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8GB iPhone 5c is real, but no market-maker

Is a $73/£44 discount really going to make a difference?

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Apple's stroll towards the bottom of smartphone market has seen it officially, if quietly, release an iPhone 5c with a mere eight gigabytes of storage.

The new model appeared on Apple's Australian online store today priced at $AUD679. The 16GB and 32GB models are $739 and $869 respectively.

It has long been assumed that the 5c is Apple's attempt to win more customers in developing nations, especially India and China. In the latter nation Apple is 8GB 5c selling for RMB 4,088, compared to RMB 4,488 and RMB 5,288 for the 16GB and 32GB models. That's $US660 compared to $US725 and $US854.

By way of comparison, in Australia a Samsung Galaxy S4 can be had for $AUD618 from mainstream retailers. With 16GB of storage and a 1920x1080 display the S4 is handily ahead of the 5c's specs and leaves buyers enough left over cash for a case of imported beer. Another interesting comparison is the Chinese price of the 8GB iPhone 4s: RMB 3, 288. That's $US531 or $US130 cheaper than the 8GB 5c.

Apple's inscrutability means it is pointless asking it about just who it thinks will acquire an 8GB 5c, in the developed world or beyond.

One thing is clear: Apple currently has little or no intention of duking it out at the bottom end of the smartphone market, where $US100 is reportedly the sweet spot for those seeking to connect “the next billion” to the internet. Microsoft and Google are more than willing to go there, as Nokia's newly-minted Android range and Google's generous licence terms for the operating system attest.

Apple may therefore be about to win a few more customers with a cheaper handset. Whether it has a plan for the rest of the planet and the coming decade's wave of first-time phone-buyers remains unclear. ®

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