Apple’s magic weapon could be an iPhone 5C with LTE

There’s a lot of talk about the budget iPhone and how it will help Apple increase its market share in some emerging markets, where the current iPhone 5 can be considered out of reach of the buying public. A budget iPhone or the iPhone 5C will definitely be an attractive proposition for these markets, but Apple has to be wary of competition from Android smartphones and low-end Windows Phone devices in these markets. This calls for some key differentiators from Apple.

Of course, the iPhone 5C won’t have top-of-the-line internals, but that’s never been Apple’s play. Apple’s budget iPhone will primarily be targeted at the markets of China and India and will go head on against low-cost, high-spec'd Android smartphones. The price of the 5C is likely to be close to Rs 25,000 (around $350-400). While this isn’t really a budget phone in the traditional sense, Apple showed its budget pricing strategy when it launched the cheaper iPod nano and mini. While they were still priced significantly higher than competing PMPs, the nano and mini were the budget iPods for Apple. Similarly, the iPhone 5C is likely to be priced higher than what we consider budget and will be more in line with the current iPhone 4 price in India.

The plastic back of the rumoured budget iPhone

An alleged leaked picture of the budget iPhone


The budget iPhone, like Apple’s previous iPhones, will come with a promise of a great user experience in an affordable, polycarbonate body, but not sky high specs. There has been talk of Siri not being present in the iPhone 5C, to allow for less powerful hardware due to cost considerations. But there’s one more thing Apple can do to really set its iPhone 5C apart. And that’s LTE.

India and China use the same TD-LTE (Time Division-Long Term Evolution) technology for high-speed mobile internet and this makes Apple’s task easier. If you look at the crop of phones in India that can support TD-LTE, there’s the Huawei Ascend P1, the HTC One and the LG Vu II. The P1 is by no means a bestseller and its low-end specs are underwhelming, while the Vu never took off either. The HTC One’s iPhone 5-like high price puts it beyond many buyers. The iPhone 5C can sit in the middle of the bunch, in terms of price and specs. Endowing it with the relevant LTE support could be a winning move that brings Apple back into the race in India, especially considering that Samsung has been tight-lipped about its 4G phone plans for the country.

Premium design, great user experience, but few takers

Metal unibody will be dropped in favour of a plastic body


Given the fact that Reliance Jio Infocomm and Airtel will launch full-fledged 4G services in the next few months, Apple has a great opportunity to align its marketing efforts with the carriers. Airtel and Apple have had a working relationship ever since the first iPhone came to India, and Airtel would obviously want quicker adoption of its 4G services. One way of doing this is bringing the iPhone 5C into the fold as a device for 4G. It gives Airtel a champion device at launch and Apple, the much-needed extra exposure.

In China too, a reported deal struck with China Mobil, hints at TD LTE coming to the next set of iDevices. An agreement to use Qualcomm chips that can support both TD-LTE and the more widely-used FDD LTE is proving to be a major coup for Apple. In all likelihood, the iPhone 5S will have 4G that works in India and China, but it’s the iPhone 5C with LTE that could be the "one more thing" that really makes Apple shine.

Published Date: Aug 19, 2013 06:39 pm | Updated Date: Aug 19, 2013 06:39 pm