Tim Cook: Who's buying the iPhone 5c and why more people opted for the 5s

iPhone 5c

During today's Apple quarterly conference call, Tim Cook fielded a question asking about the public reception of the iPhone 5c, which has been somewhat muted. Cook said "Demand percentage turned out to be different than we thought." So what does that mean?

The big question was whether or not there were enough features there to justify a still-premium price point, and whether or not it was a strong strategy for Apple, to which Cook defended "We're willing to make any product that's a great product." Still, he conceded that "If we decide it's in our best interest to make a change, then we'll make one."

While cook did say the iPhone 5c was popular among first-time buyers, he also said the iPhone 5s turned out to be even more popular than Apple expected. Features like Touch ID and the general "forward thinking" nature in general led to more customers gravitating to the top of the line.

All in all, not a bad problem to have, right?

If you bought an iPhone 5c let me know — Are you happy with it? Is it sufficient bang for buck?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

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Tim Cook: Who's buying the iPhone 5c and why more people opted for the 5s


I got one for my wife and she loves it. At the same time I upgraded from the 4s to the 5s, and it's amazing.

If the 5c isn't performing well on paper, I think it's likely because the 5s and the now free 4s are just plain out-selling it. It could also be that people were expecting a little more out of it than just basically getting the guts of the iPhone 5 wrapped in (well made) plastic. Or, perhaps folks were looking for a lower price tag and when they didn't see one, they went for the 5s.

Those are my thoughts on it anyway.

I really think it's the price point, the difference between the 5c and 5s was $100 and for that the jump was significantly big and so I guess people were thinking the price difference isn't that much for the premium build, finger print scanner, 64bit etc. Imo the 5c was priced too high and too close to the 5s. The 5c at $400 off contract and free on contract would have killed it in sales. I'm probably going to get hate for this but the 5c Imo was over priced and sales of that reflect that too. I think the problem is that the 4 is still around, I think the 4 is like 300 and 4s is like 400 so they didn't want to price the 5c too close to that to effect there sales. I personally have yet to see a single 5c, have seen the 5/s and 4/s but not a single c.

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I sold my 12 year old daughter's hand me down iPhone 4S for $200 on Gazelle. I gave her the choice of getting an iPhone 5c (32GB) or an iPhone 5s (16GB) - same price. She asked me what the differences in features were and she decided to go with a Gold iPhone 5s. She loves TouchID, Slomo Camera feature and the 1st game built for the 64bit processor. Even a kid may go for the newer more loaded phone over the cute colorful 5c if price is not an issue.

I've owned the iPhone 3G, 4s, 5, and now 5s. The 5s is the best by far, there is no way I would have left my iPhone 5 to go to a 5c. While I think the feel of the 5c was better than any "plastic" phone on the market (it feels more like ceramic) because it had the internals of the previous iPhone it was not a compelling buy.

I've only seen a couple. I think part of the problem is not many dudes want a pastel phone. If they'd made them in a few not girly colors it may have helped. The biggest thing was stated in the article though. Why not spend a bit more for the top of the line? The price point on the 5c was too high. If they keep it on as the free model this fall it may sell more.

Seems the 5C sales were decent in the US (among the top sellers with all carriers), here in Germany I have yet to see a single one in the wild.

Why is that? Only a person truly preferring the 5C for haptic or aesthetic reasons would buy it at the full unsubsidized price. I don't think that applies to too many people. At today's exchange rate the 16 GB 5s is $956 here (my 64 GB model was $1,230), the 5c is $819. At these price points it only makes sense to get something somewhat future proof, not last year's technology.

Apple should have either improved the 5c more over the 5 (e.g. by giving it an A7 and only use TouchID as a differentiator to the 5s) or by choosing a slightly lower price point. I think the 5c is attractive (I would buy the 5s in a 5c shell in a heartbeat), but spending $819 and more for a product that might already get slowed down by iOS 8... did not even occur to me.

In my mind the 5c is what it is: a colorful iPhone 5. It has almost the same spec sheet and occupies the official price point the 5 would have. If you look at retail price points it has also been consistently lower priced in Best Buys and RadioShacks for quite some time now. So, why isn't it selling as much or more than the 5s or the 4S in last year's slot?

I think it breaks down to two things: new carrier pricing strategies for phones and the desire not to have the "cheap" iPhone. One hundred dollars is a big cost difference to pay up front and on contract. With phone financing the 5s is only a few dollars more per month - so why not jump? The 5c now plays to a niche audience that likes colors. Total opposite of what I thought it would do. A lower price point would have helped, but it guess it doesn't matter as long as something is selling.

The second point is that the 5c was hyped up (by everyone except Apple and those smart enough to know that Apple doesn't do "cheap") to be cheap. Low end. Second rate. It isn't - it is a colorful 5 and that is still a good phone - but I think people still have a stigma about it. The 5c pushes people up in price. Again, totally the opposite of what I would have figured.

I have seen exactly three iPhone 5c's in the wild. Everyone is spending the extra $100 on the gold iPhone 5s.

I've seen quite a few more than that. Blue seems the most popular color followed by green. I myself have a blue one.

I went from a 4s to a 5c purely because Best Buy had it online for free. I wanted LTE and the bigger screen. What I got was a surprisingly great iPhone. I love this thing. I got a Spigen case for it ($10 on Amazon) & it looks and feels like a bespoke 5/5s (minus the fingerprint scanner obviously). I recommend it to anyone looking to upgrade from a 4/4s & is on a budget. There's nothing cheap about it at all. It's all perception and stigma.

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I like mine a lot. Colorful and very reliable. It really is plastic perfected in a lot of ways. I've seen plenty on my college campus too. It's not a bad entry into the iPhone ecosystem. Still, there just isn't the same accessory support and I feel kind of left out.

At least Apple provides the dock I really want.

Around these parts, I was still seeing iPhone 5 inventory at almost every carrier store right through December, often at a lower price than the 5c.

In that situation, the problem isn't necessarily "why not upgrade to the 5s for only $100 more" but rather, why not "upgrade" to the exact same phone in a more premium material (iPhone 5) for the same or less money?

Also as someone above mentioned, in the US on contract the difference between 5s/5c is double the price ($199 vs $99), but elsewhere in the world, people are buying these phones without subsidy. Someone who's ready to spend $600 on a phone is probably equally ready to spend $700 for one that is superior in every possible way.

Not to mention the very unusual perception problem that Apple has with the 5c; it's widely derided as the "cheap iPhone" which is why consumers haven't warmed to it, but at the same time it's also criticized for being too expensive. A lot of people view Apple products as status symbols, which is why they command a premium price - paying a premium price for a product that is perceived to be a cheap/inferior model is doubly insulting to that demographic.

Apple tried to pull a fast one with the 5C and a properly spanked for it. Now i'm not saying that the 5C isn't a great phone, it is by many accounts. The strategy to market this though was kinda awful. It seems they were more worried about cannibalizing 5S sales so they kept the C higher. That hurt them cauise everyone was looking for a 5C that was priced to a more affordable price point. When they didn't do that they lost many potential customers. Now i'm not gonna cry for poor lil Apple there. They still made a heck of a lot of profit. They just blew it big time with this.

I don't think apple blew it, I think perception and expectation from product leaks blew it if anything. Let's face it, the iPhone 5 was a hell of a phone and apple felt the only way they could maintain respectable margins was the lower cost casing. Hate em if you will for but hell, their in it to make money. For people that bought it, the 5c gave them the 5 with an improved camera. We all knew that Apple would release a new phone and keep the last two models at lower price points. I think to many people expected the 5 to stay active and maybe the 5c to be that lowest price point, ie a free phone with 4s guts, a 4' screen, and a lightning connector. But that's their bad for assuming about an unreleased product. Unfortunately apple got hurt by people not buying but won the day by more people opting for the 5s. You said that they lost potential customers but I think 5s sales say otherwise.

I personally thought they were going to make the 5C with a smaller A5 chip (more battery efficient) and similar specs to the 4S but with the 4in screen, lightning port, FaceTime HD camera, and a bigger battery. I also thought it would take the 4S's place and be free on contract.

I had the 4s and I have friends with the 5c and 5s. In all honesty, the 4s was flat out better than the 5c. The 5s has a good feel to it, although the size is kind of awkward. Taller, not wider.. The 4s just fits well in your hand. The 5s and 5c, like EVERY iPhone release, is a very slight improvement on basically the exact same device. The 5s, like the 4s before it, has the "innovative" new feature. Being the touch id after the introduction of siri. Even the 5 is just better than the 5c. Don't get me wrong, the 5c isn't worthless, but for only a 100 dollar difference on a piece of plastic isn't much. An extra 100 dollars for the 5s or taking a free, perfectly good 4s just seems like a better decision for the average consumer that knows their devices. Though it's dependant on what you're looking for in a handheld. Don't want touch id? No problem.. You get almost the exact same phone in the 5 or 4s for almost no cost. I was an apple junkie from the iPhone 3 release to the 5. Having noticed that every year, I spent money on something that was almost the exact same as the device before it, I grew rather tired of it. I've recently made the switch to android and have had endless hours of customization, font changes, non stock keyboard, variety.. Things that make the phone mine and I have to say, much happier.

The 4 and 4s just felt much better and one without knowledge would assume it to be the more premium ones over the 5c.

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Actually I have quite a good bit of knowledge of hand held devices. There's not much of a difference.. A better processor and camera, minor tweaks in performance.. 4g over 3g..not that big of an upgrade. No new iPhone is too big of an upgrade from the previous model. Things like siri and the touch id were revolutionary in a hand held device, yes. But from the 4s to the 5 or 5c is not much of a big deal.. Until they stop signing a new OS for the 4s, they'll be the same phone with slightly different hardware and a different body style. It's like the difference in a GMC Sierra and a Chevy Silverado. Same truck, ones got just a little more under the hood and a slightly different body

If the 5c had been free on contract I would've preordered the blue one in a heartbeat. Since Apple decided to make it $100 on contract I decided to go ahead and spend the extra $100 and get the 5s. I personally like the look of the 5c better than the 5s but if I'm already spending $100 then I'm gonna spend another $100 and get the best one. Either way I think Apple wins because by them not making it free on contract they probably sold more 5s's. Now if they had made the 5c with the same plastic and colors but it was say 4.5 inches that would've been interesting to see what people woulda chosen.

I bought the 5c (a blue one) for two reasons. First, I REALLY liked the blue and still do. I mean I REALLY like the blue. Secondly I don't see the added features of the 5s as being worth an extra $100. But I don't use my phone a lot either. In fact - I barely use it at all. I'm one of those old fogeys that still has a landline and I work from home so I have no huge need to use my phone at all. Last month I made a whopping 5 minutes of phone calls and used an astounding 100MB of data. $100 more for a 5s would have been foolish. I don't care about the A7 or the TouchID. And did I mention that I really like the blue?

I remember all the hate comments that followed the release of the 5c.. it was amazing to see an Apple product receive such hate. I traded my Note 2 for a 5c and truthfully, it's been a nice phone. I don't care for the plastic casing but I like the blue color (Slapped a LifeProof case on it and problem solved). The 4' screen is a bit bothersome, I can't wait for the 6 with the bigger screen then the 5c will be reverted to backup status. Yes the 5s might be faster but for what I personally use it for (and that's the most important thing..) the 5c fits the bill.

It's all because of the pricing. I doubt anybody who's really into smartphones would take the 5C over the 5S when the price difference is just $ 100 and in exchange you would get a lot more features and way way faster smartphone.

Beside no unique feature, I think it's more of the color choices. If they would have used more traditional colors red, black, true blue, etc.. The light colored will be great for the spring. But people want was it used in a typically daily life. Those colors are more for the Asian market.

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I don't have one but the biggest deterrent is the pastel colors. After that it's price. I'm never in my life owning a pastel phone. I'm not a big fan of white phones either. Price is just ok. The other thing is i'm not a big fan of the flat look of ios 7 so that's more an issue with all apple phones now but it still makes me consider Android where as i wouldn't have before.

I will say for the record, it's not a bad phone.

I have a 5c. I got it free so it is worth it for me. I would not pay 199 for it. Most I would have paid was 99. I feel that is a sufficient price.

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Love the colors, but I want the best camera and tech. 5c w/ 5s camera and TouchID would have been a phone I would have picked up (in blue!).

I almost bought a 5C, but got a much better price on a 5 (both slightly used). I feel like I got the more premium handset between the two.

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It's simple, if you are cheap and don't know what you are doing on an iPhone you get a 5C and if you aren't cheap and know what you are doing, you get a 5S. That simple... I for one, wouldn't get a 5C when the 5S is only a $100 more... it's not much people....

I have always been critical of Apple and the attitudes of some of their customers, yet I got a 5c 3 months ago.
"Cheap" comments like yours are simply not needed.

i have been contemplating a 5c for my wife........but just thinking that the 5s is just a few dollars more is moving me toward the 5s. In my honest opinion, the 5c is a good phone with the LTE and camera upgrade from the 5, but priced to closely to the 5s and now with the 6 just around the corner........ what should I do?

I have an iPhone 5c and I'm extremely happy with it. People are seeming to forget that the iPhone 5c is the iPhone 5 that they may have wanted in 2012 just less expensive and in a plastic chassis. I guess the perception it's giving to people is that because it's plastic it's a bad phone but hardware has nothing to do with software. And with the iPhone 5s being in the line up the iPhone 5c kind of gets shoved off to the back burner with all the added features of the iPhone 5s and it's price only being $100 more than the iPhone 5c.

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The iPhone 5C is a very good device. The main problem it faces are that its priced to closely with the 5S which I think has definitely resulting in alot of its potential buyers choosing the 5S. I'm sure had they made the price gap between the 5C and the 5S bigger, there would have been a lot more interest in the 5C.

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I think the problem with the 5C was false expectations. Everybody expected a cheap iPhone. Instead, they got a repackaged 5 sold at a price too close to the premium 5S. I like the look and feel of the 5C. I don't like the fact that it is a 5 in a new skin. As soon as I found out its selling price, I knew it was doomed.

I live in NYC and I see a lot of 5C's. The problem is that it's seen as a cheap iPhone. And the colors are horrible. An all black one would have sold more. When it was time for me to upgrade from the 4s I picked up the 5s in slate grey because it's the high end phone. The perception Of the 5c here is that it's for cheap people that just don't want to spend the extra 100. So they "settle" for the 5c because they can't afford the 5s.

I was robbed on the end of December, and along with my car (which was recovered) they took my iPhone 4S (which obviously wasn't recovered, apparently sold for scrap). I had insurance on the phone. I was certain to buy another 4S, since I was planning on keeping it for at least another year, but since Apple now only sells the 4S in 8GB form and my Insurance covered the price of a 5C (and I'm getting married next month, so I'm not willing to pay the extra for the 5S) I got one. And to be honest, in person it felt just right.

The plastic is really not photogenic. On the launch events and press pictures it looked cheap, reminded me of those cheap $20 smartphones. But holding it, it felt quite nice. Overall I didn't feel much difference. It was a great upgrade in the end from the 4S. The battery lasts soooo much longer. I used to have to charge my 4S whenever I could. Now I can unplug it in the morning and not worry about it until bedtime (and it's still got around 40%).

The plastic feels sturdy, makes me more confident on its ability to survive when I drop it. I admit that I initially thought it'd feel cheap and wouldn't be really worth it (I was even considering buying a iPhone 5 that was still in stock in the store), and only bought it because I would't be able to keep the 4S with only 8GB. But I was pleasantly surprised on how good it actually feels.

I love it.

Edit: BTW, I've seen a lot of people say the prices of the C and the S are too close. I live in Brazil, so the difference from the 5C to the 5S is around US$300,00. Ridiculous.

I got a green 5C and am happy with it. Traded in my 4S, got $168 store credit, and paid $45 for the 5C, versus paying $131 for a 5S. Saved some money that I used for other things and got a phone that gets the job done for me, regardless of what anyone else thinks. I wasn't enamored with Touch ID or the 64 bit processor. I didn't buy an iPhone 5C as a fashion accessory or to impress onlookers. That kind of nonsense is for teens and self absorbed idiots. There was nothing for me to gain by paying more than double what I paid for the 5C to get a 5S. Initially, I considered it but once I got to the store, saw how long the line was, and heard stories from people in line about how they'd been to other stores looking for a 5S and they were sold out, I went with the 5C to insure that I got a 5C. Few people in line were interested in the 5C. I tend not to follow whatever the crowd is doing, so I went against the grain and got the green 5C. Happy with it.

I’m boggled that anyone could think the 5c is anything but a success. For the people who bought it, it is the best iPhone for them. It is plenty profitable for Apple. I understand that Apple was hoping it would do better than continuing to sell the 5, but it isn’t like it bombed. And honestly, while we can make an educated guess at how the iPhone 5 would’ve sold as the mid-tier model, we don’t really know. It is possible that it wouldn’t have sold as well as the 5c.

I have a 5c 16GB in white encased in a black Apple "holey" case and I am generally pleased with it. For a bit more I guess that I could have got a 5s. I think that the extra money would have been better spent on a 32GB 5c.
I would not have been using Touch ID, the marginally better camera would have been useful though. At present there's only a handful of apps that can fully exploit the A7 chip, the A6 in the 5c seems fine to me. I would have bought a case for the 5s anyway for a better feel and to improve durability. Most reviewers have said that the 5c feels much better in the hand than the 5S.
If 5c sales have been poor, then I have an iPhone that is different from the rest of the crowd.

The 5c looks and sounds great in theory. The problem for me is that inside it is just slightly better than an iPhone 5 and I mean "slightly". Some wont understand the advantages of having the plastic shell, multiple colors, etc. They will just see a new phone with iPhone 5 guts inside. Including the Touch ID sensor would have been all it took I think to make it a more interesting product.

I think the strategy makes sense. The 5c will be around as the 'cheap phone for at least 2 more years starting next year when the 4s drops off. The 4s is not really an option now because the 8gb size is too small for anyone to consider regardless of experience with smartphones. I think the high price of the 5c is to encourage buyers to get the 5s because it's only $100 more when comparing the value. Similarly to the purpose of the ipad 2. Apple doesn't really expect them to sell when sitting next to the premium product for only $100 more. They are in the lineup to make the price of the premium product look more attractive.

The results prove that this strategy has worked. The 5c excess stock will be sold over the next 2 years as Apple's budget phone as the 5s is discontinued and replaced by the iPhone 6 and 6s. I think it makes more sense to keep the 5c for the long term because it's cheaper to manufacture than the 5 or 5s.

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Apple tried to prevent the same outcome of what happened when the 5 was released. The average consumer didn't see a difference between the two(5/4S) other than the price point and logically went for the less expensive handset. I personally believe that the average consumer (which Apple has targeted with success) avoid the 5C because it seems to be a 'knock off' or 'cheap' version of the 5S. I've heard those words time & time again, waiting to pay My cell phone bill. Apple has revolutionized the average person's way of thinking. They have made their products become a 'status quo' if You will, but enough with the jabber. The 5C is a super nice phone, but it is slightly over priced.

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I have 5s and white 5c and the 5c feels more solid don't worry that going to scratch or break it. The first 5s I had put in back pocket and put small dent in it. Doesn't happen with the 5c. Bought my wife a white 5c for Christmas simply because of comment above and it is a great phone. First iPhone she has ever had and didn't want on because she loved her Galaxy S4 but she loves her c. Just purchased my parents a white 5c each this past week for their birthdays and both are in early eighties. They each had a 4 and of course love the c. Thankfully they had not upgraded their 4 to IOS 7. The c is a great phone and fingerprint scan to me is good but not a big deal. As matter of fact sometimes does not work.

I think the 5s SUKS , fingerprint scanner is unnecessary..most people don't use Siri and the GPS is not that great !! The iPhone 4S was the best phone apple produced and still today sells for more than the 5c !

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I'm so sorry. I'm sure there are a bunch of "Apple Junkies" out there that wouldn't like hearing this, but to, me it's just a phone. I think its pretty unfortunate that so many of these reviews aren't even based on the actual quality of the devices either, they're based on the price. If you're going to review a phone, view it based on the features, colors, or the actual technology...but basing your judgement based off of the level of "cheapness" sounds ridiculous to me. The level of expectation that consumers have nowadays is mind blowing, especially for the cell phone industry. I would never consider anyone to be cheap or un-knowledgeable because of the freaking cell phone they have. As a matter of fact, being a smart spender is a pretty knowledgeable quality in my book. It's a phone. both of these being very high quality phones, actually. And as far as my review, I have both the 5s and 5c in my family with the 5c being mine. I see no difference in the "fastness" of the phones or the actual technology other than a couple features, like the slowmo camera, TouchiD etc. I also am in love with the color of the phone as well. I think it's great that people are so passionate about voicing their decisions and want to upgrade to the 5s at all. But the comments on this thread annoyed the crap out of me.