Apple Working on a Cheaper, Lower End Polycarbonate iPhone says WSJ

Screen Shot 2013 01 08 at 2 40 49 PM

The Wall Street Journal reports Apple is working on a cheaper, lower end iPhone:

Apple is working on a lower-end iPhone, according to people briefed on the matter, a big shift in strategy as its supremacy in smartphones has slipped.

While Apple has explored such a device for years, the plan has been progressing and a less expensive version of the flagship device could launch as soon as later this year, one of the people said.

The source notes this less expensive iPhone could debut as soon as this year, with a different design and cheaper body, through the use of polycarbonite plastic as a possibility. The internal hardware would be the same parts used to make current and previous iPhones.

A separate report by WSJ Digits blog notes Apple’s foray into the cheaper market would be a change in strategy, possibly competing with Google and their unsubsidized, unlocked Nexus 4, which starts at $300. Google and its Nexus manufacturer LG cannot keep up with demand for that phone at the moment.

Digits claims they know the following about the next cheaper iPhone, which looks to be the same information the primary WSJ article reported:

  • The new model could resemble the regular iPhone, but come with a less-expensive body.
  • Apple could employ a shell made of polycarbonate plastic, with many of the other parts remaining the same or being recycled from older iPhone models. Apple has some experience working with plastic cases. The iPhone 3 and 3GS had a plastic casing, though the materials were probably different from the models being tested now.
  • It could launch as early as late 2013. The company hasn’t sold multiple new iPhone models with different storage capacities since launching in 2007.

In February of 2011, the WSJ also reported Apple was working on a line of smaller iPhones that would be cheaper and smaller, about half the size of an iPhone 4. Earlier today, a report from Digitimes claimed Apple was set to announce a cheaper iPhone as well.

This morning, iLounge editor Jeremy Horwitz tweeted his sources note the new budget iPhone would be a unified four-inch screen for an iPhone 5/5S budget model. Horwitz is attending CES where he annually meets up with his sources, which have been correct in the past in leaking news about the new Lightning connector and a thinner iPhone 5 with four-inch screen.

If Apple is set to enter the lower end market, it definitely would be a change in strategy. Don’t expect a $199 unsubsidized iPhone though. The cheapest unlocked model right now is the iPhone 4, which starts at $450. If Apple can introduce a $300 unsubsidized iPhone, that would certainly sell like hotcakes in emerging markets, where phones are purchased up front. As for Canadians, many would be able to avoid tempting three year contracts to get iPhone hard subsidized.

What do you think? Is Apple missing out by not offering a cheaper iPhone, or is this the right time to introduce one?

P.S. - Like our news? Support the site with a coffee/beer. Or shop with our Amazon link. We use affiliate links when possible--thank you for supporting independent media.