Should I buy the new iPhone?

Tags: Op-ed
Should I buy the new iPhone?
Bloomberg
SPOILT FOR CHOICE: A customer views an Apple iPhone 5c displayed during the devices launch at the company’s store in New York, US on September 20
Recently, Apple introduced its new plastic-clad iPh­one 5C at the same pr­ice as some of its prior metal-clad models. Cheaper versions of the premium model will make the company competitive in the fastest-growing smartphone markets such as China and India. However, a plastic ph­one at the same price as some of the metal models, makes one wonder what was Apple CEO, Tim Cook, thinking?

Plastic is a lot easier to produce compared with a metal phone and Apple might reap the benefits of a plastic phone over its metal version. As it is known, producing the complicated aluminum shells for the iPhone 5 and latest 5S is no easy feat, which also limits the phone’s production. These aluminum shells are made on highly specialised factory equipment for which Apple pays its Asian contract manufacturers in China. If Apple had made its iPhone 5 cheaper and introduced iPhone 5S without the iPhone 5C, then its contract manufacturers would have to again deal with the aluminum shell and that would have limited the phone’s production further. In contrast, plastic cases are a lot easier and less expensive to manufacture. Thus, girding the iPhone 5C in a polycarbonate shell helps ensure Apple will be able to make as many iPhones as customers want to buy this year and in a choice of five new colours.

In fact, the Cupertino-ba­sed firm collected only $54.5 billion of revenue for the last quarter of 2012. This figure falls short of Wall Street forecasts and it is no wonder that the Apple’s stock came down by 11 per cent recently. There is no doubt that CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer repeatedly blamed the lower-than-expected sales on problems at the manufacturer’s end in the factory.

The latest iPhone 5S and 5C come at a hefty price, but they are cool devices. For example, the quality of apps that are developed for iOS, which powers iPhone, remains unmatched. Secondly, Apple ensures that the phone always runs the most up-to-date software updates. Thirdly, Apple’s after-sales-service is super and, perhaps, unmatched compared with other phones. However, one must also know the flip side before one decides to click the buy button. The phone’s 4-inch screen is small, Google services won’t work that well (in case you are Google user), the virtual assistance Siri is slow, and owning the iPhone means a lock-in for the Apple environment: apps could only be downloaded from the App store and sharing of files between devices like iPad and iPhone is still a problem.

For those who already own an iPhone 5, the choice is very easy. Physically, the 5S looks exactly like the iPhone 5. The 5S has the same display, nearly identical design, and same screen size as the iPhone 5. However, the 5S only separates itself from the previous version with a new gold colour, a fingerprint sensor, a faster processor, and a better camera. Megapixel-wise, the iPhone 5S’s camera is the same as the iPhone 5 at 8MP. The difference is that the 5S’s has a better sensor that lets in more light. The flash also has two tones so it will give you more accurate image colours. The new camera’s slow-motion feature is elegant, but there are tonnes of apps like Slowpro, which will give you this same ability. Existing iPhone 5 users can still update your software to iOS 7, which will give your phone the same look as the 5S along with a host of the new software features.

Another point is that by offering a plastic-cased iPhone 5C, Apple has also run the risk of tarnishing its premium brand image of an aluminum body. Apple fans have long derided Samsung Galaxy phones for having a plastic casing, for example. But, experts believe that the company’s manufacturing prowess and attention to detail should allow for a high-quality plastic that won’t feel cheap.

Although the colourful 5C had been dubbed ‘cut-price’ with rumours suggesting it to be a departure from Apple’s focus on purely premium phones. However, the pricing for the open versions of the device still starts expensive. Analysts predict that the firm has made the wrong move and the pricing was way off the mark.

Most recently, the pre-orders for the new brightly-hued iPhone 5C have not been ‘overwhelming,’ according to Reuters. It appears that the supply for the plastic handset, as well as for the top-end iPhone 5S, has been disappointing, leading to suggestions Apple’s bubble with consumers may have burst.

However, if you are an Ap­ple fan, there is a lot to look forward to in the next year. If the company follows its usual pattern, it will introduce a new iPhone with a new design in 2014. One rumour that is likely going to become true is that next year’s iPhone could have a larger screen. So keep watching this space for more.

(The writer is on the faculty of Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi, India)

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