updated 06:54 pm EDT, Wed September 4, 2013
Could hint at Apple retaining base iPhone 5 as entry-level model
A move by Canadian wireless carrier Telus may hint at Apple's strategy for its product line following the expected introduction of new iPhones at the September 10 event in Cupertino. The carrier, in a leaked inventory system screenshot, has plans to discontinue the 32GB and 64GB black versions of the iPhone 5 on on September 28 -- just one day after the expected arrival of the iPhone 5S, and a week after the expected arrival of the iPhone 5C. The move may hint at a plan to retire the iPhone 4/4S design and make the 16GB iPhone 5 the entry-level model.
In that scenario, the iPhone 5 would be "free with contract" option, leaving the expected "iPhone 5C" as the mid-range "$99 with contract" or purchasable outright for a more modest price option (the cost is thought to be somewhere in the $400-500 range), and the iPhone 5S as the new top-end, selling at the same price as the current contract and factory-locked prices ($199 and starting at $649, respectively). Due to a leak from accessory maker Case-Mate, the iPhone 5C is expected to hit retailers 10 days after next Tuesday's announcement, on September 20, with the iPhone 5S debuting at retail one week later on September 27 -- one day before the iPhone 5 is discontinued, reports MobileSyrup.
Retailers may still have some iPhone 4, 4S and larger-capacity iPhone 5 stock to clear by the time the new lineup is announced, which could lead to sales on the hardware and a dropping of the iPhone 4S and 5 to "free with contract" status if any remain by that point. All of Apple's current iPhones, including the iPhone 4, can run the next iOS major update, iOS 7 -- meaning that users will continue to get additional value from their iPhones and increasing the attractiveness of the reduced and lower-end iPhone 5 and 5C options.
It will be interesting to see if the iPhone 5C's probably mid-range unlocked price will spur outright sales over contract sales. It should also be noted that one analyst with a strong record for accuracy -- KGI's Ming-chi Kuo -- believes the iPhone 5 will be discontinued but that the iPhone 4S (which still sports a 30-pin connector) and the iPhone 5 will continue to be sold until the end of the year. Given Apple's push to move customers to the Lightning connector, any holdover for the iPhone 4S seems unlikely however.
The iPhone 5C is expected to have essentially the same feature set as the current iPhone 5, with its major features being iOS 7, its mid-range price for outright ownership, and its availability in a variety of colors. The phone is thought to be aimed at developing markets outside the western world, and targeted to the youth market in North America and Europe, though the full feature set of the iPhone 5C is not yet known.
The iPhone 5S is expected to offer a new processor (the A7), faster graphics, a new and more powerful 12MP camera, a fingerprint sensor in the home button to increase security and reduce theft and other internal improvements. In addition to Telus, the iPhone will likely be available on or close to its retail debut from Rogers, Fido and Bell -- with smaller sellers such as Wind, Koodoo, Mobilicity, Virgin and SaskTel getting the new iPhones shortly afterwards.