Rumors of cheap iPhone continue to spread, but do they make any sense?

weekly mobile news recap 12 15 2012 iphone 5We can blame DigiTimes and the Wall Street Journal (and their anonymous sources) for the sudden surge in rumors concerning a cheap Apple iPhone. Potentially named the iPhone Mini, the not-quite-news has done its best to distract us from all the CES 2013 hoopla this week. Now it’s Bloomberg’s turn, as its sources – unnamed, of course – say Apple is eying a $99 or $149 price point for the unannounced phone.

The report states Apple has been working on an affordable alternative to the iPhone for two years, and it hopes to have a model ready for release later this year. It also says Apple has been chatting to at least one U.S. network about the phone, however it may primarily be aimed at attracting buyers in emerging markets where the iPhone is too expensive for the majority of potential buyers.

It continues to say the phone would use cheaper parts, be smaller than current models and work on, “Multiple wireless networks.” As existing iPhone devices work on just about every major network in the world already, we’re not sure what else Apple could have in mind. The Journal perviously indicated Apple would switch to polycarbonate for the phone’s construction, and reuse components it had produced for discontinued iPhone handsets.

What about the iPhone 4?

Let’s go back to the price. Neither Bloomberg nor its anonymous source states whether the $99/$149 price includes the subsidies provided by the carrier after signing up for a contract. It’s an important distinction, as right now, an 8GB iPhone 4 is yours for $0.99 with a two-year contract through AT&T, making it the perfect iPhone Mini. It has a smaller screen and lesser specs than the current phone, yet it’s still superior to many other budget smartphones. It’s the same argument which has always made a dedicated low-cost iPhone sound like a strange project, as Apple always has the ideal budget iPhone when it brings out a new, full price one.

So, does that mean Apple is planning a SIM-free or Pay As You Go iPhone for $99 or $149? Such a drastic drop in price (a 16GB iPhone 5 costs $649 from Apple) would inevitably mean a drastic drop in quality and performance – a sacrifice Apple doesn’t seem likely to make, particularly when you take the iPad Mini, it’s recent attempt to attract the budget crowd into account.

The competition should be worried

For the sake of argument, let’s say it has got a $149 phone ready for launch; which device is it supposed to be countering? It’s not the Galaxy S3, that’s what the iPhone 5 is for, and it’s not even the Galaxy S3 Mini, Samsung’s sub par cash in on the S3’s success, as it costs at least £250 on Pay As You Go in the UK, or $400. At AT&T, $150 on PAYG buys you the Samsung Galaxy Appeal, with its 3.2-inch screen, dual-core 800MHz chip, 3-megapixel camera and all its associated unattractiveness.

Of course, if an iPhone was available for the same price in that company, almost everyone would buy it over any other device, and the specs wouldn’t matter in the slightest. It would just look out of place alongside Apple’s other products. All this aside, the prospect of Apple producing the iPad Mini appeared similarly out-of-character, then the thing turned up to prove us all wrong. Perhaps Apple will do the same again with an incredibly cheap iPhone?

Smart Home

Walmart slashes prices on Google Home during its Presidents’ Day sale

Walmart slashes prices on Google Home during its Presidents' Day sale. Whether you're taking your first step in configuring a smart home or expanding to every room, Walmart has excellent sale prices for all the key components.

Stop buying old tablets, says Samsung, buy the new Galaxy Tab S5e instead

Samsung has launched the Galaxy Tab S5e -- the E is for Essential -- a reasonably priced tablet that includes many of the features we like from the Tab A 10.5, and the Tab S4. Here's what you need to know.
Home Theater

Everything to know about Sling TV: Channels, pricing, and more

Sling TV has grown a great deal since its launch. Now there are more channels and more packages to chose from, with prices to match, and more is being added all the time. Everything you need to know is right here.
Smart Home

Amazon’s Whole Foods raises hundreds of prices, from ice cream to soap

Whole Foods Market raised prices on hundreds of items, citing higher ingredient, packaging, and transportation costs. When Amazon bought Whole Foods, the promise of lower prices attracted customers; that glow may diminish with price bumps.

Smartwatch sales soared in 2018, with Apple leading the charge

The NPD Group, a market research organization, has reported smartwatch sales soared in 2018. Apple is leading the charge, but it's clear there's still room in the market for competitors, as Samsung and Fitbit also did well.

Apple loses battle to use Intel modems in Germany in latest clash with Qualcomm

Apple is following the Federal Trade Commission's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.

New Apple patent hints clamshell-style foldable phone may be in the works

Apple has filed a patent for a foldable phone that suggests the company could be following in the footsteps of the likes of Samsung and Huawei. The patent describes a clamshell-style foldable phone with two separate sections.

Worried about extra data charges? Here's how to check your usage on an iPhone

It's common to get a little nervous about nearing data limits. Keep your peace of mind by checking how much data your iPhone is using. Our guide on how to check data usage on an iPhone helps you stay in control.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.

How to perform a reverse image search in Android or iOS

You can quickly use Google to search, and reverse search, images on a PC or laptop, but did you know it's almost as easy to do in Android and iOS? We explain how to do it here, whether you want to use Chrome or a third-party app.

Be careful who you bokeh, jokes Apple’s latest iPhone ad

With iPhone sales under pressure, you'd think there wouldn't be much to laugh about at Apple HQ. But the company has seen fit to inject some humor into its latest handset ad, which highlights the camera's Depth Control feature.

Flip from portrait to landscape as we reveal how to rotate a video on iPhone

If you've accidentally shot a video in portrait orientation and you want to flip to landscape, then this is the guide for you. We'll explain how to use iMovie to rotate a video on your iPhone or iPad for free and suggest alternative apps.