Color? Control? China? What does the C in iPhone 5C stand for?

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

This week, for the first time ever, Apple is expected to announce not one but two new iPhone models. The rumored “iPhone 5S” will likely be joined by another model, the “iPhone 5C.” You’ll remember the S in iPhone 4S stood for Siri, and the S in 5S may stand for Security, if it comes with a fingerprint scanner fitted. But what does the C stand for?

Like hieroglyphics carved into a cave wall, the C can be interpreted many different ways, each giving us a clue about Apple’s reasoning behind the launch. Not all the C words are good, and some could signal serious changes are afoot in Apple’s cozy world. So, if the letter C really is iced onto Apple’s iPhone-shaped cookie, what’s it trying to tell us?

C for Cheap

It’s almost too obvious that the C should stand for cheap. But it’s probably going to be appropriate. A price of $300 to $400 without a contract is being rumored, which should translate to free if you sign up with a wireless carrier for two years to get one. This spot has been traditionally occupied by aging Apple hardware, but it’s hardly a tempting proposition to keep an already old phone for another couple of years. Like this, Apple can tempt you with a facsimile of the latest-and-almost-greatest at a bargain price.

C for Control, and Choice

If there’s one thing Apple loves, it’s being in control. From keeping the App Store free of smut, to not just letting anybody sell its products, Apple enjoys having the final say. The iPhone 5C is expected to cost less than the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5 before it, in an attempt to wrestle control of the mid-range smartphone market from Samsung and Android.

On launch day, how many people will want to line up for a cheap iPhone?

People eager to buy an iPhone were always stuck with buying an old one if they didn’t want to pay out for the latest model. Except, why buy an old phone when a brand-new, reasonably priced Android phone is announced every five minutes? This brings us on to another C word, choice, something which Apple fans limited by their budget never really had, at least regarding new hardware.

This year, high quality mid-range phones are all around us, from the Galaxy S4 Mini and the HTC One Mini, to the ultimate in hyped up middle-of-the-road smartphones, the Motorola Moto X. We’re at the point were these phones are so good we don’t really need anything more powerful, and Apple isn’t going to be happy to let Google and its minions have complete control of this growing segment.

C for Charity

This is how Apple could spin a cheap iPhone. We can hear Tim Cook saying it now, “We wanted more people to be able to enjoy the best smartphone in the world, so we’ve made it possible with the iPhone 5C.” Apple wants you to know it’s thinking about the people. More specifically, it’s thinking about the people who can’t afford to buy an iPhone 5S. By making a cheap iPhone, it’s giving them the chance to realize their dreams of owning an Apple product. Yes, good guy Apple wants to spread the love as far as it can, and it’s doing you a favor by lowering the price to a level befitting your meager wallets.

C for China 

So how far does it want to spread the love? All the way to China. Apple has already made its intentions in the region clear by setting an event there the day after its Cupertino launch, suggesting the iPhone 5S and more importantly, the 5C could be sold through the two dominant Chinese networks. A cheap iPhone sold in China will mean countless new owners, and consequently, even more control.

Will Tim Cook unveil a new collection of iPhone colors?

C for Color

Apple knows all the kids love bright colors. As your children are also on Apple’s list of things it wants to control, the iPhone 5C will come in a veritable rainbow of different colors. It’s probably going to keep gold (sorry, champagne) an exclusive to the iPhone 5S, and instead use a bag of Skittles as its inspiration for the 5C. Tacky colors were once the mark of a cheap phone, but thanks to Nokia, bright yellow is now an acceptable hue even on a flagship device.

C for Cannibalization

This is a tricky one. Apple has a very, very big bank balance, which it has amassed by selling a lot of iPhones, iPads, iPods and of course, Mac computers. The many zeros on Apple’s statement is proof we’re willing to splash out on an expensive Apple product. Why, then, would it want to cannibalize some of those sales – as plenty of them are made by aspirational owners, who saved up for the pleasure of buying one – by introducing a cheaper model with an almost certainly lower profit margin?

We’re at the point were phones are so good we don’t really need anything more powerful.

It’s not as if we’re hurting for cheap smartphones, and in the situations where an Apple product simply must be had, there’s the older models on which it still makes a fat profit. By the time they’re the cheap option, it probably costs Apple far less to build them. Not only that, but does any Apple device owner want to be seen with the cheap iPhone? It’s like a diesel engine in a supercar, or Ikea furniture in your Fifth Avenue penthouse. You wanted some flash, but decided at the last minute that being thrifty was best. It may be financially responsible, but it sure isn’t sexy.

What if, to avoid this difficult situation, Apple doesn’t sell the iPhone 5C in the U.S. or Europe at all? Why bother with a China-only event if it doesn’t have anything new to say? We wouldn’t be shocked if the iPhone 5C was a China exclusive at first, before making its way to other important emerging markets and finally, the major iPhone 5S markets later. Honestly, would it matter? On launch day, how many people will line up for a cheap iPhone?

Ultimately, the C could stand for all these, and once it is made official, we’re positive a few comedy geniuses will say the C is for Crap, too. It’s unlikely to be the case, as Apple won’t put its name on something that could pass for a knock-off, but it won’t be something we, the smartphone cognoscenti, will get overly excited about. As a crowd pleaser in countries like China, though, it could take the crown.

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