Is the End Near for Apple’s iPhone 5C?


Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook spoke about the disappointing sales figures for the iPhone 5C during the company’s earnings call on Monday. Apple didn’t give exact figures for each model of the new iPhone lineup launched in the fall, but Cook did say that demand for the less-expensive iPhone with a colorful plastic backing “turned out to be different than we thought,” according to Apple Insider.

The company’s total iPhone sales during the last quarter of 2013 totaled 51 million. Analysts had expected the figure to be closer to 55 million.

Cook said the reason iPhone 5C sales were so low was because customers looking for a new iPhone wanted the higher-end model if they were already going to shell out the cash anyway. The 5S’s Touch-Screen ID was also highly appealing to consumers. “I think the 5s, people are really intrigued with Touch ID,” Cook said, per AppleInsider. “It’s a major feature that has excited people. And I think that associated with the other things that are unique to the 5s, got the 5s to have a significant amount more attention and a higher mix of sales.”

Cook declined to say what the future holds for the iPhone 5C. Some analysts cited by Apple Insider said they believe the cheaper phone will do better in the long term, but rumors have been floating around that Apple will terminate the line altogether. The Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing anonymous sources, that Apple won’t be using a cheaper plastic backing on any of its future iPhones.

This fall was the first time the company chose to release two different iPhone models. The more-expensive 5S is made of aluminum and has the much-desired Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which locks the phone more easily and more securely than typical four-digit passwords.

Before the iPhone 5C was released, analysts speculated that it would be Apple’s low-end model, cheap enough to help the company better penetrate emerging markets. Markets like China and India have become increasingly important for smartphone makers to see growth, as the smartphone market in first-world countries is reaching its saturation point. But when the device was released, many were disappointed at its still-high price — $549 without a contract — that placed it out of range for many consumers in countries like China, where device subsidies are much less common for wireless carriers than in the United States.

Cook responded to criticism on the phone’s price by saying that Apple’s “not in the junk business,” showing that the company is dedicated to serving its affluent user base rather than expanding to include a bigger demographic of people. And that user base hasn’t shown much interest in the colorful, plastic iPhone.

More from Wall St. Cheat Sheet:

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS