Apple shuffles iPad line, sells cheaper iPhone 5c overseas


(EPA/KAY NIETFELD)

Apple added a new phone to its iPhone line Tuesday, but don't get too excited: It's not what you may think.

The firm has released a new version of the iPhone 5c to some overseas markets: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Australia. The new 8GB model of the mid-tier, plastic-backed version of the iPhone has half as much memory of the next-cheapest model, and gets a modest price cut in the process. In the UK, the new model costs £429 (about $712), or just £40 ($66) cheaper than the 16GB model.

The phone, first released in September, was supposed to act as a toehold for Apple in the mid- and low-range market as the demand for high-end smartphones such as the iPhone 5s starts to level off across the globe. But even with cheaper material costs, Apple chose to price the phone at $99 on-contract and $549 off-contract. That hardly made it the bargain phone that many expected the firm to launch to pick up first-time smartphone buyers in countries where carriers don't heavily subsidize the cost of phones, such as China.

Even at the new price, there are still legions of phones running Google's Android operating system that may better suit the wallets of new smartphone buyers.  But while a really cheap phone may help Apple sales, chief executive  Tim Cook has also been clear that Apple cares less about taking a big share of the market than it does about profits -- meaning that it's unlikely to take a full-on jump into the budget smartphone market as companies such as Samsung, Huawei and ZTE have done.

That said, it shouldn't be that surprising that Apple is making some tweaks to its product line. Cook said in the company's last financial earnings call that the mix of iPhone models wasn't exactly what the firm had expected, with lower-than-expected demand for the cheaper, colorful phone.

"If we think it's in our best interest to make a change, then we'll make one," he said at the time.

Apple also shuffled its iPad lineup Tuesday, opting to discontinue the iPad 2 and revive its 4th-generation iPad as the entry point for its tablet line.

The fourth-generation iPad temporarily disappeared from the product line with last year's introduction of the iPad Air, but it's now back in the store with a 16 GB model. The tablet has a 9.7-inch Retina display and an A6x chip, and costs $399 -- the same price as the smaller but faster iPad mini. A version that connects to cellular networks costs $529.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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