If Apple can make a decent profit and sell twice as many iPhones as before, it’s win, win, lose. Apple wins, customers win, competitors lose. There’s just one problem with the so-called cheap iPhone. It’s not a Mac, it’s not an iPod.
iPhone 5C: Cheap Or Colorful?
The latest rumor to sweep across Apple punditland was probably initiated by Apple’s executive management. The iPhone 5C, unofficially debuted as a photo of packaging, and a case.
Neither of those popular leaked images can make up for the lack of details about the hardware components in a less expensive iPhone.
Apple’s low priced entry must be somewhat different than the higher priced original, but more on that in a moment.
Apple differentiates Mac models a number of ways. One is screen size, another is screen resolution, another is graphics capability, CPU power, battery life and weight.
At the very low end, the Mac mini doesn’t even come with a keyboard, mouse, trackpad, or screen, yet is priced about the same as a modestly priced Wintel PC with all those pieces.
The mid-range MacBook and Pro line are differentiated in price by components– memory, storage, CPU, GPU, screen resolution, and so forth.
Ditto for the higher end iMac line; larger screen, better and faster CPU and GPU. In recent years, Apple managed to keep the iPod on top of the heap of portable media players by size, storage, and capability.
iPhone Is Not A Mac
The iPhone is a different animal. I’m worried that my fear of a lower priced, cheap iPhone will turn into loathing because Apple could be moving into the arena of cutting corners.
If the leaked photos are to be believed (and they wouldn’t be the first to be way off the mark), Apple’s low priced entry will have a plastic shell instead of the hefty, durable, recyclable, and classy aluminum which pervades the product line.
How can Apple get the iPhone 5C’s price down. One way is simply to lower the margin; make less, sell more. That’s not really Apple’s style, though.
Size matters, and a smaller iPhone 4-size iPhone might make sense, even with a Retina display, but going backwards to a cheaper display just isn’t Apple’s style, either.
Other components which can vary the total cost tag are CPU, battery, camera, and, well what else? I got nothing.
Spreading The Line
The Mac and the iPod line give customers what is called a product migration, a step-by-step pathway from the least expensive to the most feature laden. Nothing is really cheap, just incrementally better, faster, more powerful.
The iPhone doesn’t do that. The least expensive iPhone 5 does exactly what the most expensive iPhone 5 does, except storage capacity. Apple has skated by on the low end by making last year’s iPhone the entry level, but that didn’t likely change Apple’s cost for the device.
How can Apple spread out the iPhone’s product line from entry-level, inexpensive iPhone to a high end model? One way to do that is to create a few more lines– each with similar features, but at different quality levels, and a larger 5-inch iPhone max to spread the high end, and further differentiate each model.
Instead of making a decision to buy an iPhone or not, the decision becomes one that requires size, color, capacity, and capability. My fear is that Apple won’t be able to pull it off, and we iPhone lovers begin to loathe the cheap plastic model as much as we loathed the plastic iBooks, MacBooks, and the ultimate, the original Barbie iBook from the end of the last century.