iPhone 5C: Colorful, but not quite cheap

The iPhone 5C is a pop of plastic-coated color, but the price isn't as low as some predicted.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, speaks on stage during the introduction of the new iPhone 5C in Cupertino, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013.
Stephen Lam/REUTERS
The five colors of the new iPhone 5C are seen on screen at Apple Inc's media event in Cupertino, California September 10, 2013.

The iPhone 5C was introduced with flying colors (literally) at an Apple press conference Tuesday in Cupertino, Calif., but the price may pale the announcement.

The “C” in this case refers to color (a surprise to few, as this was predicted by blogs and media sources for weeks). The new iPhone 5C shells shined onscreen at the press conference like an LED rainbow. Consumers can choose from bright green, white, blue, pink, and yellow, plus purchase a custom contrast-colored case with a grid of 42 circles cut out of the back (think a sheet of candy buttons) to make the colors pop even more. The color also extends inside the phone: The screen’s wallpaper will match the phone’s external hue.

Rainbow tones aside, the iPhone 5C has a few other key features. It is made with a polycarbonate shell, which means it is “beautifully, unapologetically plastic,” as Apple design chief Jony Ive introduced it at the conference. Internally, it is reinforced with steel.

"You are going to be blown away by how rigid and great it feels in your hand,” Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller added. Apple also played a video of its manufacturing process, emphasizing its extensive design, despite its cheaper materials.

The iPhone 5C also comes standard with iOS 7 (the new operating system from Apple) and has an A6 processor, 8 megapixel camera, and a 4-inch retina display.

Some also predicted the “C” could stand for cheap. They were right (sort of).

The iPhone 5C will start at $99 with a two-year contract, but without a contract the phone starts at $549. The dotted case is an extra $29. This puts the phone more in the middle price range of smart phones, rather than the low end, as many hoped. It is, however, a bit cheaper than other new evolutions of the phone: The iPhone 5 started at $199 when it was released in 2012. It will be available for pre-order on Sept. 13 and in stores on Sept. 20.

Many believe Apple is offering a cheaper phone in hopes of breaking into emerging markets, such as smart phone-obsessed China, where Apple will be holding a press conference Wednesday.

The 5C was announced alongside the new generation iPhone 5S and the official introduction of iOS 7. Will the vibrant colors, midrange price, and new operating system prove to be a game changer?  We'll have to wait and "C."

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