a hand holding a phone

Last year, Apple released two new phones, the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c. The iPhone 5s is the elegant successor to the iPhone 5 that scans your finger to verify your identity. The iPhone 5c is, well, covered in candy-colored plastic.

While people expected the iPhone 5c to be an “entry level” phone that allowed Apple to tap into a more price sensitive market, that wasn’t Apple’s intention. An iPhone 5c without a contract (32gb hard drive) costs $649 compared to $749 for a 5s. It’s a little less expensive but certainly not a “smoking hot deal”.

Apple’s gambit with the high end pricing for the iPhone 5c has been largely viewed as a disappointment — at least by Apple’s high standards. Apple doesn’t split out iPhone revenue by sub-product, so it’s a bit of a guessing game whether sales for the the 5c were sluggish. The press certainly thinks so because Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed in an earnings announcement that the “mix” of sales was more towards the 5s than they had expected and that 5c demand was “different than [they] thought”.

So, rather than parsing cryptic phrases from Apple executives, is there is there any hard data that the shows iPhone 5c was a flop by Apple standards?

One thing you could do is compare the resale value of iPhone 5c to the iPhone 5s. Similar to how an unpopular car has a low resale value on Kelly Blue Book, if the iPhone 5c is a “dud” with consumers, you’d expect its resale value to tank on the secondary market.

As part of Priceonomics Data Services, we track the used prices of phones and tablets for companies interested in that sort of stuff. So, we have this sort of data!

An iPhone 5c (32gb) sells in online auctions for an median price of $381, including shipping. A similarly-sized iPhone 5s sells for $535. So how much of their original value do each of the phones keep?

chart, bar chart

Source: Priceonomics Data Services

The used iPhone 5c keeps 59% of its value while a 5s maintains 71%. So, if you pay the extra $100 for the new 5s, you can make that money back by reselling it later for $158 more than a used 5c. That’s $58 in free money!

So, a data point that the iPhone 5c was a flop, at least by Apple standards. And how do these iPhone resale values compare to Android? Stay tuned for a future post.

Note: For full data on buyback and resale prices for phones and tablets, contact Priceonomics Data Services. This post was written by Rohin Dhar, who you can follow on Twitter and Google Plus.