Why The iPhone 5c Flopped

phone_5C_colores_latera

Apple won’t come right out and say so, but the iPhone 5c is a (comparative) dud. But why? Legendarly Apple ad man Ken Segall has his theories, and it all comes down to the fact that with the iPhone 5c, Apple violated Steve Jobs’ prime directive: Apple doesn’t do cheap.

On his blog, Segall says: “Clearly plastic was a big part of the iPhone 5c strategy,” Segall writes. “The launch ad was entitled Plastic Perfected. The launch video featured Jony Ive explaining that iPhone 5c was ‘unapologetically plastic.’ There was a strategic plan to head off the potential negative by boldly proclaiming it as a positive… Unfortunately for Apple, creativity can be a double-edged sword. The ‘unapologetically plastic’ line in the product video was so interesting and memorable, it got played back over and over in articles about the lackluster demand for iPhone 5c. Not exactly what Apple intended.”

According to Segall, the fact that the iPhone 5c was “unapolgetically plastic” yet only $100 less on contract — a pittance, really — than the iPhone 5s probably hurt sales. He thinks Apple should take the iPhone 5c’s failure as a sign that Apple shouldn’t bother making smartphones that are anything less than premium.

“Steve Jobs was right,” he explains. “Apple is a company that doesn’t do ‘cheap.’ It makes products for people who care about design, simplicity, quality and a great experience — and are willing to pay more for these things. For Apple to compromise in any of these areas would be a violation of the Prime Directive.”

  • AllanC

    I don’t have a problem with plastic; I have a problem with pastels. If they’d made the 5C in a matte black I’d have bought one.

    • tornacious

      Boom! You just said it, what I was gonna say. How could they not make a black one? Idiots!!!

  • Andrew Gough

    All black would have been killer

    On a similar note why wasn’t there a white front on the white and pastel colours? I know a bunch of people bemoaning this. Net = despite a very comfortable and appealing form factor, the look was just an ‘almost’. There’s a reason Apple advertise the back and not the front.

  • Andrew Gough

    BTW CoM – why is using this site and posting here from an iPad such a dreadful experience? You need to bring back some Apple like simplicity to the experience. Especially from iOS.

    • Steve Mullins

      unboxfresh.com
      U can turn off their stupid horrible ipad ‘wheeeeeeee we’ve made everything horizontal’ crap – this lasts for a few weeks, them comes back – I tend to just close com when this crap come up or turn off ‘desktop version’ is whats want or ‘actually useable version’

  • Leovinius

    Yeah, it’s the color scheme. I had no idea these ugly, ugly shades existed. And the white one looks like an orthopedic shoe.

  • Rene Stein

    And yet, I have read that the iPhone 5c has sold better than the iPhone 4s when it was the tier 2 model, and the iPhone 4 did as the tier 2 model.

    The idiots who proclaim the iPhone 5c has failed don’t really understand it’s role. Like this author here. Apple doesn’t do cheap, the iPhone 5c is not cheap. The iPhone 5c was built to replace the iPhone 5 in the line up and distinguish the tier 2 model from the top tier model. It has done that well and been the best selling tier 2 model of all time. Oh, and it had a higher profit margin than that iPhone 5 would have had.

    So, to recap, iPhone 5c is the best selling tier 2 phone Apple has ever had, and with better margins than if they had sold the iPhone 5 at that price. I agree, fail everywhere!!

  • Petar Živanić

    Analyst has indeed become synonymous with stupid – Apple solved a couple of their problems with 5c quite elegantly: 1) made a “cheap” phone the stockholders pressured for 2) made a phone that’s distinctly different than the premium model and in doing so rehashed the last year model in even cheaper casing 3. released some of the pressure from 1 by convincing the stupid farts that they don’t really need cheap phone, but can sell heaps if they want to. In short, this is in all areas a success, and I’ll buy iPhone 6c if it comes as a 5s in a plastic case.

  • Bezzer

    Surely the problem was Apple didn’t do cheap enough, their was not a big enough price difference between the 5c and 5s so people just went for the more expensive model.

    I suspect that was the plan all along, classic bait and switch.

  • http://www.meneghello.net Marco Meneghello

    Well, my GF loves her 5c *because* is plastic and red. :-)

  • Glenn Gore

    All the tech writers, bloggers, and pundits were ranting and raving last year about how Apple needed to make a cheaper iPhone to save the company from certain ruin and doom. Well, they did make a sortof cheaper phone and it was not a huge success. At least it wasn’t the significant success Apple has had the past few years by keeping the previous year’s model around with a significant reduction in price. Now those same writers, bloggers, and all-knowing pundits are piling on with articles about the 5C being a flop and they knew it all along. Please. I know a few people who have the 5C and are quite happy with it. The fact that the only thing different between the 5 and 5C is the plastic back probably had more to do with sales figures than anything else. And the fact it wasn’t dropped to $99. There is no real functional difference between the two devices.

  • http://www.designstrategies.com Len Williams

    As usual, analysts agree that Apple can do nothing right, despite being the most valuable company in the world for the third year in a row. For years analysts have cried that Apple MUST create a cheaper iPhone, but when they do release one for $100 less, it apparently fails because it’s a cheap iPhone. Yet, at the same time it’s not cheap enough… and even though it’s selling well, it’s not meeting with “analyst” predictions, so that makes it a failure and a dog… It’s all rather confusing.

    I’d like to see a requirement mandated for all “analysts” and “politicians” that they must have owned and run a profitable and successful business for at least 3 years before being allowed to “analyze” or become a government representative. Real world experience involving profit, loss and accountability might be a major point of awakening in these guys. It’s easy to pontificate and tell others what to do when none of your own money is involved and when you’re not held accountable for your advice.

  • http://sopapoproductions.com originalp

    The thing is that the iPhone 5c should have been called iPhone Lite (or whatever) and actually have the iPhone 4S (NOT iPhone 5) internals, the iPhone 5’s bigger screen but the colorful plastic exterior as is.
    So they put the bigger screen on iPhone 4S but still keep production cheap by using the plastic body. Also, this would have helped making the 4″ screen the standard sooner instead of keeping the iPhone 4S (and even iPhone 4) with a 3,5″ screen still around when they will possibly soon release and even bigger screen and there will be “fragmentation” for developers on the iOS ecosystem with now THREE iPhone screen sizes, iPads, and possible iTV and iWatch.

    The bottom line just to recap: The iPhone 5c should have been the “iPhone Lite”. With iPhone 4S internals, a 4″ inch screen and plastic body. And surely it still could have been sold for $450 ($100 less).
    Of course, the final line-up would have been: iPhone Lite, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S.

  • http://castcollective.com KK Reuther

    Attributing the failure of the iPhoneC to the choice of plastic for the housing may have played a part in the lackluster sales and buzz for the normally red hot Apple, but I wouldn’t place the blame just on the plastic. Color choices that didn’t consider the material may have been the true culprit for the iPhone C’s failure to connect. The range of colors was not authentic to the Apple brand or their consumer. Choose color wisely!

  • Jay Dorsey

    I knew it was going to flop… it’s like asking Mercedes to make a car that’s comparable to a S-Class but sell it for under $50K. You can’t compromise on luxury or quality when you’re known as a luxury brand… Apple learned that lesson in the iPhone 5c. I hope that they don’t try it again. Don’t listen to the unwashed masses, Apple, listen to the people who actually buy, enjoy and appreciate your products.

  • AAPL_@_$101_Is_A_Done_Deal_:)

    (Comparative) dud? What would have been the perfect ratio of 5s to 5c sales? When Samsung sells 30 models of smartphones, how many (comparative) duds would there be out of that 30? Does anyone even know the exact number of 5c units that were sold? As far as I know, Apple doesn’t break out those numbers so how does anyone know whether it was a (comparative) dud? Is it possible that 5c sales might pick up during this quarter?

  • Dennis McDonald

    I’m a 4s owner and love the phone. My wife has had a Samsung dumbphone for many years and recently decided to upgarde and got a 5C, her first smartphone.

    I am amazed at the quality and finish of her phone. It’s beautiful. If you’re going to make something “plastic” this is the way to do it.

    If this phone is a “flop” we need more like it.

    • Tim Galloway

      Apple could discover the cure for AIDS and the pundits would still complain. Whenever I see a headline that says Apple failed at
      meeting expected results, I know it’s from a source that really just need some clicks. How you doing BGR?

  • luxlamf

    The fact it ISN’T Cheap is the major flaw with it, Other Co’s release inexpensive phones, Apple releases a phone the call their Less Expensive model but its still way too expensive. I was shocked when I went in to get one for a present and they where still $700!!! Yes Apple Stop making Cheap phones, especially if you are just going to sell them for a premium anyways.

  • http://edwardsung.com/ El Sabor Asiático

    It’s too bad the 5c flopped, because a low-cost, colorful iPhone was a great idea. I did honestly believe it would be more successful than it was. Hindsight being 20/20, I think the basic problem is that Apple half-assed it. Instead of producing a truly new iPhone model, they stuck iPhone 5 guts into a plastic shell. With plenty of actual 5 models around, the only new thing on offer here was a cheap plastic shell and lots of colors.

    I think it would have been more interesting if they’d redesigned the iPod Nano into an iPhone Nano — a tiny, stripped-down iPhone that was basically an iPod Nano that could do phone calls and messaging — and put that out as a low-cost alternative. They could have captured a slice of the market that wasn’t interested in owning both an iPhone and iPad, but would be interested in an ultra-portable iPhone and an iPad for larger-screen applications. (I guess this idea is in fact coming, but in the form of the iWatch.)

    • Tim Galloway

      BGR is lame

  • lucascott

    The 5C is not cheap, just cheaper.

    And the 5C may not have sold as many as Apple thought it might but that doesn’t equal it being a flop.

    Having to write off several million dollars to the tune of above what both models sold so that ultimately the run was a loss. Now that is a flop

  • Alexander Mozina

    maybe its because its still like $670 with no contract. AKA not cheap.

  • https://twitter.com/atheist_in_nc Heisenberg

    I bought my daughter a green iPhone 5c for Christmas (thank you Walmart $28 sale!).

    I have to admit, that thing was cute as hell. I couldn’t stop playing around with it. But, it doesn’t feel like a “cheap” phone.

    I think the fatal flaw in the 5c rollout is that they didn’t have any masculine colors. There should have at least been a black one.

  • tanker10a

    I still don’t understand the reason for this release when this iPhone is nothing more than the original iPhone 5 repackaged “on the cheap”. Apple would have done just fine with one product release (As usual) given the biometric device on the new iPhone. the 5C seems to have understated the high-end 5S. That was a bad move AAPL. I hope that is the end of this line while keeping the iPhone’s product line “simple” ” manageable sized” and “elegant”…

  • Rakeem Jones

    I honestly believe there’s nothing wrong with iPhone 5c because it’s still durable and in my opinion it’s better than iphone 5 for that reason. The only problem I would see is the lack of cases. I guess that’s because it’s still kinda new… And how the iphone didn’t have a white screen.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in News, Top stories | Tagged: , |