Does Apple’s cheaper iPhone hurt its brand?

The company unveiled a plastic-encased version of its popular phone at its Tuesday event. That means more people can afford it, but might also tarnish its reputation for high-end gadgets.

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The budget phone is called the iPhone 5C, and its unveiling prompted elated responses from people pleased with its affordability (the cheapest one is $99 with a two-year service contract):

Oye, iPhone 5C! I can finally afford an iPhone!

— Jelito de Leon (@jelitodeleon) September 10, 2013

Responses like that would seem to be Apple’s goal in offering the new 5C, along with making it easier for people outside the United States, where cell phones aren’t subsidized with customer agreements and contracts, to buy them. Still, brand experts say the move to produce a lower-end phone may not have been the best PR move for Apple.

“Apple is a lifestyle brand known for premium products,” says Lex Perryman, professor of management at the Milgard School of Business at the University of Washington Tacoma. “The company already has a broad fan base, from children with iPads all the way to seniors using iPhones. Without some numbers to analyze, at face value, this move runs the risk of bringing the quality of the entire line into question without adding a significant number of new customers.”

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