Apple Developing Low-Cost iPhone for Emerging Markets in 2013

Low Cost iPhone

A new year brings a new batch of low-cost iPhone rumors. News Tuesday from DigiTimes claims that Apple will introduce a low-cost iPhone for emerging markets in the second half of 2013, according to sources in the supply chain.

News of a low-cost iPhone option that would enable Apple to penetrate emerging markets has been circulating for years, with rumors of both pre-paid versions of older iPhone models as well as entirely new hardware circulating. Sources speaking with DigiTimes claim that the product will be a new design:

Some sources claimed that they have seen the sample of the low-cost iPhone, which will come with a larger display, meeting the prevailing trend for the adoption of 5-inch displays for high-end models. They added that the low-priced iPhone will also have a brand new exterior design.

Aside from price reductions on older models, Apple has long been hesitant to release a smaller or cheaper iPhone, but strong sales of the less expensive iPad mini have enticed the Cupertino company to reconsider its position, according to sources.

The launch of Qualcomm’s new low- and mid-range Snapdragon chipsets also give Apple a way to provide acceptable performance in a future iPhone without sacrificing the company’s margins. Apple’s current iDevices run on ARM-based chipsets.

Any new iPhone geared toward markets such as China would be good news for Apple. While the iPhone is now available on China Telecom and China Unicom, Apple has yet to ink a deal with state-run China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier. A cheaper iPhone with limited features that met Chinese government censorship regulations, and a reduced subsidy requirement, may be enough for the two companies to reach an agreement.

DigiTimes has an sporadic record of accuracy in its tech reporting, often relying on “supply chain sources” that at times have been completely correct while just as often missing the mark entirely. Relatively little weight should therefore be placed on these rumors at this time. It is certain that Apple is trying to break into additional markets, and that it may offer China Mobile a cheaper existing iPhone model, but there is no evidence to support the rumor that the company would build entirely new hardware for these markets.

Teaser graphic made with help from Shutterstock.