Why the iPhone 5c will sell well (it's not about you)

Why the iPhone 5c will sell well (it's not about you)

Some in the tech press and analysts have been quite vocal about their ambivalence (occasionally dipping into outright loathing) about the iPhone 5c. I'm excited about it. I'm not excited about owning one - I already have an iPhone 5 - but I'm glad to see Apple do it. Because I think Apple's going to sell a lot of them.

If you're a spec-monkey, the iPhone 5c gives you cause for your ambivalence. It's largely unchanged from the iPhone 5, except for higher-quality FaceTime camera on the front and a slightly larger battery.

But here's the thing, it's not for you.

Mainstream consumers don't care

Apple sells the vast majority of its iPhones to regular people. Muggles. Folks who don't scour the Internet looking for the latest news and information about their devices. People who don't read iMore. Or any other Apple-centric web site, for that matter.

Folks who couldn't care less that the iPhone 5c doesn't have a lot of new bells and whistles.

They go to the store when their contract is up, or when their phone breaks, and they shop for a new phone. Many of them will stick with iPhones, because that's what they're used to. Some of them will try iPhones for the first time, after trying something else and coming away dissatisfied.

What they know is that it's new, and it comes in colors, and it makes phone calls and runs apps.

Comparison shopping

Sure, some of those people will compare the iPhone 5c to the iPhone 5s. And some of them may find the iPhone 5c lacking. They'll think the extra features merit the extra price.

But many people are also going to want value. Many people aren't going to want to (or simply can't) spend the extra $100 to get an iPhone 5s.

For them, there's the iPhone 5c. And for the really cash strapped, there's still the 4s.

And like it or lump it, the colored cases of the iPhone 5c are bound to be popular with folks who are looking to personalize their iPhone and add some uniqueness to their handset.

The iPhone 5c offers some solid and obvious reasons to consider over the iPhone 4s. The bigger screen is the most obvious; the LTE support is another benefit that will resonate with mainstream consumers - it has faster data. The camera's a lot better. A lot faster under the hood too.

A lot of people with strong opinions about the iPhone 5c have already made up their mind about it, and I'm not trying to change their opinion. I'm just trying to offer some perspective here. In the end, the iPhone 5c is going to be popular because it's an iPhone, and Apple still makes stuff that people want.

Even if the iPhone 5c isn't the phone you want, will you at least accept that it'll be really popular with mainstream consumers? If not, why not? Sound off in the comments below - I want to hear what you think.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 74 comments. Add yours.

Doug Decloux says:

I think they'll sell a trillion of them due to one thing: Apple has finally decided to go with several different colors. A coloured iPhone is a benchmark that could/should have been set long ago.

Sent from the iMore App

lkrupp says:

Well, that's the problem with the spec-monkeys. They live in an alternate universe where design and color are meaningless. Those faux techie minds cannot wrap themselves around the fact that normal people buy technology for completely different reasons than they do. That's why we always hear the condescending mantra that says "only stupid people buy Apple products."

suz5ive says:

I couldn't agree more. Got told earlier today that I continue to buy Apple iPhones over Android because I don't know any better. Seriously?! It is fun bantering with Android fans though LOL.

Derrick4Real says:

a while back i heard a great point about android. That google products are largely designed for tech people in mind. They are utilitarian at the expense of aesthetics. take google music where you upload 20k songs. The software just does the job but tells you nothing, not how many songs are matched, no choice what to upload, no real good interface. And the desktop software lacks features and options it darn near just plays. Android originally was ugly and bland and not designed with the average not tech user in mind. the user interface wasn't coherent. And many of google's product release are very utilitarian. And in the last few years they've had to work to make Android a lot more like a consumer focused product. I think it's ok. Not bashing google or android. Even google.com is simple on purpose, it's devoid of flash. mind you i think it's great but wiht other products like Android, i think it made their things less approachable. So it's no surprise to me that the techy people on this site tend to frown on most things that aim at the mainstream consumer.

BBooDad says:

Actually, the simple Android black-and-text in menus and Settings, etc*, is pretty awesome, if you still like the look of programming on the TRS-80 and Commodore 64. So much nostalgia!

However, as I have no desire to program with a tape recorder or 360K floppy disk, and like phones that keep working (and get updated), my family and I enjoy our iPhones now. (And I am pretty techie, even developed some medical apps.)

*(disclaimer: I don't know about the Ice Cream Sandwich and Jellybean versions, because the phones we got just before they came out NEVER got updated!)

SteveW928 says:

IMO, fingerprint access is more than a tech spec. That would be a game-changer for me.

kvanh says:

Yep. I personally would get (if i weren't still under contract on my 5) a 5s just for fingerprint reading and the new chip. But for the rest of my family currently on a 4 or 4s - the 5c is great, i'm still happy with my 5 and it would be the same thing for them. Less chance of a brand new chip having some weird flaw not found in testing, more stable drivers. More robust phone. I know so many people with a broken back glass 4/4s they'd love a hardier phone.

Biggest problem they have is usually memory, so save some bucks with the 5c and use it to get more memory.

Armada says:

"But many people are also going to want value. Many people aren't going to want to (or simply can't) spend the extra $100 to get an iPhone 5s."

This right here is the reason I'm even considering the iPhone 5C over the Nexus 5 to replace my aging Galaxy Nexus. $99 gets me the support and timely updates I want without having to leave Verizon. I'm just not sure how attached to Android I am or if it really is good value.

BBooDad says:

I tried webOS, then Android, then webOS again, then Android, then iPhones; iPhones are not as configurable, but the ease of use and reliability (no Force Close ever, no complicated cache wiping to use your phone) made it an easy choice. All the others got sold on eBay last Spring.

Value? A phone that doesn't slow to a crawl a year after you get it, or Force Close the app you are using in the middle of a phone call or taking care of a patient: Priceless!

davjaxn says:

It's strange to me that some people claim the iPhone 5C will fail. If there was no 5C but instead Apple was still selling the 5 along with the 5S, no one would say "The iPhone 5 is doomed to fail!" The 5C IS the iPhone 5 but with the added attractive idea of "now you can choose a color!"

Saying the new iPhone 5 will fail when the previous iPhone 5 was the biggest seller ever for apple makes no sense. Watch: the 5C is going to sell l Ike crazy. Maybe even the biggest iPhone seller yet.

nonomia says:

Just my guess, the target market for 5C is not clear, it is why people said that. and one more problem.
If 5S/5 has the very similar appearance, but, 5C has totally difference. it is a reason why people say that.

rbreban says:

Great article! I work for Claro in Puerto Rico and people don't care about specs at all. If it looks nice and it's free which in most cases are(iPhone 5 is$50 for example) they'll buy it.

Sent from the iMore App

stephen007 says:

Agreed that many people just don't care about the newest whizz bang features. I'm excited for the iPhone 5S and was telling my wife about all the great new features. I go to show her on the Apple website and her reaction was... "Ooh, look at all the pretty colors". "But no," I say, "those aren't the 5S. They don't have the 64-bit, latest processor, dual-flash, fingerprint...." She honestly couldn't care less. She loved the colors of the 5Cs.

BBooDad says:

yep. My wife liked her sliding keyboard on her Android phone for email, and that it was blue. But after a year of no updates and slowing to a crawl, apps closing in the middle of use, etc, she was happy to switch to my bland white iPhone 4S after trying it out for email and texting and web....

Which game me the excuse to get the then-latest spec iPhone 5, which she still sees no reason to upgrade to, now that her 4S is eligible.

ArgonNJ#CB says:

Apple's R&D would have been better suited to a larger screen iphone, not last year's model repackaged in ugly pastel colors.

Gianluca Parodi says:

buy a "OtherPhone" then, who needs a bigger screen? Buy a tablet or a computer.

Analog Spirit says:

The problem with that line of thinking is that not everyone wants or needs a tablet or another computer. I had to switch to Android for precisely this reason; I mainly wanted a bigger screen, but I didn't want a tablet either. The iPhone 5/5C/5S's screen is simply too small and narrow for me to read and type on comfortably. If I had an iPhone 5 and an iPad mini, I'd be wishing I had a device about midway in size between them, somewhere between 4.5" and 5". That's where my Nexus 4 comes in. If Apple made a 4.5" to 5" iPhone, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. Maybe next year.

roxics says:

I don't understand the "narrow" perception. The iPhone 5(c)(s) is the same 16:9 aspect ratio as a Galaxy S4 or similar device. It's just an inch smaller.

claustin says:

Apple's R&D IS working on different screen sizes. If you thought there was gonna be a size/design change on an S model you must not pay attention to iPhone history.

tduffysd says:

probably sell alot of them to females. As a MAN, i wouldn't be caught dead with a phone of any of them colors.

claustin says:

maybe white if i wasn't getting a 5s.

CORYK333 says:

Yup, choice be damned!!! We'd look quite silly jumping out of our 18 wheelers & big-rigs all ready to chomp down on some raw meat with those girly looking phones...................WE ARE MEN!!!!!!!

scruff01 says:

Then go buy a TikTak case and you can feel like your phone is the equivalent of a Hummer pumping iron whilst drinking a bacon infused Guinness shot from a hookers navel.

For duck's sake, where are all these 'I'm a MAN and need shit that's manly' coming from recently?

suz5ive says:

LOL your comment made me laugh, thank u for that. Oh and I agree.

BBooDad says:

they need camo! (but seems a little unlikely coming from Cupertino. Besides, I'd just lose it then)

Manly toys are fun, BTW. Bonus if it is actually useful, too, and nothing gets hurt from it. Pretty awesome to be able to pull up a map when you and your tech-naive buds or older relatives out hunting are 'not quite sure...' where you are at dusk, or to get a great pic of a fish or buck or bird. All of a sudden, it's not quite so useless and wimpy...

And I don't actually hunt myself anymore; just a good pic with my DSLR is good enough for me, these days. And my white 5 has a (slightly darker) blue back cover, so I'll see it when I drop it, lol!

Marc Plus says:

I think I'm going to buy a pink 5C just to piss off guys like you who are afraid of colors.

roxics says:

That's ridiculous! They're colors. Colors dont define your gender. Why dont you just find more freedoms to take away from men while you're at it. All in the name of "being a man."

caphrey says:

The fact that you're feeling threatened by COLOURS says more about your masculinity than anything else, really.

Gianluca Parodi says:

Analysts? Are they payed? The expected a low cost iPhone? Come on...
I'not an analyst and my prediction for the price of the 5c was right.
They're just speculating, I'm surprised someone pays their job.
SHAME on them.

Dev from tipb says:

You miss the most important point -- this gives Apple the ability to *market* a lower cost phone. Apple's strategy has always been current gen at full price, or last year's model at $100 less. Neither Apple nor carriers can put together campaigns for obviously outdated technology, ceding the entire less-than-highest-end pricing mindshare to competitors. The colors are are bonus for some people, but for Apple the main goal is to reposition (relatively) old technology as a new model that can be actively advertised to consumers.

The 5C may not be as much of a price drop as people wanted, but it allows Apple to squeeze into a new conversation. Not everybody researches phones; some buy what works in the range they easily see they can afford. For many, that is what they see advertised, or what they see on the front kiosks in their local store. A 5C allows Apple to advertise a model that is more price-competitive with Android/Win handsets, and can them into the conversation, if not the same physical kiosk at the carrier store, as those competitors.

cardfan says:

I'm not sure what problem he is addressing. Most criticism is over the fact that most blogs/analysts thought Apple was coming out with a true budget phone targeting emerging markets.

Instead we get this "it's not you" drivel. We already know this. Apple has been marketing for the mainstream (not you) for years now. We already know the iphone 5C will sell well. It's a repackaged iphone 5 in colors. This, too, is obvious. But it's not what the crying and moaning has been about from some of the analysts. It's not why even iMore wrote an "i was wrong" column.

The big change is as you said. Apple can market this as a new product instead of letting an old iphone 5 sit out there with little marketing because it's an old device. Many have wondered what took Apple so long.

Buy by saying "it's not you" apparently iMore considers its audience not the mainstream (despite the glut of idiot buyers guides that followed the event by imore). The author even indicates it's not his cup of tea either. "It's not you..but hey..umm...here's what color you should get" lol

Derrick4Real says:

i think it IS about me. I think i'm the mainstream. I just like to lurk here. But i don't care about much of the techy minutia discussed at imore. I get why colors sell. My only issue with the 5c is i hate the colors. I hate pastels. If it was black, white, silver, gunmetal, matte black, Everton Blue and Liverpool red i'd be great with the colors. But pastels not my taste. That's really my only issue with the 5c. The price thing is more an apple investor issue. And on that point i do think Android phones will dominate in China and India and Apple will have issues there. But that's not really an issue with me as i don't live there.

Analog Spirit says:

I'm with you on this. I'm OK with the blue and the white, but the rest of those colors just don't interest me in the least.

FLskydiver says:

This is the best point yet: pastels are boring. Give me royal blue. Or British Racing green. Or Ferrari red (perhaps the Project Red phone won't be pastel, and at least that will be a viable option).

Peter Cohen says:

I'm mad that there isn't a purple one.

JeremieJones12 says:

How is there not a product red version??? If this had been free on contract and they kept the 5 as the $100 phone I would've picked the blue in a heartbeat. Now I'm waiting for the 5s and debating between gold and silver!?

Peter Cohen says:

They are offering a Product (RED) leather case for the iPhone 5s. But no proper Product (RED) model.

suz5ive says:

I would be too if I were not already planning to get the 5s.

Derrick4Real says:

Whenever i see them i think of "Old Navy Capri Pants" commercials.

RealNeal says:

Peter,

I have to agree with you. I think the 5C is a phone for the masses. Its fun, its new and its Apple. If I didn't already have an iPhone 5 I would by a green 5C in an instant. I love the look.

David Hroncheck says:

Apple's new way of presenting the latest iPhone is smartly more marketable then selling previous generation iPhones as-is for years. Assuming each year wraps a new model in premium materials and the previous model's guts goes into polyC, it'll make owning the latest iPhone more exclusive than ever before.

The way things were produced how many 4s and 4Ss in total? >100M identical-looking handsets. With this new lineup marketing, only the newest iPhone will get premium packaging, previous to plastic. Put another way: A plastic iPhone says you bought for value, fun or ruggedness, and a metal iPhone says you bought for the latest tech or as a statement of elegance and exclusivity.

Analog Spirit says:

This article is spot on. Several of my friends and family members (very non-tech-oriented people) are already flipping out over it just due to it coming in several colors. I think the 5C is going to be Apple's best-selling iPhone to date.

rdotchin says:

This is very true. Even though most of us on here want the latest technology, most including some friends and my girlfriend just go in and buy the cheaper option that is still an upgrade. And some want brighter colors instead of aluminum.

cc3d says:

iPhone is the phone for people that know nothing and want to know nothing about their device. 5c works well into that. 90% of iPhone users hardly use the device they have. They have one game, facebook and a weather app.

Just like the PC, the iPhone is for the masses. If you want a bigger screen or larger feature set, you go for a phone in the other categories: WinPhone 8/Android

lungho says:

Wow, never thought I'd see somebody say PC's and Apple products are the same. Talk about the proverbial comparing apples-to-oranges.

BTW, you're cut off. No more Kool Aid for you until you learn how to hold your liquor.

MegaSuperCoolCoolGuy says:

Well web traffic is mostly iOS even though the market share is a lot lower http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57594876-37/ios-continues-to-top-andro...

So hardly using the device is a false claim. In fact, if you compare the market share, which is around 13% http://techcrunch.com/2013/08/07/android-nears-80-market-share-in-global... then iOS users seem like they are much more efficient with their phones than android users.

When you don't think about the argument you're trying to put out, it just makes you look like a troll. Your point gets lost in your pettiness, ignorance and prejudices.

Timelessblur says:

Lets just call it what it is. the 5c is pretty much Apple making last years model cheaper and changing the name for the stupid masses. End of the day it is a cheaper version of the iPhone 5.

There was so much promise of Apple really rocking the industry again but putting a good smart phone in the low end market. instead Apple did more of the same and did nothing but more of the same. Honestly I feel like Apple made it worse because the 5c is just a cheaper version of a phone they are selling for more profit.

Derrick4Real says:

You really thought they'd "rock the industry?" Even without all the leaks i didn't expect anything near that. and after months of leaks i got exactly what i expected. They haven't rocked the industry in a long time.

MegaSuperCoolCoolGuy says:

That was the point of the article really. But it's quite conceited to assume that you are somehow above the "stupid masses". People are allowed to make choices. It's just a phone.

David Z Horvath says:

Great article.

I am going with the 5C over the 5S.
Actually, I ordered one in each color.
This year I am going with my love of the exterior vs what the phone can actually do...and those who know me know I'm a ( or was a ) phone tech otaku.

I simply stopped caring abut specs with the Moto X and now feel the same with the 5C.
I just love the design and can't wait to mix match the colors with the case, fully admitting in this case I am attracted to candy and bright colors vs tech-wiz-bang.

SteveW928 says:

But, I think the fingerprint sensor is going to be more than just 'tech specs'. For anyone who uses a password (and everyone should), that might be the biggest innovation since the iPhone came out. Of course, it has to work really, really well... but I'm getting the impression that it does.

Isabel Osorio says:

I'm getting a 5c. Too bad it's got a terrible reputation as being cheap & for stupid people

Shameer Mulji says:

Then I must be cheap & stupid lol. Personally, I love the design of the 5c & I'm a fan of the yellow one. To me, the only thing better than an iPhone 5c, is an iPhone 5s wrapped in these plastic shells. I'd definitely buy. I love the color and find the rounded plastic much more comfortable to hold.

Perry_Orne says:

@SATopwater

To repeat a previous Tweet from me, I expect the cheaper costing iPhone (iPhone 5 [c]) to really cannibalize the iPhone market share.

NetMage says:

I don't think the camera on the 5C is any different then the 5 or 4S, though the FaceTime camera is better then the 4S.

tikishark says:

My 77 year old father has bought every iPhone since the first one launched. His normal pattern is to buy the newest model and give my mom the older one. This year, he sold both his iphone 5 and my mom's 4s and will be buying the 5s and a 5c for my mom (no second hand phone). She could care less about specs, loves her iPhone and now that it's in yellow - she wants THE new one. I have no doubt that Apple will sell a ton of these phones. Color is a beautiful thing.

Crayolaboi says:

I love the yellow but I can't downgrade off my 64gb. As it stands I only have bout 6gb free. Have 16gb iPad and always have to delete one thing to get another. I have a friend who loves the green but just got an S4 a month ago and can't see going back to iPhone.

Chris.Pacheco says:

Androids rule. iPhones drool. Typical android user. Typical apple users think about how things look and it is the same cost as an iPhone 5 would be if they kept it around if you look at apples history previous models all sold well.

Sent from the iMore App

DHitchenUK says:

My wife and I both have an iPhone 5 and will be getting the new 5S's this month; but when my wife saw the 5C, she wanted that one.

If it were up to her :) she would have a pink iPhone because, A. It's Pink, B. it's an iPhone. Brand and colour are the power here, not specs.

Eliezer Liranzo says:

People is only plastic around the iPhone 5!! I am an iPhone user and I was expecting something remarkable which did not happen, just waiting what the nexus 5 brings to the table( techno and price)

karmski says:

Sometimes I think I must be going mad; I watch a Keynote and am excited (especially Steve's iPad announcement). Can't wait to own this device I think, this will be so popular. Then I read the Tech news/reviews and it's a real downer - doesn't change my opinion, but does dampen the spirits. Thank goodness consumers know a good thing when they see it and so we all get to enjoy Apple innovation year after year.

I love the iPhone 5c, but I don't want to own one - it's a gold 5s for me. Great article Peter!

Sent from the iMore App

Winston Loh says:

Totally agree that it will sell well...Apple can package air in a plastic bag with an apple logo, call it a-air and still sell it at a premium. Apple has got their game right for a long long time already and a long long time to come...

Mr. Murphy says:

I think Apple will really make a lot of sales with the iPhone 5C during the course of 2014 with the $99 price (contract), but once the next release is here (about a year from now), the price (contract) will drop to $0, the iPhone 4S will no longer be available at that time, and china mobile should have their lte service available prior to this...but starting this Friday, 9/20/13, Apple will sell out of the 5S, but a healthy portion of the 5C.

Sent from the iMore App

Dark_Blu says:

The 5C is bound to be popular with people who are not tech geeks, would rather save the $100, and just want an iPhone in their choice of color. Some will argue for it. Others will argue against it. Either way (5S or 5C) Apple wins and consumers get a phone they can be assured will get OS updates for several years (longer than Android or Windows Phone). I don't see any minuses with the 5C for someone coming from a 4 or 4S. If you have an iPhone 5, there's no point in buying the 5C. Unless you really think you need 64 Bit A7 and a finger print reader, there's no need for the 5S, if you have a 5. Get whatever works for you. I certainly will, this Friday!!

W1ck3D86 says:

you could also say why i wont sell. If you can spend $750(Belgium) on the 5C then $100 more for a 5S wont matter. And most ppl use a protectioncover so the color of the phone doesnt matter. The color of the cover matters...

CrunchieBite says:

It will sell plainly and simply because it is a good smartphone.

If you are in the market for a new phone and don't have an iPhone already, the 5C is a damned good new phone.
If you already have an older iPhone model, the 5C is still a damned good phone but, you might consider the going for the 5S based on a comparatively small price jump between the 2 models.

All this comparison of specification figures has gone back to before the days of the old C64 vs the Spectrum - it is ultimately fruitless as the best specced hardware of today is going to be overtaken very shortly by the best specced hardware of tomorrow!

cwbcpa says:

Good article. I agree 100% with pretty much everything that was said. I have used and spent time with every OS and I always come back to the iPhone. It does't mean I don't understand how to use the others. I do. I can use them all very well actually. I spent time with them so that I could make an educated decision on what was best for me. Not everyone, just me. My wife is smarter than me. She has zero desire to leave her iPhone to try anything else. She loves it, it works and that all she needs to know. She is the perfect example of someone who would buy the iPhone 5C. She doesn't really care about specs. She wants her phone to work, be comfortable in the hand and easy to use. Guess what, those people far outnumber those of us that read these websites and can't get enough of "what's next?". They are going to buy a ton of iPhones, both 5C and 5S.

ZanKuvy says:

Well, it's about time regular people assess themselves like any other common customer out there trying to make a conscious purchase. They need to read articles like this and spend some time on iMore so they realize that the 5c is a plastic version of the iPhone 5 offered in several colors with pretty much the same specs and is likely to have the same abrupt end its predecessor suffered, once a new generation of iPhone comes out. I don't have anything against the phone, actually I was planning to get one since it was going to be a cheap alternative, but the high price, the lack of significant upgrades and the way they just pulled the iPhone 5 out of the market was unjustified and really disappointing.
Thanks for the article, really insightful.