Making the iPhone 5C Good but Not Too Good

Apple's iPhone launch event is confirmed for September 10. It will take place at Apple's HQ in Cupertino, California. The company is expected to announce multiple devices at the event, including a new iPhone 5S, potentially an iPhone 5C and possibly an iWatch wearable device. There may also be new iPads.

The iPhone 5C is real and may come in a variety of colors (5 is the rumor) -- hence the colorful bubbles in the invitation. The forthcoming 5S is supposed to come in a champagne or gold in addition to traditional black and white. Pricing of these devices is uncertain, though the 5S will likely follow past pricing ($199 with 2-year contract, etc.). 

Some reports have suggested the 5C will cost between $400 and $500 unlocked. Carrier subsidy pricing is TBD. The real question surrounding the 5C is how appealing will it be? How "good" wil it be?

Apple is walking a tightrope.

The 5C is intended to make Apple more competitive in developing markets and at the "lower end" of the market where there's more price sensitivity. If the phone is "good enough" and cheap enough -- does the "C" stand for "cheap" or "China" or "color"? -- it could potentially cannibalize sales of the 5S. But if the phone is not of sufficiently high quality it will fail and Apple's brand will suffer.

I suspect that Apple will include a previous-generation chip in the 5C (perhaps the current 5 chip), whereas the 5S will get a new more powerful processor. There may also be memory limitations with the 5C. However the apps and app ecosystem should be the same.

The primary differentiators will thus likely be price, color, materials (plastic) and processing power/speed. But how does Apple build an attractive product that is competitive but doesn't overshadow its more profitable flagship product? That's the dilemma.