Over and over again over, most of the pre-launch chatter about the iPhone 5c was that this was Apple’s “budget” iPhone, meant to help Cupertino squeeze into the mid-range, and especially penetrate the emerging market in countries like China by being released at a price around $349.
So imagine China’s surprise when it turned out that the iPhone 5c wasn’t meant to be any more of a budget iPhone than the year-old iPhones Apple has sold before. In fact, in China, an iPhone 5c will cost, in dollars, more than what an iPhone 5s would cost an American unsubsididized. And the Chinese are underwhelmed, to say the least.
In China, when bought without a contract, the iPhone 5c will cost $4488 yuan, or $728.
“Its much more expensive than what the previous information suggested, a big difference from what I thought,” said 27-year-old Wang Qian, speaking to Macworld. “All they’ve mainly done is provided more colors and raised the phone’s performance.”
IDC analyst Teck Zhung Wong agrees. “I think Apple could have landed a strong punch if they had priced it at $350 to $450, but they decided to hold back,” Wong said. “It seems to me like a lost opportunity.”
The price of the iPhone 5c in China seems particularly out-of-whack with how much comparative phones in the emerging market. Consider, for example, Xiaomi’s newest handset, the Tegra 4-powered Mi-3, which only costs 1,999 yuan. That’s about $326 American, about what people expected the iPhone 5c to cost.
In fact, in China, the only iPhone that competes with the Mi-3 on price is the 8GB iPhone 4, and even that, a three year phone, costs 2,588 yuan… almost $100 more than the Mi-3. Apple’s going to have a hard time competing in China on price.