Picture two iPhone users. One has a spanking new iPhone 5S, the other has an iPhone 5 that he bought last year. What do you see? Two smartphone users of equally discerning taste who, at different times, bought the top-of-the-line product. The iPhone 5 user isn’t déclassé, he’s just waiting for the upgrade window to open.
Now, replace the iPhone 5 with an iPhone 5C. We see two iPhones bought at the same time… but the 5C owner went for the cheaper, plastic model.
We might not like to hear psychologists say we build parts of our identity with objects we surround ourselves with, but they’re largely right. From cars, to Burberry garments and accessories, to smartphones, the objects we choose mean something about who we are — or who we want to appear to be.
This is a subtle point, but I believe it’s exactly right. With the iPhone 5c, what you ended up having was a (very) visual clue to others that you went out of your way to buy a cheaper iPhone. Right or wrong, that’s likely the first message being conveyed.
Previously, if you bought the $99 iPhone (or the $0 two-year-old variety), all that was conveyed was that you may have just had the old top-of-the-line version and were waiting to upgrade.
Apple’s position as a premium brand cuts both ways. And that’s too bad because the iPhone 5c really is a great iPhone.