Apple’s iPhone 5c is not a failure, but this myth holds an ominous warning for the iWatch

“If Sony were offered 24 million unit sales on their previous flagship, the Xperia Z1, I’m sure Sony would be happy with those numbers,” Ewan Spence writes for Forbes. “HTC would bite your arm off if the HTC One M8 handset could get even half of those numbers. Estimates show that Apple’s iPhone 5C has sold over 24 million handsets, in which case why does every mention of the 5C go down as a failure for Apple?”

“It’s important to look back at the period before the reveal of the iPhone 5C. Analysts and industry watchers were expecting Apple to release a ‘budget’ model. This would increase the volume of sales, it would increase the margins available to operators and retailers, and it would allow Apple to enter new markets with a cut-price machine that these markets were built around. In the church of market share, the only way for Apple to gather more users was to sell more devices at a lower price. Apple has never really cared for market share numbers,” Spence writes. “It’s also important to realise that the mainstream media who had created the story of Apple ‘needing’ a budget handset decided to force the iPhone 5C into their narrative of a cheap handset. That was never the role of the 5C.”

“The iPhone 5C made a huge amount of sense when it was launched, and it continues to be a strong seller in Apple’s portfolio. Apple has also addressed the carrier subsidy issue by making the iPhone 5C 8 GB variant. There’s no question in my mind that the 5C was the right thing to do, and it is nowhere near the ‘failure’ that the media continues to label it,” Spence writes. “The question for me is this. Why could Apple not get this story out through the usual press channels? Why has the myth of the 5C being a failure taken root? Apple quickly lost control of the public narrative, and while the iPhone 5C continues to sell amazingly well, it still has the smell of failure around it.”

MacDailyNews Take: This would be because Apple’s so-called PR department is woefully inept at anticipating potential problems and combating them when they arise (Antennagate, Final Cut Pro X, Maps, etc.).

“In a sense, the iPhone 5C is a failure of Apple to tell the correct story around the handset,” Spence writes. “The 5C was a small part in the strong brand that is the iPhone, and iPhone as a whole could absorb the disappointment and the ‘failure’ tag the 5C now carries. Apple cannot afford the same mistakes to be made with the launch of the iWatch and lose control of the story that Apple wishes to tell about the new wearable.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Here’s hoping Tim Cook’s new, more open Apple has somebody ready in PR who has crisis management experience and an actual plan prior to the company’s next major product launch which, we guarantee, will be accompanied by tons of FUD.

Related articles:
Apple looking to externally hire ‘friendlier, more approachable’ PR chief – June 9, 2014
Apple’s PR head Katie Cotton to retire – May 7, 2014


      1. That’s what PR departments are for. Tim Cook needs to focus on growth and the PR department needs to focus on sharing positive news with the public and handling the negative press when needed. That’s what you have PR departments. MDN had it right when the said the past PR department is woefully inept. Truth is, Steve served as a one man PR department. If he saw false negative press, he often called the journalist himself. Now, Apple needs a skillful PR department to handle these things, so they don’t become distractions that take away from their ability to focus on great products.

        1. Hiring a bunch of PR guys and giving them free reign won’t necessary be good for Apple’s public image. Managing Apple’s reputation is a holistic effort, not something that can just be confined to a dedicated Public Relation department, ignored by the CEO and product designers.

          Right now, Apple’s strategy is to earn its public image by actually doing great things, rather than just talking about it. Every time Apple takes the time to address rumors and misinformation, they point a spotlight on the matter and risk giving them an air of legitimacy.

          Best for Apple to keep doing what they do best, let the reality of their accomplishments speak for themselves, ignore the bullshit, and let the iPhone, iOS, OS X, and Mac act as their public relations department.

      2. Plus, whether the media call the 5c a failure or not has no bearing on Apple’s business. If it were media saying there was a defect in an Apple product, then Apple PR would be working on it.

  1. Apple used to handle PR very easily: Steve Jobs. He would convince, cajole, or threaten; whatever it took. Sometimes different tactics to the same person. He truly could work magic on the human psyche, and get people to do his bidding. The current powers at Apple are very good at what they do, but none match the reality distortion field.
    I also think that a part of the problem is the changing media: once they tried to build up businesses to help the industry. Occasionally, they actually reported the truth. Now, they believe it is their job to destroy absolutely everything leaving only wreckage and carnage.
    We have certainly made progress, haven’t we?

  2. This is a completely different situation. iPhone 5C was deemed a “failure” by idiots because it did not sell in numbers comparable to the flagship iPhone. It was supposedly the “cheap iPhone” that took market share. That was never the goal, and iPhone 5C was never remotely “cheap.”

    A better comparison is iPad. In 2010, it was a completely new product line, and sold about 15 million units. That’s a lot less than iPhone sales, yet it was an unqualified success in reality AND the media’s version of reality.

    iWatch is an entirely new product line.

  3. Oh, horsefeathers. All of the jabber about the success and failure of the 5C has been among investors/analysts and Apple bloggers. Apple can easily “afford” to have punditbots and fundtards having meaningless arguments about each others’ fantasies. None of that crap had any impact on sales. An article analyzing the impact of – and the effectiveness of Apple’s response to – meaningless bullshit is a mountain being generated from an imaginary molehill. Seriously. If you want to make mountains out of molehills, at least find a real molehill to work from.

    1. Only a minority of people who frequent tech sites like this care to debate if the 5c was a success or failure.

      Most people just think that iPhones in general have good reputations and don’t know the difference between the iPhone 5c and 5s.

  4. The “Apple’s inept PR” is certainly not of Tim Cook’s making. While Maps have happened after Jobs’s departure, both FCP and “Antennagate” happened under his watch (and in case of the Antennagate, as a consequence of his doing: “you’re holding it wrong!”).

    Apple’s PR was always consistent: they DON’T TALK. EVER. You don’t get any info about upcoming products, any info about existing products, past products, roadmap, anything. Their ONLY job is to devise marketing campaigns (in collaboration with their ad agency). And their track record has, so far, been quite remarkable. As a matter of fact, they really don’t have PR at Apple; only marketing.

  5. The situation around the Apple 5C had less to do with Apple’s public relations than expectations analysts had about what the phone should be, as opposed to what it actually was.

    And when the 5C didn’t meet the expectations that the pulled out of their butts, somehow it meant Apple failed.

    1. That was more Steve Jobs’ thing. What other CEO would publicly and deliberately call his new product a “hobby”…? That’s like saying, feel free to buy our new product, but we’re not really that serious about it yet. 🙂

      Steve Jobs was often more concerned about “PR” than other concerns (like unit sales). Perhaps that’s why Apple’s PR is “woefully inept at anticipating potential problems,” according to the MDN Take. Steve Jobs personally handled the Apple’s PR.

  6. I am surprised why so many people here fail to understand what Apple does. In this, I am sad to say, I include MDN as well. There is a wisdom in what Apple does and it all started under Steve Jobs. What is this “wisdom” you ask? It can be portrayed in this one statement….

    “you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.

    The media is in the business of selling itself to the highest bidder (usually Samsung). So no matter what Apple does or announces, there is ALWAYS a negative angle on which the media can narrate and highlight.

    Take for example an ad or press release or comment by Apple that tries to put this 5c “myth” right. The media will have a hay-day with headlines like…..”Apple says Unapologetically 5c is not a failure, Wall Street Unconvinced.” They will always make it sound negative.

    The solution is to understand why the media does this. They do this because they want Apple to pay and pay and pay for positive headlines. This is their business. A kind of bribery system. Apple does not play the media’s immoral game.

  7. I actually agree that Apple must carefully craft the narrative around the iWatch. Mostly for stock manipulation reasons.

    People are already saying that the iWatch “won’t move the needle financially,” so I’m wondering what Apple can do to counter this. One thing is something that they’ll likely already do, which is sell more iPhones that are even more premium (and larger). Another thing would be to launch a payment service, but I think the early version of their payment service will simply allow operability with existing financial service companies (and not make an additional money for Apple).

  8. I’m going to be the devil’s advocate. It was a failure. I would say a marketing failure.
    The iPhone 5s was head and shoulders above the 5c in terms of technology but the price difference was not very big. Who wouldn’t pay just a little more for the flagship phone?
    It is evident that Apple screwed up. They did not recognize that this would be a problem and ended up having to scale back 5c production and upping 5s production.
    The 5c probably only sold as well as it did due to the shortage of the 5s.

    1. Actually, it was because the iPhone 5C didn’t FEEL premium, but it was priced that way. I applaud Apple for trying out plastics, but they should have introduced plastics as part of a budget line of phones. For the iPhone 5C, they should have used anodized colored aluminum like the iPod touch or something similar if they wanted a “c” color version.

      Think about the original iPod mini. It was a “cheaper” product than the iPod, but it was premium. It was smaller. It was in color.

  9. Why does MDN conveniently ignore that they were part of the “5c is a failure” bandwagon?

    Ami the only one that remembers MDN saying repeatedly that no one in their right mind would buy a 5c when the 5s was only a few dollars more?

  10. Amazon’s PR department (without releasing ANY numbers) declared their Kindle a “Success” and the press said Okey-Dokey!” and then kept on repeating that word.

    Ewan Spence has a point, their’s a lesson to be learned here.

  11. its a plastic phone it was an upgrade from a non plastic phone it was a failure in the hearts and minds of the Apple prestige and this is why now Apple are buying beats because Dre can put the watch on the bling ring community to give it the prestige Apples needs to avoid the mistake made with the plastic phone. it was never about the price of the 5c it was that they tried to sell us plastic as quality to a spoilt community or Apple geeks like me..if they try to do that again they will be shot down again because we have very high expectation of Apple and we are not idiots, know no mater how you dress up plastic as an improvement , it won’t stick with the informed Apple head!

    1. They weren’t trying to sell plastic phones to you, a member of the “spoilt community or Apple geeks.”

      In fact, the 5C was targeted at the exact opposite kind of person: non-spec-crazed people who wanted Apple for $99.

    2. Think a lot of yourself, don’t you.
      I think what you meant to say was “a spoilt community of Apple Geeks like me”.
      Nobody gives a shit about what someone like you, with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, thinks.
      You are a completely irrelevant and very tiny minority; who was it once said: ” That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
      And then is heard no more: it is a tale
      Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
      Signifying nothing.”
      Pretty much sums up you and your ilk.

  12. After the disaster that is apple maps, all the Bad publicity that apple got is fully justified, with apple maps apple broke the status Qom of apple only does great and no rubbish

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