iphone-4s-user

As hard as we try, we just can’t escape the ongoing ‘iPhone nano’ rumors. It seems that everyone in the tech industry is waiting on Apple to diversify its handset lineup and introduce a less expensive iPhone for prepaid and emerging markets.

In fact, we’ve already heard a report on the topic today from DigiTimes, who says that their sources have actually seen the low-cost smartphone. And this afternoon, The Wall Street Journal throws its hat into the ring with its own scoop…

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Apple Inc. AAPL +0.27% is working on a lower-end iPhone, according to people briefed on the matter, a big shift in strategy as its supremacy in smartphones has slipped.

While Apple has explored such a device for years, the plan has been progressing and a less expensive version of the flagship device could launch as soon as later this year, one of the people said.

The cheaper phone could resemble the standard iPhone, with a different, less-expensive body, one of the people said. One possibility Apple has considered is lowering the cost of the device by using a different shell made of polycarbonate plastic. Many other parts could remain the same or be recycled from older iPhone models.”

As the article states, Apple has been exploring the possibility of a lower-end iPhone for a few years now. Back in 2011, The Journal reported that the Cupertino company had a cheaper, iPhone 4-like device in the works with an edge-to-edge display.

Currently, Apple is offering its broadest handset lineup ever. Customers can purchase the iPhone 5 for as low as $199, the 4S for $99 and the iPhone 4 is free on a number of carriers. But without carrier subsidies they’re all still very expensive.

And that’s where a less expensive iPhone would come into play. A $200 or $300 model would do very well in markets like India and China, where no-contract prepaid plans are extremely popular. Right now, they belong to Android and other cheap handsets.

I don’t know that we’ll see it this year, as the article states, but I do believe that Apple has a less expensive iPhone in its labs. And if and when it decides to release the device, it’ll make a significant impact on its smartphone marketshare.

What’s your take on the ‘cheaper iPhone’ rumor? Do you think we’ll see one this year?