Rumors of a new low cost iPhone model have been gaining traction recently, and now a new report is adding even more fuel to that fire by claiming the cheap iPhone will sport a plastic body, much like the iPhone 3GS. This latest rumor has taken off despite Apple marketing VP Phil Schiller's assertion that the cheap smartphone will "never be the future of Apple."
Setting aside Mr. Schiller's statement for the moment, DigiTimes claimed its sources said the cheap iPhone model will have a plastic shell instead of glass or metal to keep costs down, then offers up a second report claiming the phone will mix plastic and metal and also show off the internal components as part of the design.
The sources also claimed that the phone will launch some time in the second half of 2013.
The idea of a low cost iPhone for developing markets where customers prefer pre-paid options isn't new, and rumors that surfaced earlier in January claim that's Apple's target for the cheaper model. Those rumors also claimed that Apple will bump the screen size up to 5-inches for its low cost phone.
While a lower priced iPhone could potentially gain more customers in markets where the iPhone 5 isn't affordable, Apple so far hasn't been racing to make a cheap smartphone. Instead, the company offers its previous iPhone model, the iPhone 4S as a low cost alternative, and the iPhone 4 as a free phone with a new service contract.
A custom low cost iPhone for China is an idea that's been tossed around, although Mr. Schiller shot that down, too. He commented,
At first, non-smartphones were popular in the Chinese market, now cheap smartphones are more popular and non-smartphones are out. Despite the popularity of cheap smartphones, this will never be the future of Apple's products. In fact, although Apple's market share of smartphones is just about 20 percent, we own the 75 percent of the profit.
That isn't, however, stopping analysts such as Neil Mawston from Strategy Analytics from speculating that Apple will make a low cost model he called the iPhone Mini.
"The iPhone 5 is growing fast and profitably right now, so there is little incentive for Apple to launch an iPhone mini this year," he said. "We expect the iPhone Mini to be more likely next year, in 2014 when...Apple will be forced to discover fresh growth streams."
There isn't any solid proof that Apple actually is planning on rolling out cheap iPhones, and DigiTimes doesn't have anything more than anonymous reports from the parts supply chain to support its claims. For now, reports of cheap iPhones, or the iPhone Mini, are little more than rumor -- and a rumor that Apple has been happy to shoot down.