Editorial

What iPhone 5s and 5c mean for competition, buyers, and Apple

Well, well, well. Apple's highly anticipated event happened on Tuesday and as well all expected, the company announced the release date of iOS 7 plus two new iPhone models. It already seems like the entire population knows about these new iPhones and has something to say about them.

I do too.

As long as you're interested in technology you should have paid attention to the event on Tuesday, regardless of whether you're a fan or critic of Apple. Like it or not, the company possesses enormous power in the technology industry. It's proven to motivate the competition and drive innovation and with the debut of the original iPhone among other products Apple has been able to change the game entirely.

The game hasn't quite changed this time, but you can bet competing manufacturers paid close attention to the announcements. Some probably just want to bluntly copy what Apple did, some might look at the new iPhones and build off of it to make a better phone, and some look at the iPhones and say "That's what not to do in our next product."

In fairness, Apple is certainly guilty of borrowing from other companies and manufacturers making software and hardware. But the public has its eye on Apple more than any other phone maker and ultimately, the competition has to care about what the public cares about. As a student, I can't tell you how many people I've walked by on campus who were talking about the new iPhones and iOS 7. I can't say the same in the days following Galaxy S or Lumia announcements.

First, let's ourselves explore the basic news. On Sept. 10, Apple announced two new iPhones: the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s. The iPhone 5 that came out last year is being discontinued and essentially replaced by the 5c, which features almost entirely the same specs except has a plastic back that comes in five bright colors. The iPhone 5s is the premium model sporting the familiar metallic design and a fresh new color option: gold. It features a faster processor, new motion coprocessor, a better camera and slo-mo video recording, and a fingerprint scanner. The 5c and 5s will be available Sept. 20 for $99 and $199 respectively with a two-year agreement.

These phones are far more than what meets the eye to the competition, to buyers, and to Apple. Now let's analyze what exactly the new iPhones mean for them moving forward.

What to Expect from Competition

Here's the easy prediction: lots of fingerprint scanners. Don't be surprised when nearly every high-end smartphone to come out in 2014 has a fingerprint scanner of some sort built-in to the hardware. By the end of 2014, if your phone doesn't have a built-in fingerprint scanner, you won't be hip. The same happened with intelligent voice assistants and front-facing cameras. Fingerprint scanners will be a staple feature. Probably not as much of a priority, but eventually so will 64-bit.

Colors are a trickier one. The vibrant colors offered for the iPhone 5c definitely take a page out of the Lumia's book. Although in fairness, Apple has experimented with color all the way back to the early iMacs and iPod minis. However, I'd say Apple has been paying more attention to what Windows Phone devices have been doing lately more than Android, if any competitor at all. It's interesting Apple took this long to bring color options to the iPhone. The colors are great for regular consumers who love to personalize their phones and get fun and creative, but it does take away from some of the professionalism. Competitors like Samsung could have an edge on the 5c if they stick to more elegant yet tame colors, however there's still the 5s to compete with. It's also doubtful the gold color option will have much of an impact.

Remember, this is really the first time Apple has extended the iPhone into a line in that two new iPhones are being released at once. Other manufacturers sell multiple phones in multiple models so they already have numerous ways to compete if they wanted to. Not everything has to be addressed in a single device.

Aside from what competitors might try to match, it'll be much more interesting to see what they come up with on their own. Unique innovation is always exciting just as long as it's not gimmicky. Windows Phone devices are pretty good at keeping the gimmicks to a minimum Android phones, not so much.

In recent years, competitors have been far less intimidated by Apple and that trend will continue forward. There's still a clear influence there, but it has weakened for sure.

What to Expect from Buyers

Make no mistake that the iPhone 5c and 5s will sell well. Whether they break records is to be determined, but Apple will still make lots of dough from these smartphones thanks to buyers.

Consumers who just want a phone that works and looks nice will jump all over the 5c. Everybody likes a splash of color, plus these people won't even care that the specs are basically the same as the year-old iPhone 5. They don't care that it's made with cheap plastic either. If works well, comes in five colors, and sells for just $99, they're in. Problems could arise if certain folks want the iPhone 5c off-contract, which skyrockets the price up to $549. Compared to other mid-range phones, that's rather expensive.

People who want the best of the best and have more money to spend will buy the iPhone 5s without question. Luckily, there's a more than adequate amount of people who fit into this category. The bigger question should be whether they want an iPhone at all. Nokia, for example, has better cameras and bigger displays on its phones. Options need to be weighed out.

What to Expect from Apple

How might the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c affect Apple's iPhone business? If you've been following along with the stock price, you'd know investors aren't too impressed. This happens every year though. The first impression new iPhones often receive are one of disappointment that is until Apple end up selling millions, breaking sales records, and earning high customer satisfaction scores. Then the stock slowly rises again. So far, the pattern is kicking off once again this year.

Judging by Apple's already strong marketing push behind the iPhone 5c, the sales gap between the $99 iPhone and $199 iPhone will shrink. In previous years when the old iPhone model dropped $100, the $199 model was always the most popular choice without doubt. That's in question this time. Apple is choosing to place the $99 iPhone as the main model for consumers for the first time, while the $199 iPhone is the premium model.

If the sales and revenue gap does shrink a bit, Apple might not break sales records with the iPhone 5s compared to the iPhone 5. No matter how the company tries to spin that, it won't look good. Then again, if consumer interest proves extremely high and both the 5c and 5s sell very well, that might not be a problem.

Apple's fate will be more accurately pinpointed soon enough. Time will tell whether Apple maintains a position of authority and influence in the industry with the iPhone 5s and 5c.

Images via Apple, Nokia; Apple Store line image via Shutterstock

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