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Apple Hopes New iPhone Will Help It Compete In Developing World


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. Apple unveiled two new phones today. One of them, the iPhone 5C, is a lower-priced phone aimed at customers in the developing world. The other, a high-end model, comes with a fingerprint scanner called Touch ID. Now, the unveiling comes as the company faces pressure on several fronts - from rival phone makers, and from Wall Street investors clamoring for breakthrough products.

NPR's Laura Sydell was at the product announcement today at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., and joins us now. And Laura, let's start with the thing everybody is talking about, which is this fingerprint reader. What more can you tell us about it?

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Well, it is indeed a fingerprint reader. When you put your finger on the home button on the iPhone, it reads your finger; and it will automatically unlock your phone. And of course, for those people who are sick of remembering passwords, it's one less password to remember. And it will also, at this point, work with a few apps, I think. And I guess what - in terms of breakthroughs, it could potentially start something. Other companies could say - if it's popular, they could start to add fingerprint instead of password.

CORNISH: So what are some of the privacy and security concerns that, I assume, people will have when it comes to connecting your fingerprints to your phone?


SYDELL: Yeah, it does seem a little creepy, doesn't it? Well, this is what Apple says. Apple says that it is only on your phone. It is not going into the Cloud. You have possession of your fingerprints. And it's optional. So if you're uncomfortable using your fingerprint as an ID, you don't have to use it.

CORNISH: Now, perhaps the biggest change for Apple is actually this new, low-cost version of the iPhone. How is it different from the other models?

SYDELL: Well, you know, Jony Ive, the lead designer for Apple, said it's unapologetically plastic - which is kind of funny because Apple has always prided itself in using aluminum and these very high-quality materials. But the back of this is a solid sheet of plastic, and it comes in many different colors. So that's one of the biggest differences.

It is not as powerful as, of course, as the new iPhone 5S. But in many ways, you know, it's up to par, I think, with maybe like an iPhone 4S. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The iPhone 5C is comparable to the iPhone 5.] So it looks pretty good. But I think the plastic is really the biggest change - and the price. You can get one for as little as 99 bucks for a two-year contract. And if you want to get the higher-end iPhone, that's going to cost you $199 to get in.

CORNISH: So this low-cost version of the iPhone - I mean, what's the thinking behind this? What's the motivation?

SYDELL: Apple's shareholders have not been happy. The company is losing market share, particularly in China and India and developing countries, because they don't have a product that's more reasonably priced. So other companies - like Samsung, in particular - are able to get into these markets.

The idea here is, indeed, to try and give people an offering they can afford, that's got, you know, the Apple - the sexy Apple name behind it. And when they showed off an ad for the new product, they showed people of many colors from all over the world. And of course, the phone itself, the plastic comes in many colors. So I guess the question is whether or not just lowering the price will be enough. It's still probably going to be fairly expensive, compared to some of the other phones that are in the developing world.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Laura Sydell. Laura, thanks so much.

SYDELL: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: September 15, 2013 at 11:00 PM CDT
In this story, we say the iPhone 5C is comparable to the iPhone 4S. Actually, it's comparable to the iPhone 5.