Apple’s three year-old iPhone 3GS may find new life as the company’s first official pre-paid iPhone option, according to Jeffries analyst Peter Misek (via Forbes). In a research note published late Sunday, Mr. Misek stated that Apple had signed an agreement “with a major global distributor” to look for opportunities to extend the life of the 3GS, including pre-paid options on carriers around the world.
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The iPhone 3GS was first released in June 2009 and was Apple’s flagship device until the iPhone 4’s launch the following year. Apple then kept an 8GB version of the 3GS for sale as a lower cost alternative to the iPhone 4.
With the iPhone 4S launch in October 2011, Apple reduced the wholesale price of the 3GS to $375, allowing some carriers to offer it free to end users on a two-year service contract.
Now, with the phone nearly three years old and the next iPhone expected this fall, many predicted the 3GS would be discontinued. If Mr. Misek is correct, however, it appears that the phone will continue to live on as an inexpensive option for users not willing or able to commit to a wireless service contract.
With Mr. Misek expecting Apple to drop the wholesale price of the 3GS to between $200 and $250, the new low-cost, contract-free iPhone would compete well against Android and Windows Phone-based handsets in many countries and with many consumers for whom pre-paid phones are preferred, as well as introduce new customers to Apple’s lucrative app and media ecosystem.