What Took Apple So Long To Release A Cheaper iPhone?

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Apple has finally done it, they are selling a $99 iPhone on a two-year contract. This is a day many thought would never come; Apple has released two different iPhone models on the same day.

Jessica Lessin, a former WSJ reporter has revealed the reasons why Apple may have held off on introducing a low cost iPhone. Many other reporters, analysts and Apple watchers have always assumed that the company held back because they did not want to tarnish its high-end image by releasing a plastic phone.

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A huge concern which was thought to affect Apple’s decision was manufacturing complexity. Apple has a relatively simple supply chain which allows for them to keep everything to the level of perfection, that they are well known for. Having a simple supply chain also allows Apple to keep things secret.

Many have speculated that Apple was working on a cheaper iPhone since 2009. Apple has broadened its base of suppliers beyond Foxcon to Pegatron and others. Technology has certainly made huge advancements in the past couple of years. These could all be key reasons why Apple decided to wait until now to release a cheaper version of the iPhone.

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Today Apple unveiled the iPhone 5C; its answer to the lower cost smartphone market. The iPhone 5C comes in an all plastic design, multiple colour options, the A6 processor, and much more. It starts at $99 on a two-year contract and will be available on September 20 with pre-orders starting this Friday, September 13.

A computer scientist with a passion for technology. Check out some of my work, including various iOS apps, from my personal website. Follow me on GitHub and on Google+

  • Ron Miller

    I guess there are different ways of looking at the 5C. In my mind, Apple did almost the same as last year. It released a brand new phone (5S), made the two year old free on contract, and released last year’s phone $99 on contract. The difference is that this year, they did a bit of a re-work on last year’s phone. Other than the new casing, the 5C is pretty much identical to the 5 (more LTE bands + China Mobile support, and I think some slight improvement to the front camera … anything else?).

    What they did do is make last year’s phone look new which is probably a good thing for Apple. It also gave people some more colourful choices for those that don’t need the latest and greatest.

  • einsteinbqat

    It’s by no mean any cheaper. People just have more choices now. C for colours, C for choices. That’s about it.

  • OliChabot

    Personnaly I preefer way more an iPhone 5 than a 5C, when I pay 600$ for a phone I’d like a premium feel, otherwise I’ll go get those Androids. The move is to probably boost iPhone 5S’s sales because there’s nothing new worth to buy except a fingerprint sensor, but really ? Apple has really let me down with that one, no new ”wow” features since a while…

  • L84toff

    The price of the iPhone 5c is not that much cheaper, but I do think that it will cheapen the brand. I think at half the price of the 5s, they might have something, but at a $100/$120 off? Really are you going to spend $720 on a crippled (dumbed down specs) Barney looking phone when for $100 more, you can get the cream of the crop in the iPhone world? This will be a 1-hit wonder unless they drop the price significantly and sell a butt-load of them. Granted I have not seen one in person but it seems cheap from the pics. Screen size remains the same – sigh, I see no reason to upgrade from a 4S still and my contract is up, but that’s just me.
    Although I’m sure Apple will bring out some iOS update that will only function partially unless you have the latest hardware…gotta feed the machine somehow.

  • Al

    iOS7 already has features specific to 5 & 5S. And, to take advantage of 64bit games, ya gotta have the 5S.

  • Chrome262

    yeah its almost like its a con (despite the new bands, thats actually huge) pretty up the 5 and tell everyone its new and they will think its two new products. I guess its better then just having the 5 there. And its not and S3 lol

  • FragilityG4

    How has Androids “wowed”? I think the only reason you feel this way about new Apple products is because all the new stuff has been leaked before the announcement …

  • OliChabot

    Maybe your right, but what I feel is that Apple is lacking of innovation and try to stretch the time frame as far as they can to figure out the next “wow” factor. I wish for an iPhone with a larger screen, a LED light when new rexts/emails/etc, NFC, and just one thing that’ll give me no choice to go buy it andthat’ll give Samsung no choice to push their boundaries even further. Let’s just hope iPhone 5S and 5C is not a success so that Apple knows they have to come up with something big.

  • OliChabot

    What they should’ve done is to keep the 5 at 99$ on contract, and come up with a 5C with a 4″ display, Lightning connector, but everything else as an iPhone 4S, free on contract – and let’s say 450$ unlocked. This would’ve mean universal Lightning and universal screen, no more 30 pin or apps problem.
    But I guess, since the 5S don’t have alot more to offer than the 5( and they probably experienced still high iPhone 4 sales when the 4S came up), keeping the 5 while releasing the 5S would’ve been an iPhone 5S killer.

    Thoughts ?

  • guest

    To be honest, although I’m super excited about the 5S, I still think it’s a pretty good upgrade from the 5. I think the fingerprint scanner really help save time. I really hate punching the four passcode. When you do it in public, people can see it anyway, it’s quite useless. The other thing is the camera, I use the iPhone camera a lot, and improving it is a huge welcome. I don’t know how much the 64bit processor helps in terms of speed, but hey, it’s the first smart phone with a 64bit processor.

    What I’m very disappointed is that the phone starts at 16GB. That’s really unfathomable why they still do that… my iPhone 4 starts at 16GB… after three years, it’s still the same. What the?

    And yeah, seems like the leaks really killed every wow factor, and there’s really nothing important that isn’t leaked..

  • FutureMedia

    I love my 64GB Black 5. And while I think the 5C is an ok way to keep last year’s 5 looking newer albeit not as classy, the missing Higher Storage Capacity – 128GB – and Faster WiFi – 802.11ac – not in the 5S is a huge disappointment for me. This is the first year since 2009’s 32GB 3GS that I won’t be upgrading at launch and am likely to pass on the 5S completely. There’s not even a fully black model any more. What good are all the new camera features if there isn’t more storage capacity to save all those 120fps videos and 10 pics per second stills? ! ????

  • FragilityG4

    You can change your settings so the flash blinks when an email/message/call comes in … And why do you want NFC so badly when little to no retail store supports it? The only boundaries Samsung pushes is taking what others have done, reproduce it with minor enhancements … Everyone says Samsung innovates, but no one can list an example. Apple has caught up to them again — they’re now offering a plastic phone too.

  • Nick

    There are people in the world where that $100/$120 difference makes a huge difference. Some people won’t even consider $199 on contract for a phone.

  • OliChabot

    The flash is way too strong, what I would like is a little LED like the one we have on our iMac trackpad and keyboard in the front screen near the camera or the speaker that’ll light just a bit, so when in class and I dont want to disturb anyone with the vibror or a sound or the flash, I use tat feature. For the NFC, we both know that if the iPhoneoffers it, it’s going to be a huge step and i’m pretty sure more stores will use it. Really, whats the matter of Passbook if it can’t act as a digital wallet and credit card ? And the iphone 5S features a fingerorint sensor… Everything was in place to get this feature.
    I know I’m negative and that the iPhonev5S is still nice, but I just miss those days where Apple was amazing me…

  • FragilityG4

    Again we come back to the downfall of leaks … You would be amazed if you we’re in the dark about what was about to happen … You shouldn’t be using your phone in class 😉

  • Chrome262

    I never worry about storage anymore, I often find that deleting pics I don’t want and apps I never use gives me back lots of space. I mean all the pics I like are in the stream, or I have posted it somewhere, really no reason to keep them on your phone. That said, I agree with you in that I expected 128g as well. It will probably be in the 6. I know lots of people who avoid the s versions only because the way it use to be, you couldn’t upgrade anyway.

  • Chrome262

    do you know if slowmo is exclusively to 5s or will it be on the 5 and 5c

  • Chrome262

    NFC will be dead, besides possible security problems, you have to touch for it to activate, this new BLE stuff works up to 50 feet away. And the A7 is a huge upgrade, as well as the new motion chip. And the fingerprint sensor is way better than anything before, and its going to make phone facilitated purchases easier. Not that I am getting one though lol. I have the 5. And Samsung doesn’t Innovate, larger screen is nothing new, and been done, as well as everything they have added.

  • Chrome262

    I agree about the leaks, they should of done a better job of security. Before it was all speculation and barely anything to back it up, this time we all knew what was coming, well most of it, the new processor was a surprise, i just expected it to be faster, not 64bit

  • Chrome262

    If you mean body wise then yes the S isn’t any different, but unlike other s Versions, it has not just a faster processor but a better one, with and architecture that will set the future standard for their phones, and porting games and software will be easier for developers. They added a new motion chip, so that all the fitness stuff will be better integrated and give you more data. Camera is a huge upgrade, because its a better quality not just more megapixels like everyone else does. And of course the finger print sensor. So if they called it the 6, and made the screen a bit bigger you would be happy?

  • FragilityG4

    Not to mention the M7

  • Al

    5s only

  • Al

    The biggest mistake MANY people make is thinking that every picture is important, and that every video needs to stay at it’s full length. Nobody cares to look at all the redundant and poorly composed images.

    Seriously… on a phone, why would you need faster Wi-Fi?

    Black is passé and it shows scratches easily. Time for a change.

  • Al

    Many people seem to expect the next update to be as amazing as when the iPhone was first introduced. That’s just not realistic. Apple’s ability to innovate will (hopefully) show itself again with the iWatch and iTV. And each update to those items will appear “less inspired”

    Some of the things people are hoping for in each release are frivolous. Some things would be kind-of nice, but not all that necessary.

    Plus you have to keep in mind that Apple must hold back to some extent as a rational business practice. If they dumped every requested feature into a release, they would be starved for much else to do in the following year. It just makes good business sense to pace themselves. Speaking from experience, software developers do it all the time. I hold back MANY features for future updates because I know people will want them and I need to continue to have an ongoing revenue stream in order to stay in business.

  • L84toff

    I don’t disagree that $100 is a more than spare change and a lot of money to some. I guess my point was that if you have $620 in your hand for a cell phone, another $100 probably won’t break the bank, especially if that $100 gets you to the premium tier phone. It’s a no brainer imho.

    Where I think it makes a difference is in the contract world, where that $100 is 25% or 30% more now, so I think those that have to save up $200 over a few months will chose not to fork out the extra $100.

    I think Apple is trying to appeal to a broader range of income but I really feel like they missed the mark with pricing the 5c.

  • Nick

    Looks like it will be iPhone 5S only

  • Nick

    I agree, but for some people spending the extra money is not an option

  • Nick

    The M7 looks like it can be Apple’s start into the fitness space. This could be the same chip which will power an ‘iWatch’ life device

  • Nick

    I agree, NFC has taken to long to become mainstream and it has not been done in a great way yet

  • Nick

    100% agreed!

  • Farids

    If 5c has the same specs as iPhone 5, I prefer to have the iPhone 5 look instead of 5c. But that’s me.

  • kameko

    Android obviously has a higher marketshare and yet the world still doesn’t care about NFC. iBeacons is clearly being pushed forward. And you don’t think Apple will eventually use fingerprint ID as payment method? They already are with the App store. Combine it with Passbook and we’ll have endless possibilities.

    It’s only been 5 years since the first iPhone. I don’t know what kind of magical elves you think work at Apple but technology can only move so fast.

  • kameko

    16GB is fine for most people. For those hungry for apps (mostly big games) and need a lot of media storage, its definitely not enough. I have a 32GB iPhone 5 thats getting pretty packed. The camera on the 5s sounds great but Im gonna wait till iPhone 6. I’ve yet to see anything from the Android camp that even remotely interests me to switch.