More evidence that the iPhone 5c is a worldwide flop

“Odd though it may seem, selling a significantly less powerful and less appealing smartphone for barely any discount compared to your flagship smartphone isn’t a good idea,” Zach Epstein writes for BGR.

“We have seen countless signs that Apple’s iPhone 5c has been a pretty magnificent flop thus far, and now we have one more to add to the growing collection,” Epstein writes. “As shared by Andreessen Horowitz analyst Benedict Evans, the following chart shows iPhone market share on Chinese analytics company Umeng’s network within the first six months of each launch.”

iPhone 5 vs. iPhone 5c vs. iPhone 5s UMENG China

Epstein writes, “Bottom line: the iPhone 5c will definitely not go down as the best decision Apple ever made.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If Apple didn’t see this obvious issue with the iPhone 5c pricing/feature set in relation to the iPhone 5s, it would be worrisome, unless they planned it that way:

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.

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.SteveJack, MacDailyNews: “Why would anyone buy an iPhone 5c instead of an iPhone 5s?” – September 10, 2013, the very day both iPhones were revealed

All of that said, according to CIRP, in the days after launch, the iPhone 5c accounted for 27% of iPhone sales vs. 64% for iPhone 5s. In the previous year, also according to CIRP, the iPhone 4s captured 23% vs. 68% for iPhone 5.

So, how is the 5c a “pretty magnificent flop?” Answer: It’s not. It’s a media concoction. Apple expected a bit more than they got, but that doesn’t mean iPhone 5c is a “pretty magnificent flop” in the grand scheme of things. The iPhone also-rans would kill for iPhone 5c sales.

CIRP: Apple iPhone sales by model, October 2012 vs. September 2013

Related articles:
Will Apple unapologetically abandon plastic after apparent failure of iPhone 5c? – March 4, 2014
Cook tacitly admits Apple blew it with iPhone 5c – January 28, 2014
Was iPhone 5c the cause of Apple’s woes? – January 28, 2014
MacDailyNews presents live notes from Apple’s Q114 Conference Call – January 27, 2014
Why would anyone buy an iPhone 5c instead of an iPhone 5s? – September 10, 2013


  1. This graph appears to miss the point unless I am misunderstanding it. A more apt comparison would be the 5c sales to the 4s sales after the succeeding phone was released.

    Of course the real comparison is 5c sales vs. theoretical 5 sales after 5s release, but that is impossible. I suspect the numbers would be in the same ballpark. If that is true, then the 5c is a success, as there is more margin in it vs continuing to make the 5.

    1. Besides, this is China alone, not “Worldwide”. We know that the iPhone only made it onto the largest network within the last couple of months. Also, they’ve got the iPhone 5 in there. The major carriers in the US (and I assume most elsewhere) and Apple certainly aren’t selling the 5 on top of the 5S and 5C. This China market is an aberration.

      1. You’re forgetting that the media has already decided that the 5c is a flop in the United States. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they consider the matter settled; as fact. So showing Chinese stats now makes it worldwide.

    2. ‘A more apt comparison would be the 5c sales to the 4s sales after the succeeding phone was released.’

      Yes, this chart is bizarre.. they’re comparing a new iphone 5 in 2012 to an iphone 5C in 2013…It definitely reveals that the $100 doesn’t mean squat (especially in China where the newest iPhone is a status symbol.. walking around with a 5C would be sacrilige)..

    3. Well said.

      And the other thing that’s not being said is … just why precisely did Apple change direction by not continuing to sell the iPhone 5?

      When one looks at the iPhone sale by Model data, the 5c is actually doing 27% vs 23% = 4% better than its functional predecessor.

      And insofar as margins, the inference is that the 5c costs less to manufacture than the 5, which means nicer margins for Apple.

      All in all, there’s only one reason to not conclude that the 5c isn’t a winner – – and that reason is because its the first time that Apple released a new iPhone that wasn’t the newest top-of-the-line model: their prior business structure was a “trickle-down”.


  2. Sorry, still not buying it. I actually see 5c’s in the wild quite often and besides, the 5s sells significantly more devices, but there are still millions of 5c’s sold.

    Which leads to the question: If those people who are buying the iPhone 5c were to buy another phone, what would it be? I am willing to bet money that’s it’s quite possibly an Android phone.

    And if Apple is able to nudge people away from Android, I wouldn’t call that a flop. Instead I would call it a foundation you be built upon, and the (relatively) low sales of the 5c as a stepping stone.

    Sometimes progress is incremental, and not always either success or failure.

    1. Agreed. Personally, myself, if the 5c is not an option by the time I’m financially prepared to upgrade, I will be getting a 5s instead of an Android. But if I have the choice between a 5s and a 5c, I will go with the 5c.

        1. Because as I stated in my other comment, the things I would get by spending an extra $100 for a 5s are not important enough to me to justify spending that extra $100.

        2. I’ll tell you…
          My wife and I went to the local Apple store to pick up an upgrade for my wife’s iPhone 4 (had just finished 2 years) and she said (like she did the last time, when she got the 4) she didn’t need or want much phone, so she was getting the 5c (like one of our daughters has) She said “she liked it and it was all she needed”
          I went on about how the 5s was only $100 more, it’s 64 bit-ness, fingerprint sensor, and advanced motion sensor. She quickly replied if she was spending the extra $100 she would rather have the 32GB 5c rather than a 16GB 5s. Which is what she got, in kermit green, and she is delighted with it.
          I also see a lot of 5c’s around (in the wild) so I take the “5c isn’t selling” stories with a shovel full of salt.

  3. There is no such evidence.

    Timothy Cook just recently said that iPhone 5C sells more than iPhone 4S YoY, even though the flagship model now has bigger share (what was the main goal of plastic iPhone 5C from very beginning — move demand to more profitable flagship model).

  4. The 5c/5s makes a lot of sense when you factor the cost of the 5.

    The 5 was a gem at every level of ambiguity but way too expensive to manufacture at discount prices.

  5. Okay, so the sales figures are showing that more people are buying the 5s over the 5c. I get that. If the sales figures are bearing that out, then so be it, and it makes sense for Apple to emphasize the 5s then.

    What I don’t get is why everyone’s acting like this was a foregone conclusion? I have a 4s right now, and I would be perfectly content with a 5c. I mean, with the exception of fingerprint recognition and a metal case, all the features the MDN take brought up are wrapped up in the camera. Well guess what? I don’t use my phone’s camera. So I couldn’t care less what extra bells and whistles the 5s’ camera has over the 5c’s. Fingerprint recognition? Yeah, it sounds all nifty and special, but I’ve gotten used to having the passcode on my phone, so I don’t _need_ it. And as for the metal vs. plastic? Again, why do I care? I’m going to be putting a case on it, so what material the case is made out of is more important to me than what the phone itself is made out of.

    In all material aspects that matter to me as a consumer, the 5s and the 5c are essentially equal – both iPhones run iOS, they have the memory amounts that I want (since I’m budget conscious, I’m not going to splurge for the 64GB model yet), and the 5c costs $100 less. So for me, the 5c is a much more attractive option.

    Again, I get that I’m the minority here, and if Apple discontinues the 5c simply because not enough people were buying it, then I accept that. But I still have a hard time believing that this line of reasoning is invalid somehow, especially in today’s economy where every dollar saved counts.

    1. Yep, especially if you have your heart set on a blue one and/or you’re upgrading from a 3GS. It’s plenty o’ iPhone. I couldn’t be happier with mine. I really like it in the black ‘non’ croc case too. Totally sick.
      Go Apple!

  6. I won’t bother with facts and graphs and such, but I found a wonderful and unique feature of the 5c unavailable on the 5s—I bought two spanking new 32gb ones (Verizon, pre-unlocked, works worldwide) last December on my local craigslist for $400 each. My daughters did not feel the need to do a specifications comparison on Christmas morning.

  7. A reasonable explanation is that no one really knows. At least no one here. Did Apple create the 5C just to sell the 5S? I seriously doubt it. Did Apple feel the need to do that in the past? No. It’s a whole lot of money and engineering devoted to a new product to not sell that product. Apple may have just missed this one? It’s possible. Happens every once in a while in Cupertino. But no one here really knows. That’s the bottom-line. One thing that is known ; sales of the 5S are doing great. The 5S sells itself. It’s certainly stands on its own merit. That is a fact that is known here. Because it’s a known fact. Not speculation.

  8. So why is this worth a story?

    Tastes change, style comes and style goes. Apple tries variations and learns from its customers on a country by country basis. I see success in Apple’s iPhones.

    At least Apple’s iPhones do not have the Samsung propensity to crashes and losing its data as we heard from LeBron or have built in backdoors as has been reported for Samsung in the last several days.

    1. Click-bait I suspect. Most Apple aficionados are nothing if not passionate about the company and its products. It also doesn’t take much to get us going. What many don’t seem to understand is that it’s our passion that has helped to build Apple to what it is today.

      And that’s not hyperbole. When the company was on the ropes those of use that supported it were sometimes all it had.

  9. It’s rather funny hearing MDN attempt to claim that Apple would intentionally design a phone to have a flatline in sales.

    Apple has two choices: offer adult colors, or reduce the price of the 5C.

    Okay, 3 choices: sell it with iOS6. That would cause a huge bump in any legacy model iPhone sales.

  10. We have seen countless signs that Apple’s iPhone 5c has been a pretty magnificent flop thus far

    No. All we’ve seen is August Effect, waste of time, FUD. Thanks for adding your own FUD, just a further waste of our time.

  11. It’s been said in this thread, but bears repeating. Apple has sold MILLIONS of 5c iPhones. Flop? Ask HTC if they’d like the 5c sales numbers, or Nokia.

  12. Skate to where the puck is going to be. Why not introduce a phone for top dollar knowing it will
    A. Bump users to a more expensive model.
    B. Look like a super killer deal when introduced the following model year at a big discount.

    Thus making more money and offering the low end a high end phone.

      1. Well that was my point, hell will freeze over before Apple does BOGO. You can always count on the Android phones going on BOGO within a month or two after first launch. Call that a flop or maybe just a fire sale? :-)))

  13. I got an iPhone 5c the other day – I’ve used iOS devices for years, but always had a dumb phone until now.

    People can say what they like, but compared to my old LG, the 5c is like a Rolls Royce.

    It’s not the greatest, but it’s still a pretty awesome piece of hardware.

  14. This is why “Zach Espstein” is working for “Boy Genius Report” and not the Opererations, Sales, and Design Executive VP at a multi-billion dollar company.

    Even if what he’s saying is completely true about a lot less features for not that much less price, this is a very common and successuful tactic from many companies other than Apple. They want you to go to the high-margin product, but the cheaper ones is in the chain are typically afterthought placeholder products to hook you and then you think, wow, for only a little more I can get a lot more? Wow, a little more and I could go higher? Then you’re suddenly buying the most expensive product.

    A flop is when a product loses money, you’re stuck with inventory on shelves and it damages the company’s reputation. Any of this true with the 5C? Not a chance.

  15. My guess is it’s simply introducing a product at a nominal price in order to disrupt things again and offer it for free. Offering it free first would devalue the product to much. Set the bar higher then boom.

  16. I would not buy a 5c I have an 5s But my sister in a law bought a C. And another couple I know did as well. All new to the iPhone and only for the C did they get an iPhone. No C no sale. If all the sales are incremental then everyone is still a new sale The real difference is not much. BUT then a year earlier selling a 4s for 100 bucks less also made no sense. The real key is did 5c outsell the 5 a year earlier. If so did the 5C outsell the 4s? I think Cook said yes and if so it increased sales in the tier without under cutting the top tier and it worked

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