The iPhone 5c, an iPod Mini for our generation

It only took 26 months after the iPod launched for Apple to bring out the Mini, and while its three times longer since the iPhone launched, is the iPhone 5c their attempt to address a similar market opportunity with the the iPhone?

The Mini, when launched, had a quarter the storage of the third generation iPod, but still sold for just $50 (or around 20%) less. The Mini immediately helped Apple attract a new audience. By the end of 2004 Apple had sold four times as many iPods in that year than they had previously.

The iPhone 5c is priced at a similar discount, and while it is, in effect, the same form factor as the 5/5s but with a different outer coating, it’s hard for me not to draw parallels with the Mini.

Smartphones are mainstream now, 3G/4G networks are ubiquitous, no longer are younger people wanting to be dependant on their parents buying them a cheap dumb phone or a dodgy Android handset to stay in touch. And with the advent of iMessages, FaceTime Audio AND video, what better way to stay in touch with your friends than with a brightly coloured iPhone 5c that matches your “individuality”. Sure you can do that with the iPod Touch, but who wants to be dependant on a Wifi connection when you are out and about?

The iTunes Music Store was launched in early 2003, and with its introduction later that year on Windows and the advent of the cheaper, fun Mini just a few months later, it quickly grew into a major business in it’s own right and, as we know, a key driver for the ongoing sales of iDevices into the iPhone generation.

While the App economy has more than matched the Music store in the five years since it launched, the threat to its ongoing success from competitive devices and markets exists now in ways the iPod never faced.

Apples perceived recent weakness has been in a lack of innovation in hardware and in online services. While the former is patently laughable, the latter is probably true. There are however many great services enabled through iCloud, especially if you have a number of Apple devices. And apparently these are about to get so much better in iOS7. Perhaps the 5c allied to iTunes Radio is the Mini to the iTunes Music Store as the iPhone 3GS was to the App Store?

In some ways Apple are pivoting, the iPhone is huge and highly profitable, but this year for the first time its growth stalled and the average selling price declined. The 5c is likely an attempt to both widen the appeal of the brand, especially in growing Asian markets, but to carve out a new segment of its own globally. It has been pointed out that the hero device in their marketing was the 5c rather than the technologically advanced 5s.

In about a years time, once they reach the next iteration the 5c and its plastic case will be ripe for a huge price drop. Considering the broad reach of cellular networks there’s surely a possibility this will hasten the demise of the iPod Touch. It will certainly be interesting to see if a new iPod Touch model appears any time this year.

In any event it is sure to get the technologies only currently in the 5s which will allow whatever creative services are created around Motion sensors and the interesting new features of iOS7 to be brought, in a more mature state, to a wider market.

The 5c might just be an opportunity Apple saw to both lower their costs and produce what is effectively a 5 in Plastic, while creating the perception of a new device. It doesn’t appear to be a bold move by Apple, but they’ve always shown themselves to work at their own pace and not at that set by those who write the Apple Should linkbait.

So it might just be a herald for the mainstreaming of the iPhone as the the Mini and the Nano were for the iPod in preparation for the iPhone. The technology media tell us that Next Big Thing has been coming to replace the iPhone ever since it was launched, so perhaps it’s almost ready to go?


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