The iPhone 5C is a curious little phone… only because it's released by Apple. Were Samsung hawking this new device as it's budget option then we wouldn't even bat an eyelid, but because it's Apple we're a little bit more circumspect. Can the company that prides itself on premium devices compete in this lower-cost segment?
Actually, it's a little unfair to say Apple can't compete at the lower end, as it's shown that with the iPod mini / nano that it can offer products to consumers at a lower cost without compromising too much on build quality.
Although we won't mention the original iPod shuffle…
The iPhone 5C features an all-new polycarbonate casing, with a design that's hewn from a single block of plastic with a steel cage thrust in there to help stability and improve antenna performance.
However beyond that we're really seeing a re-badged iPhone 5, which is no longer on sale thanks to being sacrificed for this new model. The CPU is an decent A6 chip, the screen is a 4-inch Retina display and the internal storage options are the standard 16GB and 32GB choices.
That said, this isn't a phone that's just made of recovered devices – it's a whole new handset. Some have wondered how Apple could ever think about making a non-premium device, but with the iPhone 5C it's made a phone that feel so different to the iPhone 5S that buyers won't feel like they're buying a rubbish version of that device.
Here's how the company made it so premium: keeping the cost higher. In the US it will be $99 and $199 for the contract options of 16GB and 32GB respectively. However, in the UK you'll be paying £479 for the privilege of a 16GB option, and £549 for the 32GB. That's more than the HTC One and Galaxy S4, depending on storage.
But beyond that, it's a very similar experience to that you'll get on the iPhone 5S, with iOS 7 running like a veritable peach, with no slow down nor issues to contend with in our early play with the phone.
What's better than the iPhone? A cheaper version, of course! Although let's be honest: it's only cheaper by Apple standard. However, for those that do want a phone that can give them the Apple experience without costing the Earth, this is a decent option.
Yes, it's mostly the DNA of an iPhone 5, but there's so much more going on here - the colours are going to be a real selling point across the world. We can't see the specs drawing many people in – although those that just buy into the iDream without a thought for what's running under the hood will be chirpy at the thought of having to shell out less cash.
Obviously compared side by side with the iPhone 5S, it's not in the same league, but has a wholly different look compared to the larger device. Its got a slower processor and a lower-power camera, but it also has a complete collection of funky shells.
It's going to be interesting to see how the market takes to an all-new iPhone, with a new target market and an alternative way of marketing in a familiar product segment – but as we said, Apple has previous history here and it's managed to come out on top nearly every time.
With the smartphone market becoming congested at both the low and high end, the mid-range arena is quickly becoming an important battleground for the big players – so it seems Apple has missed a trick by not pricing the iPhone 5C to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and the HTC One Mini too.
But we're fans of what Apple has tried to do here, with the emphasis on colour and design over pure spec wars. It might look a little childish to some, but the opportunity to differentiate will likely be one to win over consumers – and if a brand can get its phone in your pocket, then the battle is already won.
We're updating this hands on review as we get more pictures - stay tuned for more info!