The Apple iPhone 5C, the company’s first colored-plastic iPhone and its first to debut at $99, became available to preorder Sept. 13. How many people have rushed to order one, however, isn’t yet clear.
Apple has a habit of making its early successes known. The iPhone 5 became available for preorder Sept. 14, 2012, and three days later, Apple put out a statement saying that preorders had topped 2 million in just the first 24 hours—that it “shattered the previous record held by iPhone 4S.”
After the iPhone 4S became available for preorder, requests topped 1 million in a single day, Apple said in an October 2011 statement, “surpassing the previous single day preorder record of 600,000 held by iPhone 4.”
“We are blown away with the incredible customer response to iPhone 4S,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said at the time,” and we are thrilled that customers love iPhone 4S as much as we do.”
Does the world love the iPhone 5C as much as Apple does?
Apple isn’t saying. It hasn’t released a statement, and requests for comment went unanswered.
In China—a market for which the lower-cost plastic iPhone 5C is more directly intended—response is said to be modest.
China Unicom, China’s second-largest telecom, announced Sept. 16 that it had received more than 100,000 orders over a five-day period, according to China.org. Last year, the carrier recorded more than 200,000 orders for the iPhone 5 in just 48 hours.
Carrier China Telecom isn’t revealing its preorder numbers, the report added. And while Apple and China Mobile—China’s leading and the world’s largest carrier—are said to be working on a deal, Apple hasn’t announced it yet.
In a first, Apple introduced the iPhone 5C along with the higher-end iPhone 5S at an event in Beijing Sept. 11, a day after the phones received their U.S. unveiling. Traditionally, new iPhones have arrived in China months behind their U.S. release, but on Sept. 20, both phones will go on sale in both countries. The gesture speaks to Apple’s courtship of China, which it expects eventually to replace the United States as its number-one revenue generator.
However, Chinese consumers’ initial response to the 5C was chilly. Not only was the phone not the low-priced device they’d been hoping for, it will retail for $728, versus the less-than-$500 price point that Chinese consumers say they’d been expecting. Even U.S. analysts were expecting a better offer, predicting a price point for the Chinese market of between $300 and $450.
In an online poll, China Daily reported Sept. 11, 90 percent of Chinese consumers said they had “no interest” in 5C. And more than a few thought its hole-punched plastic case looked like a potato peeler.
Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi this week suggested that Apple could have offered a new iPhone at $400 or less by putting the internals of the iPhone 4, which has “specs that are still solid for a mid-tier phone in emerging and prepaid markets” into the body of the 5C.
“Such a device would have required little to no incremental investment for Apple to manufacture, provided a test of price elasticity for its offerings, and could have been discontinued/phased out at any point, had Apple been disappointed in its performance,” Sacconaghi told investors in a Sept. 16 research note.
Analyst Gene Munster, with Piper Jaffray, expects that Apple likely received pre-orders for 1 million iPhone 5C units.
Munster cruised around Twitter, for a sense of public sentiment, and compared what he read to past years’ comments. The day the 5C was announced, Munster found that sentiment was 66 percent positive, but two days later, positive sentiment was up to 76 percent, while positive comments around the 5S were 73 percent initially and 69 percent two days later.
“We believe people who followed tech closely and were interested in the announcement panned the 5C since it had minimal changes from the 5,” Munster wrote, according to Barrons, “but as more normal people became involved in the conversation, it appears that color matters to consumers and the 5C could be more popular among the total consumer base than some may have expected.”
Apple will report the results of its current quarter, and ideally also device sales numbers, in late October.