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The C is for ‘Cheap-ish’: iPhone 5C starts at $99

Check out our review of the Apple iPhone 5C smartphone.

For six years, Apple has released one iPhone each year. There are multiple MacBooks, multiple iPads, multiple iPods, but there has only ever been one iPhone. Now there are two. Revealed today, the brand new iPhone 5C looks almost identical to the iPhone 5S. It has the same size screen, same basic dimensions, same button layout … it’s all the same. The only major differences: it has a polycarbonate (plastic) shell that will come in a lot of colors and a somewhat weaker processor. Basically, it’s a gussied up, more affordable version of last year’s iPhone 5.

“The business has become so large, so this year we’re going to replace the iPhone 5,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook during today’s presentation. “In the past, we’ve lowered the price of the current iPhone, making it accessible to more people. This year, we’re not going to do that.”

Apple’s head designer Jony Ive also defended the new plastic design: “iPhone 5C is beautifully, unapologetically plastic.”

Earlier today, we speculated what the C in iPhone 5C might stand for. Color, China, Cheap, Choice, Cannibalization – these are all words that could all describe what the 5C may do. For Apple, releasing a second iPhone is a risk and a necessity. With an influx of good, cheaper Android phones, it needs a less expensive phone to compete in developing parts of the world, like China, but also here in the United States. Having one iPhone has always been a badge of honor for Apple, but people crave options, whether they need them or not. By providing the iPhone experience at a cheaper price ($100 with a two-year contract) and in a number of new colors, Apple is offering choice without compromising its vision for iOS. But it also risks cannibalizing sales of its own flagship iPhone 5S. But if the iPhone 5C can increase iPhone sales overall, it could be an all-boats rise scenario for Apple, which has seen iPhone sales stagnate in most places around the world outside the United States throughout the last year.

For all practical purposes though, there have always been multiple iPhones. In previous years, Apple would continue manufacturing the previous years’ models and sell them at reduced prices ($100 and $0 with a two-year contract). The iPhone 5C will replace these. Now Apple can offer its newest tech innovations at high-end and low-end prices. It also has the new, longer screen introduced with the iPhone 5, but not the super 64-bit A7 processor, brand new camera, and Touch ID fingerprint sensor introduced on the iPhone 5S.

Below is some info about the new iPhone 5C.

iPhone 5C Colors:

  • Blue
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • White

Apple will sell $30 silicon rubber cases that fit right over the 5C shell as well, so you can have a phone that’s two colors. Some of the cases have holes cut into them, so your phone can look extra gaudy.

iPhone 5C specs:

  • Casing: Polycarbonate (plastic)
  • Processor: Dual-core A6 processor
  • Screen size: 4.0 inches
  • Connection speed: 4G LTE
  • Storage: 16GB or 32GB
  • Operating System: iOS 7
  • Cameras: 1.2-megapixel front, 8-megapixel rear (3x video zoom)
  • Battery life: About same as previous iPhones

If you’re already counting out your money for the iPhone 5C, then you’ll need to have some patience until September 13 for pre-orders to begin. The phone certainly isn’t that cheap, and will cost $100 for the 16GB or $200 for the 32GB model, provided you take out a two-year contract with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. If you live in the UK, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, and China you’ll also be able to pre-order the phone on the same day. The general release date for the iPhone 5C is September 20.

(Top image from Engadget live blog.)