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The stupidest possible explanation of why the iPhone 5c is a flop

Published Mar 4th, 2014 10:30AM EST
iPhone 5c Cases

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Regular BGR readers might notice that while we report on research from many industry analysts who cover Apple, it has been several years since we’ve written about anything from Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster. It’s not that we have anything against Mr. Munster personally, it’s just that his sources are patently wrong about almost everything, his methods are sometimes borderline comical, and his theories are often ridiculous. After three Munster-free years, however, the analyst on Monday issued some new research to clients that included a hypothesis so outlandish, we couldn’t help but cover it.

The iPhone 5c, it would seem, is a flop. Some believe the iPhone 5c’s apparent failure hurt Apple more than you might think. Others say the iPhone 5c is just what Apple needed, despite its slow sales.

Whatever the case may be, numerous reports suggested that Apple cut iPhone 5c orders with its suppliers almost immediately after the handset launched last September, and nearly every industry watcher covering Apple believes sales of “the other high-end iPhone” have been a big disappointment.

But why have sales been so slow?

Most explanations we’ve seen over the past few months have gone with the common sense approach: it’s too expensive. Why would someone buy last year’s iPhone wrapped in a plastic case when for $100 more, they can get the brand new iPhone 5s, with its Touch ID fingerprint scanner, faster 64-bit A7 processor, M7 motion co-processor and sleeker design?

But Gene Munster offered another possible explanation in his note to clients on Monday, and so our “WTF of the week” has come a bit early this week.

“First, we believe there is a significant value increase in purchasing the 5S (Touch ID, A7 chip) vs the 5C and consumers recognize this as well,” Munster began (we’re with you so far, Gene!). “Second, we believe that the concept around colors as a unique selling point has not worked as well as it had with iPods because a significant number of smartphone users cover their smartphones with cases, which was typically not the trend for iPod owners.”


Smartphone cases, it turns out, might be the reason the iPhone 5c flopped. People like colors on some gadgets, Mean Gene suggests, but not on smartphones that consumers will just end up covering with a case anyway.

(Remember how hard it was to find a gold iPhone 5s in the weeks and even months following the phone’s debut? Know how you see gold iPhone 5s models everywhere you go? Right.)

Hilariously flawed logic aside, Munster and his team polled 1,003 consumers last week and found that just 6% of them plan to buy an iPhone 5c in the future. A similar poll in December found that 9% planned to purchase an iPhone 5c, so the limited interest in Apple’s iPhone 5c is apparently continuing to dwindle.

Whether the waning interest in the 5c is because people don’t want to cover the pretty colors with a case or because saving just $100 and getting a significantly compromised experience is unappealing, it may be a good indication that Apple’s reported plan to discontinue the “C” line this year is the proper move.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.