Will the iPhone 5S and 5C change the smartphone game as we know it? Not likely

September 10, 2013
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As some of you might already know, Apple held a big press event earlier today, unveiling to the world the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S. As to be expected, Apple fans are going wild with anticipation, as they eagerly await for the dynamic duo to ship later this month.

Apple always does a fantastic job of hyping up its new devices, and today’s unveiling was no exception. In reality, does the iPhone 5S and 5C change the smartphone game in any major way? Probably not.

The iPhone 5C, and what it means for the budget market

The iPhone 5C isn’t your run of the mill budget phone, at least not in terms of pricing. In fact, the iPhone 5C is not much cheaper than many Android flagships! According to Apple’s online store, the iPhone 5C 16GB model will cost $549, off contract. The 32GB model runs even steeper, at $649.

To put the pricing into perspective, let’s take a look at Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and HTC’s One. Looking strictly at Google Play’s store pricing, the 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4 GPe is $649 and the 32GB HTC One GPe is $599.

The iPhone 5C isn't your run of the mill budget phone, at least not in terms of pricing. In fact, the iPhone 5C is not much cheaper than many Android flagships!

Not only are these Android handsets similarly priced to iPhone 5C, but their quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPUs beat out Apple’s dual-core A6 processor in just about every possible way. The same pretty much applies to the rest of the iPhone 5C’s specs when put against the GS4 and One.

Bottom-line, the iPhone 5C might have lower-end specs than the iPhone 5S, but its pricing is really more in-line with a mid-range or high-end Android device.

Let’s face it, $500+ is a lot to pay for a so-called budget device, particularly in developing markets, such as China. This is especially true when you can get considerably more powerful Android-powered devices for around the same price, or similarly spec’d handsets for nearly half the price.

That said, the on-contract pricing for the iPhone 5C is much easier to swallow.

At $99 with contract, the iPhone 5C (16GB) could steer away quite a few postpaid customers that are looking for a well-known handset, without paying much upfront to get it. While carriers have always sold older iPhones as ‘cheaper’ options, the iPhone 5c has the advantage of being a new device that will probably be marketed heavily.

If I had to take a guess, I’d say the iPhone 5C will be a somewhat popular device that steals a small portion of the mid-range and budget market, but ultimately won’t affect Android’s lower-end market dominance all that much. Of course, I’m no analyst and am willing to admit I could be wrong.

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The world’s first 64-bit handset, the iPhone 5S

The iPhone 5S is not only is the world’s very first 64-bit smartphone, but it also introduces a fingerprint reader, a slightly more premium design and overall improved specs. Apple fans are going to love it, and it could even sway some Android users and/or Apple fans that have been on the fence about which ecosystem to stand behind.

Is this the holy grail that will push Apple ahead when it comes to innovation, and will it help them regain a larger chunk of the international market? Doubtful.

As Nate Swanner said in an earlier post, the iPhone 5S’s switch to 64-bit architecture is “a bit like jumping out to an early lead in a race against Usain Bolt.” In other words, Apple might have the lead in some areas (64-bit processor) with the iPhone 5S, but it won’t last for long!

Android is constantly evolving and pushing boundaries, and is already preparing to catch up to (and probably exceed) the iPhone 5S’64-bit A7 processor in the first half of 2014. In terms of RAM, the camera and other specs – Android is already ahead of the curve.

In the short-term, the iPhone 5S is a reasonably impressive 64-bit handset that could certainly give current Android handsets some renewed competition. Enough to tip the scales long-term? Only time will tell, though I wouldn’t bet on it.

Conclusion

Back to the original question: Do the new Apple handsets really change the smartphone game in any noticeable way? For Apple, it certainly opens up a new window of opportunity, as they can now advertise their ecosystem as coming in two distinct flavors.

The iPhone 5C will appeal to those on-contract buyers that are very interested in Apple’s ecosystem, but don’t want to put a lot down to take an iPhone home. On the other hand, the iPhone 5S will appeal more to the dedicated Apple users out there, the ones that absolutely need Apple’s latest and greatest.

When it comes to changing the smartphone game for Android? Not so much.

Sure, Apple might make some small gains in terms of global marketshare thanks to having two new offerings, but ultimately some folks want and enjoy Apple’s walled garden – and others are more interested in the openness of the Android platform. I don’t see either of these phones changing that dynamic any.

Apple’s new handsets aren’t personally my cup of tea, but to each their own. What do you think of Apple’s new handsets? In your opinion, will the new iPhones have any measurable impact, in terms of marketshare gain?

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