhone 4S (and even more bought the older iPhone 4 for another $99 off). Maybe they just liked the elegant “glass” design better, just as there will be customers this year who like the fun and colorful (less serious) iPhone 5C better. They are not doing some hardware specs value proposition equation in their heads…

        The original iMac was seen as fun and colorful, which is why it drew enough “non-fanboy” customers away from the “serious business” (and more “useful” at that time) Windows platform, to keep Apple in business.

        And here’s another aspect of the iPhone 5C. It’s probably going to be around without change for at least TWO years. This year, it’s the NEW $99 choice, but starting next year, the “plastic” iPhone will become the $0 choice. Going forward (after this year), the ongoing iPhone lineup will likely be:

        Latest and greatest iPhone – $199 and up
        Previous latest and greatest iPhone – $99
        Plastic case version of two-year-old iPhone – $0

        Apple keeping the iPhone 4S in the lineup indicates to me that this proven formula will continue, with this year being the aberration because the iPhone 5C is a new product.

    2. I agree completely with this article. It just makes no sense. I like the colourful 5C’s but … not at that premium price.
      Maybe Apple is planning on selling the 5C sans-contract at much more competitive price, maybe in foreign markets. That could be interesting.

  1. I know plenty people that have androids because of the $99 price tag but would love an iPhone if they could get one that is MODERN. The 5c is a modern phone with a $99 price tag. For many Americans, that $4 extra each month bus enough to blow their budget. Clearly you out of touch with the reality of our nation’s economics. We are a nation wants. people want things they can’t afford. many blue collar workers today still make less than $30k per year and support a family on this. This is because they are very good with managing their expenses and every dollar counts. For these people, the extra $100 makes a difference. Not because of the monthly valuation of savings but because of the immediate savings which can make or break the buyers decision. If you want to throw financial reasoning, I have the mother of them all for you… Because Cash Is King. If they can get an iPhone that does everything for less it’s the logical choice.

    Myself. I’m getting the 5s because I can afford it. But I expect many of my friends will happily move from android to the 5c now that there is a mid level alternative.

    1. Some of these folks just don’t understand the value of a dollar. A bunch of single hipsters and homos with no children to feed and tons of disposable cash falling out of their asses. They don’t know what it means to scrimp and save, clipping a hundred coupons every week just so you can put food on the table. And if you’ve got a teenager or two who are great kids and you want to spoil them a little, you want to give them the best that you can afford. Maybe you’re buying two as Christmas presents and could use an extra $200 in your pocket. For these people, the ranks of which grow larger every day in America, the iPhone 5c is an excellent choice that strikes a proper balance between premium quality and affordability.

        1. Why do the ranks of the economically-challenged grow larger every day in America?

          Because your beloved Neo-Con-Jobs suck on the teat of your beloved 1%, and screwed over the future of the 99% during the Dubya Bush League administration. We’re still living through the 2007 worldwide economic depression and its ramifications.

          …Not that the Obama administration is significantly less 1% teat sucking or has proven to be any more economically savvy. I despise BOTH corrupt, moronic, impractical, out-of-date and worthless US political parties, if you hadn’t noticed. Bleh.
          :-Q*****

          1. Yeah, lets get a REAL gummint like the Syrians have. No woosie lefties or righties there. No NSA, no handouts to people left behind, just a strong gummint that don’t take no shit from it’s citizens. See how we’d all be better off?

            By the way, have you ever gone out and participated in politics?If you don’t like the way it’s run go out and start your own party. See how many people agree with you. Most of the whiners about politics couldn’t be bothered getting off their butts to do anything about it. They just love to whine.

            1. I assume you’re not talking to me, .me.

              If you are, I think you need to re-read what I wrote and do some research on what I write on the net. Providing some further insight about myself, if you actually care, I run several list serves, a rare music sharing group, spent 7 or the last 9 years volunteering at a food pantry, have been volunteering at the local peace council for the last 12 years, write two non-commercial blogs to help Mac users with both technology and computer security, am currently the Secretary of the local PC user group, and this week am organizing my neighborhood’s yearly block party. The music is going to be killer! BYOB, dish to pass, dancing in the street.

              Oh and I currently belong to the Green Party because they don’t currently have any entangling alliances and actually make an effort to provide positive and democratic representation to US citizens. Not that they’re perfect! They’re simply preferable to the two worthless parties currently ruining my country. 😀 Cheers!

          2. “Because your beloved Neo-Con-Jobs suck on the teat of your beloved 1%, and screwed over the future of the 99% during the Dubya Bush League administration.”

            I have noticed your political posts always rail against the Right first and foremost and then the disclaimer follows saying both parties are to blame. Fair enough.

            It would be refreshing for a change of pace to rant the opposite way and post similar colorful negative descriptions of the Democrat party first and mild condemnation of R’s follow.

            Just a thought …

            1. One day all the facts of 9-11 will be public knowledge. Then you figure out why I DESPISE the so called ‘Neoconservatives’. They set the record so far, within my small knowledge sphere, as the most despicable gang of psychopathic murderers in US history. No conspiracy theory required. They laid out their plans and they carried them out. Study their ‘Project for the New American Century’ to get a teeny taste of their insanity.

              Next to the dire crimes of the Neoconservative scum, the Democrat’s crimes are merely horrific.

              So yes, I always like to point out the most destructive of the destroyers first. And that won’t change.

              But clearly, the current administration went way over the line in to the despicable. I can’t help but hold the current version of the Democrats in severe contempt.

              Then there’s the USA our forefathers planned on us having. THAT I like. THAT I work for, as documented.

              Isn’t it nice to have someone like me be REAL, use my REAL name, talk about the REAL me, and then reply to nasty flames and ignorance with REAL responses. Kind of rare. Kind of sad that it’s rare. But apparently being real is rare, so there you go.

            2. Saint Derek Currie wrote:

              “Isn’t it nice to have someone like me be REAL, use my REAL name, talk about the REAL me, and then reply to nasty flames and ignorance with REAL responses. Kind of rare. Kind of sad that it’s rare. But apparently being real is rare, so there you go.”

              __________

              Yes, you are so very very special. I’m going to nominate you for martyr of the century.

            3. That should be “you’re nuts”.

              It’s amusing to me that anyone cares what I writing on this level around here. I look at it as tossing a chunk of meat to waiting wolves in order to watch their behavior. Clearly there are people around here who wait for something to pounce upon in order to vent their own righteous indignation, sadomasochism, abuse, whatever. It’s sort of unfortunate that I am not a psychologist and cannot fully enjoy and put to use this display of data. My major interests are elsewhere and such experimentation is inadvertent.

      1. Which part of the following did you not grasp?

        Let’s get real: If $4.17 per month means anything at all to you, you really can’t afford a smartphone to begin with. (bold emphasis mine)

          1. MikeK is correct. Most people don’t perform econometric analyses with each purchase. They calculate with long-understood rules of thumb, which always start with up-front and out-of-pocket costs, and consistently err on the perceptual interface, which is why 9.99 is mentally truncated rather than rounded up. They are even worse with probability calculations, and prefer anecdote to scientific evidence. All of which is why markets flourish, and even exist in the first place.

            The bottom line is that purchasing decisions are a constraint-satisfaction game subject to a complex of desires and emotions. People will buy when they can do the arithmetic that makes sense to them in their internal, subjective world. Successful sellers cater to these psychological principles.

      2. Anonymous coward “R2” provided us a wonderful demonstration of ignorance and bigotry when he spewed forth:

        A bunch of single hipsters and homos with no children to feed and tons of disposable cash falling out of their asses.

        I’m willing to bet that every day, R2, you have opportunities to CHOOSE to learn about the real world. I fervently wish and pray that you take advantage of those choices. You’ll enjoy the result. You’ll regret your old ignorance. But remember that all we humans are blundering and floundering in some level of ignorance every moment of the day. Forgive yourself and move forward in becoming your best self.

        That’s a nice reply from me, as nice as I get around here. If you have no comprehension of what I’m talking about, better luck next life. 😀

            1. Not to get all serious on such a positive emotional note, Derek, but paid trolls don’t respond positively: that’s a losing cause. Non-paid trolls, like butt-hurt fandroids and Apple diehard curmudgeons, possess emotional attachments to technology and operating system principles that activate the same neural circuits as patients suffering from separation anxiety and even depression. We ought to watch our step, and err on the side of helpfulness.

            2. Fascinating. It’s very positive and interesting to me to analyze the troll/curmudgeon/fandroid situation. No one every talks about it. I have just about zero psychology background and research what I want to know as I go.

              You’re a highly educated and insightful individual dear Goddess. Easy guess.

            3. Actually, I was pulling your leg, just a bit…I made up the neural circuits part. You’d have to realize that no clinical studies have been done on any very ill-defined group such as “non-paid trolls.” 🙂 (That’s not to say my generalisations are false, just not scientifically supported!) I’m working my way through Kandel 5th edition, and these things are very much on my mind.

            4. Humph. My leg has been pulled!

              The closest I’ve come to studying neural science is watching the PBS Charlie Rose series on the human brain. This month’s PBS program “Brains On Trial” is interesting as well. It’s all remarkably primitive, but humanity strives on.

            5. You did not treat him positively. You were presumptuous, sanctimonious, and condescending.

              Oh, did he write something not in perfect alignment with your world view? How dare he!

              And after you scolded him from your lofty perch occupied by the moral preening people of goodness and light, did he dare spurn the gracious opportunity to return with slumped shoulders and head bowed, supplicating unto you for another chance to prove his worthiness before your ennobled presence? How dare he!

              People really need to understand that Derek Currie is the self-appointed center of the universe, and that his very pores ooze a sweet and gooey moral purity. On the other hand, other people may want to vomit at the sight of the authoritarian impulse so endemic of the parrots of political correctness.

            6. Aww…you called me a name. I beg of you, please don’t call me anymore names. It takes me back to the 3rd grade schoolyard when Jimmy Jenkins called me a “boo boo head.” The horror. The horror.

              On the other hand, last I heard, Jimmy was doing hard time for not knowing the difference between verbosity and certain short-form stylistic approaches. Jimmy tended to overestimate himself. He was uneducated. And high on his own fumes. And would get hopping mad when someone to strike one of his delicate precious nerves.

            7. A “troll” is not defined merely as someone who has the unmitigated gall to write something not officially approved by one Derek Currie.

              And if you haven’t the self-awareness to understand that your sanctimonious preening is not really above or better than anything approach, then you have no business appointing yourself General Manager of the Universe.

      3. Are you so obsessed send with homosexuality that you must somehow work it into a discussion of technology and economics? Gee, I’m a lesbian, and even I wouldn’t make that stretch.
        Keep it civil, please.

    2. I would just opine that if people are that much strapped for cash the $4 more a month might break them, maybe they really shouldn’t have any phone or contract to begin with. We survived in the 70’s and 80’s without them just fine. Priorities are what the economically challenged families should be thinking about. A smartphone is basically a luxury. And don’t give me the bull about it is a necessity. Food is a necessity, not a smartphone.

    3. Honestly, my mom has to stretch every penny and I really want an iPhone but she can’t afford one for me. She got her iPhone 5c free through Verizon. So if anybody can understand the money factor I definately do.

  2. Thank God you guys don’t run Apple. My wife texted me earlier today saying she wants the blue one. Doesn’t care about faster processor. Doesn’t care about better camera. Doesn’t care about fingerprint. DOES CARE ABOUT LOOK AND COLOR! I think the product is going to be HUGELY successful. Makes the 5s look like a product for Mercedes owners and not everyone wants to drive a Mercedes. Think of it as the Mini Cooper of the line!

      1. Have you watched the 5C video on Apple’s site? It is a VERYYYYY sexy product and makes the 5s look serious and stodgy.

        5s = a meeting at the office
        5C = a day at the beach

        1. I lead a University spin-out working in cutting edge renewables research – seriously capable but sexy and fun too. We’ve a blue and white theme and a circle-based logo. Consequently the only choice is the white 5c in a blue case or blue 5c in a white case. My point is that it’s a brand image & perception thing. Same goes for people too. If they can afford one if these (min £469 in the UK) then they’ll have an idea of who they are, how they want to be seen, and which phone/colour combination goes with that. Guaranteed apple UK will be out of stock of both models 4-5 days after they’re available on contract.

    1. Have you actually ever driven a Mercedes? I mean road trip, not around the dealers neighborhood. There are some things you do that change your outlook forever. Volvo, BMW and Audi all know who they want to be when they grow up. Why do you think they hire Donald Sutherland to do voiceovers in their commercials? To try to convince the easily lead that they are already there.

      I am concerned we may have to admit that Apple has jumped the shark.

            1. “Audi has been a majority owned (99.55%) subsidiary of Volkswagen Group since 1966, following a phased purchase of AUDI AG’s predecessor, Auto Union, from Daimler-Benz.[11] Volkswagen relaunched the Audi brand with the 1965 introduction of the Audi F103 series.” (Wikipedia)

              Seems that Mercedes didn’t want them. But they are very good Volkswagens.

              Enough. I like your Audi too. Running diesels at LeMans is great engineering.

            2. “On 5 July 2012, Volkswagen AG announced a deal with Porsche resulting in VW’s full ownership of Porsche on 1 August 2012.” (Wikipedia)

              “The Cayenne, introduced in 2002, shares its entire chassis with Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7, which is built at the Volkswagen Group factory in Bratislava.”

              Hard to see much light between VW, Porsche and Audi these days, except in the marketing literature.

            3. What does this have to do with today?

              By the way, yes, I’ve driven Mercedes beyond what a test drive allows. I’ve also driven Volvos and BMWs and Audis. Each have vastly different feels and characteristics and, no, they don’t aspire to be Mercedes. As a matter of fact, I argue that Mercedes is trying to be more like Audi with the production of more 4matic cars.

              I don’t know who Donald Sutherland does voiceovers for nor do I know why that matters.

            1. Yes, on both items. Small, economic cars actually represent the technology edge. They are more comparable to Apple than a large Mercedes is. And the 5s is actually the better phone. It is smaller, lighter and more powerful.

    2. It is sad that almost everyone usually slaps a big ugly case on their iPhone and you rarely see the colour of the phone or the beauty of the device. And then they stick some piece of plastic over the screen as a ‘screen protector’ and it looks hideous while being subject to pealing, scuffing and cuts. The underlying Gorilla Glass is very tough and difficult to scratch.

        1. I have carried my iPhone 4S and before that, my iPhone 3S in my pocket without a case for years and they are both pristine but I wonder why we would want to keep our phones covered and in pristine condition in the first place. I get a new phone every couple of years and pass the old one down to my children. They don’t really want an old phone though even if it is in perfect condition but they accept it graciously.

          1. You have mannered your children well. Sad it is that anonymous, presumably adult, Internet strangers fail to benefit similarly from a tap on the shoulder and a word to the wise.

            A point about the case. Most women place the mobile in a handbag, where it is subject to object traffic. The case prevents scarring.

            1. Indeed. I know few women, however, who are so fastidious and ordered as to use them to exclusion. As well, there is the matter of multiple handbags, all differently configured. Men have it easy.

    3. Lol- I think this article is kind of funny because at my daughters elementary school, the 5th graders are all talking NON-STOP about what color iPhone they are going to get. This device will be a HUGE hit with the tween set that could care less about the high tech specs. My 10 year old and all her friends are obsessed with it and all of them are already putting it on theirChristmas list. As for me..SWEET!!! Mommy and Daddy just saves $100 smackers in a phone our 10 year old will probably promptly lose or break anyway. The replacement on insurance will be $100 less. Sounds FANTASTIC to someone that will need to buy MULTIPLE kid iPhones because little sis will want one too. so in answers to your question as to who will buy an iPhone5c? Tons and Tons of little girls and boys in Elementary school!! Lol

  3. Because for many people who are not tech nuts like most that visit this website, the 5c does everything that they need it to anyway, plus it will also be far more durable than the 5s as well. I think it’s as much if not more about those reasons than it is about the additional $100.

    1. Again: Slap a plastic case on the 5s and it’ll be durable in the way you consider durable to be, it’ll be whatever color you want, and it will still likely weigh less than the 5c!

        1. No Touch ID for two years. No 64-bit A7, etc., either. Within the two year contract Touch ID will come to do much more than let you unlock your iPhone – BUT, you have to have the sensor first. Get it yet?

          1. Soccer moms, teenage girls and people who make 12k a year in third world countries don’t give a crap about those things. Their alternative is an android phone and apple just gave them a better option. Get it yet?

            If you don’t believe me, at least believe that Apple knows more than you do about their addressable market.

            1. Another great observation. Addressable market. Now that Apple knows its tech is solid it is on the move, and intends to conquer new market segments, by carefully considered design, without sacrificing profits, without concern for the polluting bulimia of the stock market, and with obvious contempt for other, lesser practitioners of the state of the art.

    2. There’s nothing “tech nutty” about the Touch ID. Either you have the reader or you don’t.

      Your iPhone 5c isn’t going to grow one and it isn’t going to get one from a software update. And, if you’re even considering buying a 5C, you’re likely the type who’ll stay in the contract for the full two-years (wouldn’t consider paying any fees to get out of it), so you’ll be stuck without Touch ID – and all that it will grow to do – for two long years. Buying a 5c to save $100 would be a stupid, shortsighted move.

  4. I cannot see anything compelling about the iPhone 5c. It totally escapes me. None of the colors are attractive to anyone over 10 years. The whole device screams “I’m not the real thing”, similar, but second class. With the old down marketing scheme, everyone with an iPhone had the first class device, maybe a little older, but the real thing, the best Apple could do. I’ll keep my iP4 before I would accept an iP5c, if it were given to me for free.

    1. I find it difficult to believe that you’d pass on the advanced features of the 5C over the 4 due solely to it being plastic. In this case, the iP4 would be the second class device.

    2. Your problem seems to be one of expectations. Time was, Apple had one model per year, and you liked and adopted it, or not. Then, the universe bifurcated, and there were two realities. Choose one and diminish the other? That calculus might assault your sense of self, but really it only expanded to include some of the formerly disenfranchised.

  5. I have a friend who has a 5 and is thinking of selling it and buying the 5c because she loves the look and thinks it will feel better in her hand. I believe many will buy it. Look at how many bought the 4S this past year (and will this year).

  6. The only ones buying this are the members of the Hee Haw demographic who could only afford Fragmandroid until the glorious day they experience quality when this joint is released soon.

  7. SteveJack,

    I can give you 3 reasons:

    3rd World market
    Android Phones
    A mixture of the previous reasons

    $100 in the 3rd world means a lot of money. It can be a deal breaker. Also, a lot of people in the 3rd world goes for Android phones because of price. Apple is getting to the segment which doesn’t know about the difference between an Android Phone and an iPhone. And believe me, they exist.

    By introducing a low cost iPhone, they are opening their universe to a lower-income crowd, but one which is very large. It’s a volume issue. And Apple has been smart enough to produce a top quality low cost phone for that market.

    It’s similar to what they did with the iBook and the PowerBook back in the day.

    So, income level for certain markets is the answer.

    My humble opinon

    1. You emphasised a point so important yet I fear is crucially neglected by tech readers: the world pool of buyers doesn’t know the difference between iOS and Android.

      You know the difference. Does the average person?

      1. I could say average people can recognize a superior product. The iPhone is a brand itself. It defines THE smartphone. Most people I know got an Android phone because of price or sales rep suggestion. I know very few people getting Android for being superior or a better phone (I know some though). Those who go for price (most of the people I know), would really appreciate a cheaper iPhone. And there’s where I think the move is genius.

      2. Another factor I did not consider is value. Let me put it this way: How much value does a smartphone gives you, to the point of spending $100 more?

        If you’re a heavy user, you’ll need the top of the line. Get the expensive model, and the $100 will be fuly justified.

        If you’re a casual user, and have other devices (a laptop, and iPad) to “lift the heavy weight” and the phone is used mostly to talk, email, messaging and eventual web browsing, then you don’t need premium. Android cheap phones do the same (not as well, though). For casual use, most people won’t pay $200 for a phone. But $100… that’s more attractive.

        Once again, same as computers: Casual user, got the iBook (later the MacBook), pro users got the PowerBook (later the MacBook Pro).

        The 5C suits the casual user. The 5S suits the heavy user.

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