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Former Apple Inc. Exec Explains Why the iPhone 5C Flopped

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Apple's former marketing guru Ken Segall criticizes the company's decision to be "unapologetically plastic" for the iPhone 5C.

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) products are known for many things -- sleek design, solid construction, regimented ecosystem -- but "cheap" certainly isn't one of them. Consumers have come to expect a premium price for Apple devices, but with that notorious "Apple Tax" comes the assurance that they're getting a premium product.

Which is why the release of the iPhone 5C last year was such a curious choice for Cupertino.

Alongside the half-measure "S" update to its iPhone line, Apple released the cheaper iPhone 5C model that sported a look that was "unapologetically plastic," to quote a beaming Jony Ive, Apple's SVP of design. Although touted as an inexpensive alternative to the top-of-the-line iPhone 5S, an off-contract iPhone 5C was only $100 cheaper than the iPhone 5S and cost a hefty $549 -- and that was just the low-end 16GB model. For 32GB of space, consumers had to shell out $649 for the iPhone 5C.

In its defense, however, that certainly sounds like Apple's version of "cheap." But few customers could justify saving a hundred bucks to buy a new smartphone that wasn't the latest and greatest.

Even regarding the iPhone 5C as Apple's way to make inroads in emerging markets, the device was a pricey letdown. In China, the product debuted with the exorbitant cost of RMB 4488, or $733 USD. Comparatively, the iPhone 5C cost more than double at launch than the Mi-3 flagship phone made by Chinese heavy-hitter Xiaomi.

While many regarded the costliness of Apple's "cheap" iPhone to be its number-one downfall, former Apple marketing exec -- and the guy who famously put the "i" in iMac -- Ken Segall recently explained why he believed the iPhone 5C strategy was doomed from the start.

In a post on his personal blog, Segall details how Apple's release of a mid-level device, no matter how expensive, was antithetical to the principals indoctrinated by its former CEO.

"First, Steve Jobs was right," Segall writes. "Apple is a company that doesn't do 'cheap.' It makes products for people who care about design, simplicity, quality, and a great experience -- and are willing to pay more for these things." iphone 5c plastic case

He adds, "For Apple to compromise in any of these areas would be a violation of the Prime Directive."

Segall also believes the iPhone 5C's marketing campaign relied too heavily on trying to turn a negative into a positive -- namely the plastic design. He notes that although iPhones sported a plastic body before, a shift from the sleek aluminum construction to a pastel-colored, almost toy-like design would widely be considered a step backward. To boastfully refer to it as "unapologetically plastic" only served to be a pithy catch phrase of Apple's blind hubris at the hands of critics.

"The 'unapologetically plastic' line in the product video was so interesting and memorable, it got played back over and over in articles about the lackluster demand for iPhone 5C," Segall writes. "Not exactly what Apple intended."

This isn't the first time that Segall has been critical of Apple's strategies. Last April, months before the release of both the 5S and 5C, he lamented the fact that Apple had begun off-year "S" updates in the first place, especially when Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) was releasing a new flagship device every few months. (See: Apple's Problem With iPhone Numbers)

"[T]acking an S onto the existing model number sends a rather weak message. It says that this is our 'off-year' product, with only modest improvements," Segall said. "If holding off on the big number change achieved some great result, I might think otherwise. But look what happened with iPhone 5."

Adding, "[P]ersonally, I wish Apple never created a 4S."

And now, Apple might feel the same way about the 5C.

See also:

Apple's Security Breach: 4 Steps to Take Now

4 Reasons WhatsApp May Be 'Worth More' Than $19 Billion to Facebook

Galaxy S5 Release Is Moment of Truth for Samsung Story
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