What's New in the iPhone 5C?

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Apple just held its long-awaited iPhone event in Cupertino. As in every year since 2008, the company introduced a new high-end model. This one's called the iPhone 5S and comes with new features such as a dual flash and a fingerprint scanner.

But unlike every other year, last year's iPhone 5 didn't simply fade into a reduced-cost support role. Instead, the old model was retired -- a first for Apple -- and replaced by the new iPhone 5C.

So what's new and different about this replacement model?


Apple's press release for the 5C speaks volumes, right in the headline: "The Most Colorful iPhone Yet."

Truth in advertising: These iPhones really are colorful. Image source: Apple.

That's right. The 5C is so similar to the plain old iPhone 5 that Apple focused on the iMac-like range of new colors.

It's an "all-new design," made from tough polycarbonate plastic with a reinforced steel frame. The steel component will boost the iPhone's antenna, presumably giving you more bars in more places. The plastic body might get scuffs and nicks that the iPhone 5's metal shell escapes, but otherwise seems sturdier and less prone to breaking.

Otherwise, there's nothing new here. I mean, Apple most assuredly re-engineered the entire phone from the ground up, both to fit everything into the new shell design and to be able to claim that it's a brand-new model. There's marketing value in those sweet words.

But the rest of the news focused on the new iOS 7 software (which will also run on older iPhones and iPads), with a hearty helping of aesthetic design talk. The phone comes in five pastel colors that will remind you of iMacs from a decade ago, complemented by six interchangeable cases. Design guru Jony Ive had a field day with the 5C.

But if you already own an iPhone 5 and don't particularly crave a new color to express your personality, the iPhone 5C isn't for you. You might want to look closer at the iPhone 5S, which does come with some new hardware features, or wait for the 2014 iteration. Or you could examine the plethora of Android phones with similar feature sets and prices (maybe even Windows phones for the truly adventurous).

In fact, you'll pay a premium for the colorful designs when compared with leftover iPhone 5 reserves or similarly apportioned models from rival designers:

 

iPhone 5C

IPhone 5 (Discontinued)

Samsung Galaxy S3

Nokia Lumia 928

Nokia Lumia 920

Storage

16GB

16GB

16GB

32GB

32GB

Price Without Contract

$550

$450

$450

$450

$440

Price With AT&T contract

$100

$100

$100

N/A

$50

Price With Verizon contract

$100

$100

$100

$0

N/A

Data from Verizon, AT&T, Apple, and Hassan's Diary.

I'm using the Galaxy S3 and somewhat older Nokia models here, rather than the newer Galaxy S4 or Lumia 1020. That's because the competing high-end models should go head to head with the iPhone 5S, not the 5C.

Any way you slice it, the 5C is a drop-in replacement for the iPhone 5 that lets Apple charge a premium for visual differences. It's not the low-cost category killer for developing markets that some Apple fans had hoped for, nor is it a significant upgrade over the model it replaced.

All things considered, I'm afraid that the iPhone 5C will be lost in the shuffle. The 5S will capture Apple's traditional market of high-end consumers, while the 4S holdover gets the budget dollars. This model's design focus looks like a very narrow niche.

Would you buy an iPhone 5C? Why, or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Apple has a history of cranking out revolutionary products -- and then creatively destroying them with something better. Did the iPhone 5C follow this time-honored model? Read about the future of Apple in the free report, "Apple Will Destroy Its Greatest Product." Can Apple really disrupt its own iPhones and iPads? Find out by clicking here.

The article What's New in the iPhone 5C? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out Anders' bio and holdings, or follow him on Twitter and Google+.The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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