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Apple dips toes into lower-priced waters with colorful $99 iPhone 5C

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 11, 2013
Apple CEO Tim Cook and other executives today unveiled the iPhone 5S and the plastic-backed iPhone 5C, the first time in the six-year history of the iconic smartphone that the company has gone with a two-tier strategy.

During today's event, Craig Federighi, who heads all OS development at Apple after the company pushed out Scott Forstall last year, demonstrated several of the 200-some new features of iOS 7, which will power the iPhone 5S and 5C, including improved search, a single-swipe to bring up the control panel, and tweaks to the Siri digital assistant.

The first radical overhaul of Apple's mobile operating system since its inception, iOS 7 features a "flatter" design with fewer three-dimensional cues, and a complete or partial elimination of "skeuomorphic" embellishments, like the wooden bookshelves in iBooks and the lined paper in Notes.

The free iOS 7 upgrade -- which will be available to owners of iPhone 4 and later, the iPad 2 and later, and the fifth-generation iPod Touch -- will debut Sept 18, two days before the iPhone 5S and 5C reach retail and customers who pre-order.

Cook also spent a few minutes announcing that all new iOS buyers will be able to download free copies of the iPhone and iPad versions of Apple's iWork suite. The three apps -- Pages, Numbers and Keynote -- have been priced at $9.99 each.

The give-away followed an announcement this summer that Apple had created online editions of those apps, called iWork for iCloud, to compete more effectively with Google and Microsoft in the mobile productivity market.

Gottheil assumed that the freeing of the iOS apps meant that iWork for iCloud will also be offered gratis to customers. Currently, iWork for iCloud is in beta, although anyone with an iCloud account may try them out.

But for all the interesting additions to the flagship -- and the pricing of the 5C -- Apple failed to really come up with a "wow" moment, a problem critics have used to claim that the company has lost its innovation edge. "They took the 5S in reasonable directions," said Gottheil, sounding less than enthusiastic about the overall presentation.

Milanesi felt the same way during the event, but on reflection, she changed her mind. "Apple has added stuff that is difficult to articulate, but once you look at it, there's a lot here, even though there's not a 'Wow' thing. Apple's not taken the easy road."

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, explains pricing for the iPhone 5C. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)



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