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Almost as soon as you’ve taken your smartphone out of the box, the manufacturers release a shiny new model that makes yours look prehistoric by comparison. Apple is no different, but in September 2013 ago they went one a step further and released not only a new model, but a new material. Just over six months on, how has the ‘plastic’ iPhone 5c impacted the Apple brand?
iPhone 5 vs iPhone 5c
When the 5c was released, two things instantly caught the media’s attention – not only was this Apple’s first plastic phone, but also its first mid-range phone, retailing at $100 (£50 – £60) cheaper than its predecessor. Technically speaking, the 5c (and 5s, its high-end metal equivalent) are updates to the 5, rather than new models in themselves.
The 5c and 5 are remarkably similar: both have the same screen, processor and software, and while the 5c offers a wider choice of LTE bands, slightly longer battery life and a better camera, it has just two storage options compared to the iPhone 5’s three. Perhaps the most ground-breaking feature of the iPhone 5c is the fact that it comes in a range of pastel shades, including pink and green – but then Apple isn’t the first brand to offer its phones in different colours.
The 5c received mixed reactions (and you could argue that that was the whole point – if Apple simply wanted to generate a buzz around its products, it certainly succeeded), with both lovers and haters using the similarity of the two phones to support their argument. Team 5c insist that the plastic iPhone offers great value for money, giving you better spec with a smaller price tag. Many are pleased to see Apple making products more accessible to consumers on a budget, including students and young people. The plastic body is less likely to get scratched (and anyone as clumsy as me will know this can only be a good thing!) and apparently feels more comfortable in the hand. Finally, the brightly coloured handset makes a nice change to corporate black or white. There are now unconfirmed rumours that other phone manufacturers, including HTC One, are planning to jump on the plastic bandwagon.
However, design purists believe that the plastic iPhone is less aesthetically-pleasing than the metal version. Others point out that Apple have released what is essentially the same phone in a candy-coloured shell. And if the colour options are one of its most exciting new features, then surely the iPhone 5c is guilty of ‘style over substance?’
Apple the Brand
As for me, while I have nothing against the 5c in principle, from a branding point of view I can’t help but see this as a bit of a ‘sell out.’ From what I have read about Steve Jobs, the plastic iPhone would never have been released under his watch. After all, this is a man known for his strong vision and attention to detail – he even designed the Apple typefaces by hand, inspired by his college calligraphy classes. The entire brand was built on the principle of outstanding design and usability, but as far as I can tell, the plastic body offers no advantage over metal – the 5c is actually slightly thicker and heavier than the 5 – and NOT waterproof, despite a spoof advert claiming otherwise. And Apple seems conscious of the negative associations of plastic, its marketing literature claiming, almost desperately, that the 5c is ‘unlike any plastic phone you’ve ever held.’ Overall, most reviewers agree that the 5c is as good as its forerunner, plastic or no plastic. I don’t think the 5c is the big deal that the media made it out to be – after all, phone manufacturers release new models every year – I will be interested to see Apple’s next move, and whether they manage to maintain their reputation industry-leading designers. Of course, things move on, and already there are hints of the iPhone 6 just around the corner. Will the 6c be soon to follow?
I’m a writer that works alongside Alpha Electrics. I currently use an iPhone 5 and, though I would like to cut my phone contract by downgrading my phone, I think I’m in denial about how reliant on technology I really am!
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