Why Apple rallying so much against plastic foreshadows a low-end iPhone

By , Jan 29, 2013

budget iphone 3 5x

In the ongoing speculation surrounding Apple’s intention to sell a low-cost iPhone, the word of the day is ‘plastic’. Yes, the rumor is that the company will wrap iPhone 5 components and iPod design features in a plastic body. The report by iLounge is the second in two weeks suggesting an inexpensive iPhone may use plastic to keep costs down.

The blog cites only “reliable sources” to claim a low-cost iPhone would offer a four-inch Retina Display protected by the latest Gorilla Glass (see how strong it really is), among other features borrowed from the Apple smartphone, the fifth-gen iPod touch and the iPod classic.

Along with including the firm’s new Lightning connector, the remainder of the device’s features would follow the iPod touch design. The device’s outer shape would appear like an iPod classic, the body composed of plastic…

The report appears to follow one published last week by DigiTimes.

That site claimed Apple was planning to use a translucent plastic body chiefly as a way to avoid the cost of a glass or metal enclosure found on standard iPhones.

January 2007 iPhone introduction (iPhone meets iPod slide)
From the original iPhone introduction: Steve Jobs poking fun of reports of the then unreleased iPhone being a cross between an iPod, a cell phone and the click wheel dial.

The plastic would also provide a coolness factor, permitting owners to see the internal components. The Wall Street Journal followed, reporting such a phone could appear as early as 2013 and involve a polycarbonate plastic shell akin to the iPhone 3GS (below).

3gs up close

While the iLounge report doesn’t mention a timeframe when a cheap iPhone might appear, last week’s DigiTimes note was in sync with other reports suggesting the second-half of 2013.

But all of these reports should be taken with a huge grain of salt, given the lack of identifiable sourcing. Apple’s rival Samsung has been so concerned about such anonymous leaks hurting its product lunches it recently required suppliers to sign nondisclosure agreements containing fines if premature leaks damaged sales.

Budget phones vs iPhone
Chart via The Wall Street Journal.

Apple – after at first appearing to shut the door on the possibility of selling an inexpensive iPhone just to gain some marketshare – provided itself some wiggle-room, making its intentions more unclear.

In a bit of enterprising reporting, Cnet compared an original Reuters report of an interview Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller gave to the Shanghai Evening News.

After many news sites picked up Schiller’s comment that Apple “will not push a cheaper smartphone for the sake of market share,” Reuters pulled that report, replacing it with one quoting the Apple executive as saying the company “will not blindly pursue market share.”

iPhone6-004

Note “cheaper smartphone” is gone and the flat denial about chasing market share is softened by adding “blindly.”

“That is, reading between the lines, Apple might in fact someday be quite fine with introducing what it considers to be a well-engineered low-end iPhone in a well thought-out distribution plan,” wrote author Jonathan Skillings earlier this month.

If such blanket denials followed by modifiers seems familiar, you wouldn’t be wrong.

Remember how Apple railed against smaller tablets produced by Android competitors?

Yep, Apple follows that with the iPad mini.

And if history is an indication, the company likely will follow the same course with an inexpensive new iPhone.

That much is rather certain, don’t you think?

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  • Val

    I hope this is true. Not because of cost, I’ve had every iPhone version released thus far, but I (and I know I’m in the minority) preferred the 3G/3GS to the iPhone 4/4S & 5. I LOVED the plastic curved back. I’d choose that version if one were released, providing it ran the same software and not some dumbed-down version of iOS.

    • Suck-Ma-DiCk

      Go back to the kitchen birch

      • javierE186

        The hate is strong with this one

      • Tr1pTr0p

        Virginity* is strong with that one.

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

        your lame android phone has mad you lame too..lol

      • Tr1pTr0p

        Actually, that lame Android phone is an iPhone 4S and its incredibly shitty battery is driving me insane.

      • Val

        Wow, I missed his comment, but I’m guessing he wasn’t agreeing with my iPhone 3/3GS love! LMAO!

    • yader

      I concur on your point about the style of the 3GS,3G. It’s my favorite design so far as well, I’d prefer it to be metal instead of plastic though. Val imagine that with the speed and retina of my Iphone5? wow

      • Val

        Hmmm…a curved back metal phone WOULD be quite interesting! I think it’s the flat, plainness of the more recent iPhones that I’m not crazy about. Everyone talks about how “sexy” they are, but I disagree. I like a junk in the trunk ;-D

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=604885391 Richard Borkovec

    To be a “budget” phone, there is no way it’s going to have a retina display, zero chance whatsoever. The 3GS was mostly plastic, and it felt PERFECT in your hand. It was heavy, it curved to your hand, and it just fit. Just redesign the 3GS to be cheaper and BAM, budget iPhone :)

    • sambuzzlight

      and a 4 inch screen? doesnt sound right but it would be surely be retina to compete in 2013 market

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=604885391 Richard Borkovec

        The 2013 market has already shown it’s going to be full 1080p phones.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      umm an iphone with no retina = LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/soh.seewee Soh SEe Wee

    so does that mean apple will launch a 4.8 inch iphone soon?

    • http://www.facebook.com/fourinchworld Michael Scott Allen

      no…

  • Dan

    I don’t care what they make the phone out of, price is not a problem with contracts, I simply want a bigger screen and more functions.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      we all do .. but apple does not want us to have that

      • Guest

        Then use something else moron…. Jesus, really going to blame Apple with all the other offerings? We don’t want you.

  • http://twitter.com/costee Nagy Konstantin

    Check the italian flag once again. Red, white, green is the hungarian, the italian is green, white, red ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

      The left side of the flag are at the bottom, they are all correct.

  • http://www.eraser.org B. Braun

    Every single Day new stupid roumors about a plastic iPhone could you just shut the fuck up and learn that this will not happen? No cheap iPhone at all, only high quality, that’what Apple is about.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      actually it could happen cause the 3g and 3gs were plastic and very much loved…

      • http://www.eraser.org B. Braun

        Apple has thrown out every device (from iPod to iPhone MacBook and iMac) made of plastic, they will not return to cheap plastic.

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

        they might

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    Plastic jis fine as long as its not cheap crappy samsung type plastic..lol

    • Dan

      Yeah samsung uses a special type of plactic… Get your head out of Apple’s @ss dude

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

        yeah fact is samsung does not have a single phone that feels as well build as the iphone 3GS fact

      • Dan

        Opinion and fact are not synonymous

  • Irfan Tarique

    Looks like an ipod touch 5 with a phone in it… just what i wanted XD

  • http://twitter.com/nAcolz Acolz

    I love my 3GS

  • http://www.facebook.com/fourinchworld Michael Scott Allen

    Once again I point out Tim Cook has already gone on record as saying this isn’t going to happen. There is never going to be a cheap iPhone, it’s not their market. They drive the high end market and regardless of what you might think, apparently they’re doing pretty well without a piece of shit offering.