Thoughts on Today’s iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c Event

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Apple’s iPhone event earlier today was easily the most eagerly-anticipated event of the year.

For the first time ever, Apple launched two new iPhones: the next generation iPhone 5s and the colorful plastic iPhone 5c.

When I heard rumors of the plastic iPhone 5c, I like most people assumed that it will be cheap, and made to grab market share in countries like China, India etc., but I was wrong. At $99 with a two-year contract and $549 for an unlocked version, it is anything but cheap.

Apple has a completely different objective of launching iPhone 5c, and it’s not market share. We should have probably guessed this as Apple hasn’t focussed as much on grabbing market share as much as it has on making profits from its products. I don’t want to digress into going into why that is not such a bad thing.

Coming back to Apple’s objective with the iPhone 5c, as John Gruber of Daring Fireball points out, Apple wants to market not just the premium iPhone 5s, but also the mid-range iPhone 5c, by creating a brand of its own. Until now, the spot of the mid-range iPhone was taken by a year old iPhone. So Apple could only market the iPhone 5 since last September. It could not promote the one-year iPhone 4s or the two-year old iPhone 4 for obvious reasons. Some may argue that iPhone 5c is essentially an iPhone 5 in a plastic casing, but it is still new. So we will see Apple launch ads for not just the iPhone 5s but also the iPhone 5c. We will see Apple project the iPhone 5c as the mass market iPhone like say the Macbook Air, and the iPhone 5s as the premium model like MacBook Pro.

We’re already seeing this being played out. Apple has released introduction video of iPhone 5c and not the iPhone 5s. It has only released video walkthroughs of the new features in iPhone 5s. If you visit Apple’s website, you will see the iPhone 5c first. It remains to be seen if iPhone as a two-sibling family will be more successful than Apple’s previous strategy. It seems like a safe bet to me. If it does prove to be even more successful, then the other upside for Apple is that, iPhone 5c will be a lot cheaper and easier to make than the iPhone 5, so it will end up making even more margins on the iPhone.

It is possible that Apple has created the two-sibling family to have more flexibility in releasing upgrades in the future. We have seen that with smartphones maturing rapidly, the pace of innovation has slowed considerably, and it may not be possible for Apple to launch a new iPhone every 12 months. We’ve already seen this happen with MacBooks. It will be interesting to see if Apple can maintain the yearly update cycle for iPhones in the future. If Apple can turn the iPhone 5c into a mass market product then it would reduce Apple’s reliance on the premium iPhone, and would allow Tim Cook and team to be more comfortable taking risks, which could result in more innovative features. It just can’t afford to do it right now as the iPhone accounts for a significant portion of the company’s revenues. You get the feeling that Apple is playing it safe. But I think the price difference between the two models should have been at least $200, and not $100. People are likely to shell out $100 to get the latest and greatest iPhone.

The improvements to the camera system in iPhone 5s came as a surprise to me. We all knew it will get a better camera, but with features such as slo-mo video, burst mode, True Tone flash etc, Apple has not only upped the ante for other smartphone vendors, but makes point and shoot cameras even more vulnerable.

I also can’t wait to try iPhone 5s’ Touch ID fingerprint sensor, we seem to be stuck in the 20th century with passwords, and it is good to see Apple taking the lead in getting rid of them at least for the most frequently used things. I have horrible memories of using fingerprint scanners in laptops, which I hope Apple can erase with iPhone 5s’ Touch ID feature. It appears to be quite easy to setup and seems to work flawlessly according to folks who got a chance to try it.

The significantly faster 64-bit A7 chip also came as a big surprise. I hope it makes iOS 7 a joy to use on the iPhone 5s, which appears a little laggy even on an iPhone 5. Though it is still to be confirmed, it looks like iPhone 5s’ A7 chip only has 1GB RAM, this would be very disappointing, as the additional RAM would have helped with iOS 7’s smarter multitasking feature.

Based on your comments, it looks like some of you are disappointed that Apple didn’t launch a high-end 128GB iPhone 5S. Since I started using cloud and music streaming services like Spotify, my need for local storage has reduced considerably, so I don’t share your disappointment. Though I think it would have been nice if Apple had offered twice the storage as the same price by getting rid of the 16GB model, and offered 32GB, 64GB and 128GB models instead.

It is also strange that Apple is not offering iPhone 5s for preorders (the reason I got it wrong initially), but it looks like Apple is facing production constraints with the iPhone 5s. It is probably a lot easier to satisfy demand for the plastic iPhone 5c with the year old components so it is available for pre-order.

That’s it from me. You can also read Stefan’s thoughts on the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, who switched to Android in January.

It has been a long day for us, so let it me wrap it up with a round up of all the things that were announced and covered today. It was easily our most exhaustive coverage of an Apple event, so would like to thank Cody, Jason, Kelly and Stefan for their fantastic job in making this possible. We hope you enjoyed our coverage as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you. I would love to hear your thoughts on today’s iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c launch, so please share them in the comments below.

iPhone event

iPhone 5s

iPhone 5c

iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c stuff

iOS 7

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