The 5C doesn't have the fingerprint sensor. Instead it has colors—five of them. Apple has also created a series of cases that have matching or contrasting colors, and holes in the cases to show off the phone color. The 5C also has a steel frame designed to improve antenna reception, which will be good news to earlier iPhone customers. The 5S still has the aluminum case that the earlier iPhones had.
If all of this sounds underwhelming, that may explain why Apple's stock took a dive of about 17 points when the new phones were unveiled. Even the new lower price for the 5C didn't motivate investors who probably noticed that model's price really isn't that low compared with the competition. It's just $100 less than the 5S.
What did Apple need to do to really fire up the marketplace? Apparently it did not, unfortunately. The most significant improvements, such as the 64-bit processor, mean little to users who really just want to make phone calls, send texts or do a bit of work. The fancy camera on the 5S is nice, but it's not as fancy as the camera on the Nokia Lumia 1020, which runs Windows Phone 7. Even the new Apple camera software doesn't seem to have anything better than Nokia's.
But perhaps the most important and surprising factor is the Apple iPhone 5S is still being delivered with a relatively tiny 4-inch screen, which I've already found to be too small to be useful. Despite the fact that the competition has already moved to larger screens, Apple remains firmly stuck in the past. And the past doesn't win points when it comes to market share or prestige.
Of course there are plenty of people who will go out and buy the iPhone 5S convinced that it's worth its $649 retail price because it's cool. There will be others who are convinced that the 5C is a bargain because it's $100 cheaper. Apple will sell plenty of iPhones to these people. But these aren't going to convince the Android and Windows Phone users to switch, and that means that Apple isn't going to stage a comeback because of these phones.
Yes, the Apple faithful will sing hosannas with the arrival of the new iPhones on Sept. 20, but a company doesn't win back market share by selling phones to the faithful, a fact that Wall Street obviously noticed when Apple's share price dropped as soon as the 5C and 5S were introduced.
While I was already pretty sure what Apple was planning for this announcement, I was still disappointed. I'd always hoped that the company had something innovative rather than iterative in the wings. Sadly, it didn't.