Feeds

Apple may debut low-cost iPhone for emerging markets in 2013

Our poorer pals = potentially 'billions of customers'

Website security in corporate America

Apple has made a name for itself by marketing high-end gadgets to affluent, design-conscious consumers, but it could be planning a move down-market as early as this year, if industry scuttlebutt proves correct.

On Tuesday, Taiwanese tech news outlet DigiTimes was the first to report on rumors that Apple may be readying a new, lower-cost iPhone model. And while we here at El Reg have found that outfit's track record for prognostication spotty at best, no less than The Wall Street Journal has lent additional credence to the idea, citing "people briefed on the matter."

According to DigiTimes, the new iPhone model will be primarily aimed at China and other emerging markets, where Cupertino's flashy kit hasn't fared nearly as well as it has in the US and Europe.

Apple launched its current iPhone 5 in China in December, and while sales were solid, they were hardly phenomenal. Chinese customers snapped up 2 million of the fruity phones in three days, but in a country of 1.3 billion people, that's less than 1 per cent market penetration.

By comparison, when Apple launched the iPhone 5 in the US and Europe, it shifted 5 million units on its opening weekend.

Meanwhile, the Chinese mobile phone market is awash with all manner of cheap kit from the likes of Huawei, Samsung, and ZTE, which could make it difficult for Cupertino to gain a stronger foothold if it doesn't adjust its strategy accordingly.

As for just how Apple plans to cut down the price of its much-beloved mobes, however – with the lowest-end iPhone 5 models currently retailing for $649/£529, without subsidies – opinions differ.

One likely possibility is that Apple will replace the iPhone 5's anodized aluminum body with something cheaper to manufacture, such as polycarbonate plastic.

Others suggest that Samsung's new, entry-level Snapdragon chipsets could help keep costs down. Then again, though, the more Apple reuses from its previous designs, the fewer R&D costs it incurs.

Oddly, one source claimed that the new iPhone actually has a larger screen than earlier models – they've seen it with their own eyes, honest! – in keeping with the emerging trend of 5-inch screens for high-end phones. But then, we thought this was supposed to be a low-end phone? Well, that's how it goes with rumors.

One thing is for sure: If Apple ships a secondary, low-cost iPhone model in 2013, it will be a break with tradition. So far, Cupertino has only launched one iPhone model at a time, and although it tends to keep the earlier generation on the market as a nod to more cost-sensitive buyers, each new iPhone is generally meant to obsolete the previous one.

None of the tongues wagging about a lower-priced iPhone were able to give any concrete information on when it might ship, and as The Wall Street Journal notes, Apple may yet scrap the idea.

If it does move forward, however, it should do so soon, as Apple is hardly the only company with its eye on mobile markets in the developing world. Intel announced a reference platform for budget smartphones at CES this week, and the Mozilla Foundation is planning a major push into emerging markets with its Firefox OS, citing the "billions" of consumers who are expected to come online for the first time in coming years.

Those are billions of customers Apple can't afford to pass up. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
ISPs' post-net-neutrality world is built on 'bribes' says Tim Berners-Lee
Father of the worldwide web is extremely peeved over pay-per-packet-type plans
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Turnbull: NBN won't turn your town into Silicon Valley
'People have been brainwashed to believe that their world will be changed forever if they get FTTP'
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.