The iPhone 5C Is Shaping Up to Be the Scariest Product Apple Ever Created
Aug 1, 2013 5:00 AM PT
As I follow the rumor mill surrounding the fabled low-cost iPhone, aka "cheap iPhone," and more recently, "iPhone 5C," I'm starting to get worried.
What's wrong with me? Don't I like the idea of an inexpensive iPhone? Isn't an inexpensive iPhone important to help Apple fight freaky robot things threatening to take over the world?
There's nothing out-of-the-ordinary wrong with me, but there's a problem with the iPhone 5C -- at least if it turns out anything like the leaked polycarbonate-case photos all over the Internet. Right now, it looks as if the inexpensive iPhone will sport a form factor similar to the iPhone 5 -- long and thin, and not nearly as wide as other big-screen Android phoneslabs.
So far, so good.
However, the photos show a case design that looks rounded out of poured plastic, undefined and soft. The photos I've seen make the iPhone 5C look like they're made for children -- as if Apple created the iPhone 5C to reduce the need for stitches after siblings bash each other over the head while fighting to FaceTime with dad.
The iPhone 5C Gets Much Worse
While I dislike the generally vague design -- again, from the photos that may or may not be accurate -- the most terrible thing I've seen so far is the color.
The iPhone 5C, in one widely linked photo, sports a bright sickly yellow, a garish orangey-pink-red, and a light green the shade of an unripe and diseased lime.
Fortunately, there also seems to be a white polycarbonate shell iPhone 5C -- but that won't stop a certain number of people from buying the other colors, which I never want to see again, much less in person.
As we get nearer and nearer to the magical time of late August and early September, when kids are going back to school and tech companies start thinking about fall and holiday lineups . . . a plasticky iPhone 5C is starting to feel real, and this sort of real is starting to feel like the brightly colored puke a small child throws up after eating too many popsicles.
But There's Tradition Here
Of course, a colorful set of iPhones is well within Apple's playbook: The company regularly introduces a new product, updates it the next season, rides the wave of sales, then gives it a boost with a blast of fancy colors. Think iPods -- how many times have we seen this? White only, white and black, a red one, then boom, a bunch of colors.
At the same time, though, if the rumors of the iPhone 5C are true, Apple is making a right turn into a whole new strategy: producing an inexpensive product that's actually the same size as the iPhone 5 rather than smaller, because for Apple, pricing is aligned with size.
A MacBook Air with an 11-inch screen costs less than one with a 13-inch. A 13-inch MacBook Pro costs less than a 15-inch MacBook Pro. Could Apple produce a 15-inch form-factor MacBook Pro with a slower processor, smaller hard drive and less memory? Yes. Has Apple done this ever? Maybe, but I can't remember when.
Now it seems that Apple has the greatest challenge I've seen in years: Keep the new iPhone 5C looking a lot like the old iPhone 5, so the form factor and developers all continue to have standards they can count on -- but risk devaluing the awesomeness of the iPhone 5 by sticking a plastic sibling next to it.
Apple doesn't really do this. Each form factor -- no matter what the price -- tends to target a usage niche. The iPhone 5C isn't filling a new or different use case, though. It's a new iPhone based on reduced build quality in order to meet a new price point. That's not Appleland at all.
Will Apple lovers appreciate it?
Eh... I'm not so sure. It would be better if the two iPhones were different in size, but Apple's stuck. If the screen size is the perfect size already, how can Apple deviate?
A Few Possible Answers
If Apple releases an iPhone 5C in hideous colors that looks and feels cheap, wow, it'll be a dark day for Apple enthusiasts. I'm not sure I could let anyone around me actually buy something like the rumor photos suggest -- it would be a constant neon radioactive reminder that Apple had lost its mojo. Can't have that sitting around. However, there's hope yet:
- Deep, rich colors with depth. Maybe the photos came from a bad batch of polycarbonate, thrown into a dumpster out back. I certainly hope so. Stir more food coloring into the giant vat and we'll be fine.
- Sharper build quality. If the iPhone 5C actually looks like a finely crafted device, sure, no problem. Cheaper is better.
- Deliver an iPhone 6 -- not an iPhone 5S with a faster processor, but a real new form factor at a higher price point. A truly new iPhone will actually let Apple deliver a sub-par device without disappointing the millions of iPhone enthusiasts out there.
One last note: I've been disappointed by supply chain "rumor" photos before, but never actually scared. I mean, have you had to mop up neon popsicle puke? It's bad. Really bad.
Color is important. It hurts my head to imagine a color-blind Apple. I just hope that what we're seeing now is some devious plot from Tim Cook to double-down on secrecy and out supply chain leakers.