Who were we really kidding, thinking Apple might release a “budget” iPhone? I think, mostly ourselves. Apple has proven time and time again that when it comes to releasing new products it’s all about how it looks and feels. Apple is all about offering up an experience rather than meeting a specific target market with a new device.

Apple’s iPad mini was the perfect example of that last year. Instead of starting off with the plan to release a small, cheap Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire competitor, it released a full iPad experience in a smaller form factor. Analysts predicted the “budget” iPad might cost up to $250. Apple released it for $329.

AAPL stock continued it’s downward spiral because investors – rather stupidly – had listened to analysts and expected a cheap Apple product. When they didn’t get it, their confidence in Apple dropped.

iPad mini went on to sell in huge numbers, and even cannibalized sales of the larger Retina-equipped iPads with 9.7″ displays. Why? Because people loved the experience of using a smaller iPad. I know. I’m one of them.

After owning my iPad mini a couple of weeks, it became clear that my 3rd generation iPad would be increasingly neglected. I eventually sold it, and I don’t miss anything about it, expect perhaps having that gorgeous display.

Budget iPhone rumors really heated up this year. Analysts stating that Apple would be “stupid not to” release a phone that fit in to its own ‘below $300′ price point. (SIM-free price).

They said it was to address the markets in China, India and Brazil where people couldn’t afford an iPhone. Apple showed yesterday that it simply doesn’t care about gaining market share. Especially if that means selling a cheap phone offering a poor experience.

Think of it this way. If a first time smartphone buyer buys a sub-$300 Android device, there’s little chance they’ll experience a great device. Unless – of course – they go for the Nexus 4, which is nowhere near as widely available as most devices in the same price bracket. Having a poor experience on an Android device, regardless of which one it is, to the non tech-savvy consumer will paint a pretty bleak picture of Android as a whole and tarnishes the reputation of the entire range of devices. That would never do for Apple.

Let’s face the facts: Apple is a billion dollar company. It’s very well connected, and has access to manufacturing plants and component makers across East Asia. If it really wanted to it could mock up a plastic phone, dedicate a Foxconn plant to churning out $250 smartphones and sell them to anyone who wants one, it could do it.

But it doesn’t. Because Apple values creating great devices and experiences more than it cares about who’s winning the market share war. And because focuse – according to Steve Jobs – is more about saying “no” than saying “yes”. Just look at the PC/Mac market. Macs have been below the 5% for years, but does Apple release cheap Macs to sell more? No.

I read a great article this morning over at Stratechery.com, talking about yesterday’s keynote. How Apple is saying “we’re cool” and that paying for an iPhone is so worth it.

My favorite section:

This attitude and emphasis on higher-order differentiation – the experience of using an iPhone – dominated the entire keynote and the presentation of features, with particularly emphasis throughout on the interplay between software and hardware.

  • Retail Look at our new store with an entire room devoted to service. Paying more for an iPhone is worth it.
  • iOS 7 You get all our new features, right away, for free. Only Apple gives updates immediately. Paying more for an iPhone is worth it.
  • iWork, iPhoto, and iMovie You get amazing software, that’s only available on iOS, with your new iPhone. Paying more for an iPhone is worth it.2
  • iPhone 5C It looks and feels amazing, with a “bespoke” assembly and “solid dense feel you would not expect from a plastic product.” Paying more for an iPhone is worth it.
  • A7 iPhone has the best performance. Paying more for an iPhone is worth it.
  • Infinity Blade Look at this game that is only possible on an iPhone. Paying more for an iPhone is worth it.
  • M7 iPhone fully integrates into every part of your day, and has exclusive apps like Nike+. Paying more for an iPhone is worth it.
  • Camera We don’t focus on stats, we focus on helping you take better pictures through our integration of hardware and software. Paying more for an iPhone is worth it.
  • Touch ID Apple notices and spends time on the tiny annoyances that you didn’t even notice, and does so by integrating hardware and software. And we want to protect your data, not use it. Paying more for an iPhone is worth it.

If you disagree, well, we won’t sell you an iPhone.

The iPhone 5c is everything the iPhone 5 was technologically, but it’s a lot more fun and “cool”. It’s colorful and bright. It’s “unapologetically plastic” but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap.

The plastic shell is reinforced with a steel chassis, giving it – according to almost every initial hands on experience – a very solid and dense feel. Its price? $549 SIM-free for the 16GB model, $649 for the 32GB. Even the most pessimistic price prediction prior to the event had it pegged at a maximum of $450. Like the iPad mini, Apple’s iPhone 5c is “too expensive”.

Jokes about the ‘c’ standing for ‘cheap’ all but stopped as soon as pricing was unveiled. This was not the device rumors and analyst reports told us it was going to be. We thought we wanted a cheaper iPhone. But I’m not entirely sure we did. I know I didn’t.

The problem for the iPhone 5, 4S and 4 is that they were built to be so much more luxurious than the iPhone 3G and 3GS. Those plastic devices weren’t cheap, but they were really great to hold in hand.

Apple replaced a great feeling device with a device that was technologically incredible, and showed stunning levels of attention to detail in manufacturing, and showed how Apple could seemingly achieve the impossible in hardware design.

Making phones thinner than we thought possible. People loved them, but they didn’t love the risk of dropping them or – with the iPhone 5 – scratching the beautiful slate colored aluminum.

Ever since I sold my 3GS to buy the iPhone 4, I’ve missed that more comfortable feeling device. It’s why I was so delighted to see Jony Ive make sure we heard how great the 5c feels in hand in the promo video.

To reiterate how it’s not just a cheap plastic phone dressed up as something more special, Apple makes sure we know it took a lot of time and effort to design and create a shell that has no visible lines or seams anywhere.

It’s a smooth plastic, and it goes through several process adding protective layers to increase durability and make it all glossy. And it’s why I’m not buying the iPhone 5s.

The 5c features all the high-end technology we saw in the iPhone 5, but it’s placed inside a comfortable and durable body. My phone will no longer be something I’m afraid of dropping, it won’t be that “precious” device that needs to protected all the time. It’s much more personal, and it’ll feel like it wants to be used constantly.

“But, Cam – the iPhone 5s has a 64-bit chip, an awesome camera and Touch ID.”

All these things are good. Really they are. I’m incredibly excited about the technology inside the 5s. But here’s the deal: Not one time during using my iPhone 5 have I wished the camera was better, or that it was faster, or rendered graphics more smoothly. I’ve certainly never wanted a fingerprint scanner.

It’s still one of the best phones on the market. The only thing I’ve wished is that it was more comfortable to hold, and looked and felt like a real “daily driver”. Something I could throw in my pocket, or in a bag without worrying that its look would be ruined.

Another big reason I won’t be buying the 5s is that I hate all the color combinations. The gold is not my style, “space grey” is a real downgrade from slate, and I’ve never been keen on the silver/white.

One thing I’ve learned from having plenty of phones over the years is that a phone can have all bells and whistles attached, but if I don’t like the design, I’m not going to want to look at it for a year and use it as my own device. I’d rather take a slight trade-off in specs (and it is only slight) and get a device that I think looks fantastic and feels great.

What’s more, here in the UK, I can get the 32GB version of the 5c for £549. Spending that much on the 5s would get me a 16GB which just isn’t enough storage. For a 32GB option I’m going over the £600 mark which I’ve been happy to do in previous years. But in previous years, the only other option was to buy last year’s device. This year, we have two new phones, and I prefer the colorful.

In short: I love the look of the 5c and I love that Apple’s stuck to its values and released a phone it’s proud of. Not one to satisfy the wondering thoughts of financial analysts whose only care is to see Wall Street happy. The way it looks, the iPhone 5c could be my favorite iPhone of all time and I’m more excited about this than I have been about any other iPhone before.

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