There was a time when Apple product launches were genuine surprises, with the best efforts of the tech and mainstream press to leak details in advance thwarted by Apple’s famous secrecy. Those times have passed. Any one of a thousand pre-launch leak round-ups published in the build-up to the latest launch will have saved you the bother of following the launch yourself.
The most highly-anticipated news was the launch of the iPhone 5c - an unprecedented fork on the iPhone roadmap as it was launched alongside the equally new iPhone 5s. The pre-launch assumption had been that Apple, concerned by the fact that most smartphone growth was coming from developing markets and at lower price-points than it currently participates in, was going to sacrifice some margin for the sake of volume (as tracked in the WSS report: Global Smartphone Vendor Market Share by Region: Q2 2013). The principal vehicle for this would be iPhone 5c, which would be significantly cheaper than the full-fat iPhone 5s.
All of this happened bar the expected price differential. The new iPhone 5c will cost just US$100 less than the new 5s, when subsidized at US carriers, while the 1-year-old iPhone 5 will be discontinued. The 5c will also have very similar specs to the iPhone 5 so, in effect, the iPhone 5c replaces the newly-obsolete iPhone. Furthermore the 2-year-old iPhone 4s will still be offered for $100 less than the 5c, so the new supposedly mass-market iPhone isn’t even the cheapest one.
The new iPhone 5s was the incremental improvement expected, with a faster A7 chip and an improved camera package. The main true innovation in the 5s was the insertion of a fingerprint-reader in the home button, which enables you to do things like unlock the device and log in to iTunes just by touching the button. There was no smartwatch or other surprises announced
On the whole this was a slightly disappointing launch. It’s hard to see how the 5c, which will launch at the same time (20 September) in in the same places (US, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the UK) as the 5s will solve any of the challenges Apple faces in emerging markets. Investors seem to agree, with Apple shares down -3% at time of writing.