Apple unveiled on Tuesday an iPhone with a fingerprint scanner to help it stand out in a crowded field of similar smartphones, plus a cheaper plastic model for emerging markets that proved pricier than expected.
The "iPhone 5C" comes in five hues - blue, green, pink, yellow and white - and starts in the United States at $99 with a contract, or $549 without. But an unlocked 5C will go for $730 and above in China, more than the average urban resident earns in a month and a price that may disappoint those hoping for a more aggressive assault on the world's largest cellular market.
Apple has been losing ground to Samsung and Huawei in emerging markets such as China, and a more affordable 5C was deemed instrumental to helping it claw back market share.
It also needs to sharply expand its existing distribution. The company on Wednesday did not address speculation that it is on the verge of signing a distribution pact with China Mobile Ltd, the country's biggest wireless carrier with more than 740 million subscribers.
Otherwise, details of the two new iPhone models had been telegraphed ahead of time in several media reports, leaving the US launch devoid of major surprises, and Apple shares dropped more than 2 percent on Tuesday to $494.64.
The pricier "5S" begins at $199 with a contract and also comes in three colours - gray, silver and gold. It sports a faster processor, a camera that takes bursts of photos and chooses the best, and the fingerprint-scanner that unlocks the phone with a touch.
The cheaper phone goes on sale online on Friday, while the pricier gadget will be available from September 20. For the first time, it will sell in China at the same time as the United States, a move expected to severely curtail the underground market for smuggled phones in the world's No. 2 economy.
The 5C marks a departure from Apple's focus on purely premium phones, but not as much as some expected.
"It means Apple will hold on to margins but clearly they are not going after the very low-end of the market, which will disappoint some investors," said Shannon Cross of Cross Research.
"This is their first foray into multiple colours and the plastic back. Keep in mind by next year they would have probably have discounted this down, so I think there's still opportunity."
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