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New iPhones? Not Really

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Early returns are being tallied. Many are finding reasons to say they dislike the two new iPhones Apple (AAPL) announced yesterday. Not enough of this. Way too little of that. In the long run it really doesn't matter. iPhone fans will find reasons to fall in love all over again.

As for timing, just as current iPhone 4s users are reaching the end of the two-year contract obligations, Apple is offering two new choices. The top-of-the-line 5s model and the new, less expensive, 5c look very different at first glance but are quite similar when you see what's inside.

Apple shares were losing nearly 6% to $466.45 in early afternoon trading.

Apple is quite proud of the fact that the iPhone 5 runs on its new A7 processor - the world's first 64-bit smartphone chip. That's pretty cool especially if all the millions of legacy apps in Apple's store run properly on the new system. Apple didn't address that but did show what a new 64-bit app looks like running on the phone. There was no mention whether new 64-bit apps would be 100% compatible with older 32-bit iPhones.

The 5s also has a separate motion engine inside called the M7. That seems somewhat similar to what Google (GOOG) recently announced for its Motorola Moto X Android phone a few weeks ago. Apple's demonstration utilizing the new chip was quite impressive, though. Apple also includes a terrific looking fingerprint recognition system for added security - a feature which will be greatly appreciated by enterprise users.

Otherwise, the 5s is very similar to last year's iPhone 5. Aluminum on the outside. Same terrific 4-inch Retina touchscreen. 8-megapixel iSight camera on the back. Same pricing too.

The 5c phones, on the other hand, are bright and colorful additions to the line-up. Though very reminiscent of Nokia's  (NOK) current line of Lumia and Asha phones, Apple has recycled last year's iPhone 5 and placed it in a polycarbonate enclosure.

The company differentiates its shell from all the similar looking others by explaining: "...we had no interest in imitating the typical, fragile plastic phone. So we built iPhone 5c around a steel-reinforced frame that also acts as an antenna." I'm not sure exactly where the antenna was placed but if I understand this design correctly Apple may have placed a steel transmit/receive antenna somewhere near where a hand can partially block the signal. I'm hoping this doesn't cause problems similar to what the company originally designed into the iPhone 4.

Bottom line? There's very little new in the 5c unless you want to count the "colorful case" for $29. (Leather cases for the 5s go for $39.)

I understand why the 5c is so important to Apple. Even though the price will appeal to buyers here and around the world worldwide the handset is really made to be super-attractive to a largely untapped marketplace in China. It could be a big success there.

But I have to ask whether these phones really took Apple a year to bring to market? I'm not sure why. I do know both phones run on Apple's new iOS 7 software - the first major overhaul of the operating system. Maybe that's what took so long. iOS 7 looks beautiful and I wouldn't expect anything less from Apple's master designer Jony Ive.

But at first glance the 5s and 5c look like they're more evolutionary than revolutionary and that might turn out to be a problem for Apple in the long run - or at least until we can buy an iPhone 6.

Written by Gary Krakow.

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