A customer looks at an Apple iPhone 5C at the Apple Retail Store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York September 20, 2013. / REUTERS/Adrees Latif

The "unapologetically plastic" 5c is finding less traction than expected with consumers

Early reports of low demand for Apple’s iPhone 5c have been confirmed by the news that Apple is reducing orders for the device over the final three months of the year.

Two Asian manufacturers of the plastic-cased 5c have received orders to scale back on production. Orders have been reduced by less than 20 per cent for Pegatron Corp and by a third for Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (otherwise known as Foxconn).

The news corresponds with research suggesting that Apple has sold twice as many units of the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c.

The Californian tech company has not released any official sales figures, but a survey carried out by market researcher Consumer Intelligence Research Partners suggests that the iPhone 5s comprised 64 per cent of recent iPhone sales compared to 27 per cent for the 5c. The remaining 9 per cent came from the iPhone 4s.

The data suggests that Apple were correct in predicting that the high-end smartphone market would continue to prosper, despite warnings from analysts that low and mid-range devices would now be the dominant force.

“The relative performance of all three iPhones is generally in line with the performance of the similarly priced phones following the launch of the iPhone 5 in 2012,” CIRP co-founder Josh Lowitz told AllThingsD.

“Over time, the lower-priced phones have tended to gain share versus the flagship phone, after the initial rush of dedicated upgraders to the newest device. So we expect that the 5c will account for a higher per cent of total U.S. iPhone sales in the coming months, but the design changes may alter that dynamic. The iPhone 5c may appeal to different buyers than the legacy 4S did last year, or the new 5s will this year.”

Although the sales figures initially appear unusual, it’s worth remembering that this year is the first that Apple has launched two new devices in a single year, and their usual two-tier sales strategy has been somewhat muddled by the changes.

Still, the marked preference for the 4S over the 5c suggests that the device is perceived as inferior in some way to the yearly-updated flagship devices.