Budget iPhone patent (drawing 002)

Well, lookie what we have here… The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) yesterday published an Apple patent which at first blush appears to outline a device seemingly resembling what the rumored elusive budget iPhone is supposed to be.

An aspect that particularly piqued our interest: unlike Apple’s iOS devices, this one has no home button on its face. There’s also a rear-facing camera – interestingly, it has no cam out the front for making video calls – and the entire thing is encased in a “clear plastic body”..

The USPTO patent No. 8,364,032 outlines “Light isolating protective cover for small form factor electronic device”.

On the surface, it just describes an iPhone with a plastic cover. Reading between the lines, there’s more to it than meets the eye, especially in light of all the inexpensive iPhone talk we’re hearing lately.

A portable device has a rear facing camera assembly and a front facing display assembly that includes at least a protective cover layer, a display stack that includes a plurality of display components arranged in a plurality of interconnected layers, the display stack providing an imaging service, and a flat support chassis arranged to provide support for the display stack.

Apple also describes one particular embodiment where cover layer is formed from glass and more particularly highly polished glass. “It should be appreciated, however, that other transparent materials such as clear plastic can be used”, the filing has it.

Of course, to say that a patent titled “Light isolating protective cover for small form factor electronic device” hints at the rumored budget iPhone is stretching it a bit. For all we know, this could be just that, a patent for a protective iPhone/iPod touch cover.

That didn’t stop IDG News Service (of all news organizations) to run a story titled “Apple cheaper iPhone mini patent published”, outright proclaiming it the budget iPhone without taking into account other boring but fairly possible interpretations.

Budget iPhone patent (drawing 001)
From the filing: the back of the device with a protective cover that Apple says “can wrap around and protect at least the rear portion of the portable device without adversely affecting an image capture process carried out by the rear facing camera assembly”.

Meanwhile, the PatentlyApple blog which follows these things closely didn’t take the bait. The blog covered several Apple patents issued yesterday but chose to only list this filing without as much as spending a single word to talk about it.

The site even issued an advisory:

New Apple technologies are generally revealed on Thursdays by the US Patent Office in the form of published patent applications.

Some Mac sites confuse this process by making claims and presenting bylines on Tuesday that insinuate that Apple has just revealed a new technology or process.

In 99% of cases, this is simply untrue and readers should be made aware of this fact.

Known exceptions include patents that Apple recently acquired or patent applications the company had never presented in the United States before under its own brand name, PatentlyApple explains.

It’s important to note that this patent falls under that one percent category: Apple filed an application on February 21, 2012 and was actually awarded the patent Tuesday, January 29, 2013. So, Apple now owns this patent. The filing lists Apple engineers Chong Yip Chow, Hongqin Zhang, Shizhe Shen and Michael DiVincent as principal inventors.


Budget iPhone patent (teaser)

Now, even though Apple’s executives are obviously trying (too hard) to dismiss the less-pricey iPhone meme, the company’s blanket denials come with modifiers that leave plenty of room for speculation.

For instance, marketing boss Phil Schiller said Apple “will not push a cheaper smartphone for the sake of market share”, but the comment was updated soon after, dropping the “cheaper smartphone” part to state Apple “will not blindly pursue market share”.

Budget phones vs iPhone
Illustration via The Wall Street Journal.

Such an ambiguous denial is fueling rumors that Apple may in fact be pursuing an all-new iPhone made from cheaper materials to appeal to price-sensitive shoppers in emerging markets like China and Brazil, where phones are sold off-contract and unsubsidized.

In addition, Apple’s rallying against plastic speaks volume for it would never bother shooting down the rumor unless the project was in fact being worked on.

Fair enough?

  • Guest

    Ok this is ridiculous, we already have a cheaper iPhones their called iPhone 4 and 4s

    • Chliii

      Still not cheap enough in other countries.

      • And even in places like the US, still very expensive for a prepaid device.

  • What if this is a camera-only device with the entire front display edge-to-edge touch? Sounds absurd, though.

  • Ok this is ridiculous. We have a cheaper iPhone already it’s called iPhone 4 and 4s.

    • Off-contract iPhone 4 is $450. That’s not cheap to a person in India or Brazil where phones are sold unsubsidized and without a lengthy wireless service contract. People in emerging markets will pay max $200 for an off-contract cell phone. So think about it: Apple’s cheapest off-contract iPhone is the $450 8GB iPhone 4 with two and a half year old hardware. What they need is a sub-$200 iPhone with up to date hardware.

  • NoBrainer

    Oh come on, stop this stupid Budget iPhone talk…What’s next? Asus like PadFone where you can plug your iPhone into your iPad? And for your information, Bugdet iPhones already exist…they are called iPhone 4S/iPhone 4

    • Didn’t we have the same discussion prior to the iPad mini release, with most people swearing Apple would never make a smaller iPad. Mounting clues, not all of them ambiguous, seem to point to Apple researching making a cheaper variant of the iPhone.

      • NoBrainer

        Yes sure, but the thing here is, that the cheaper iPhone ist supposed to have a similar Display size than the current iPhone has. The iPad Mini has its place in Apple’s product range because its has a different form facotor. It’s a size that appeals for example more to women/girls who want to take their iPad’s with them but dont want their bags to look like a bloated chips packing (just one example).

        So if Apple now produces a cheaper iPhone besides it’s flagship, let’s take a look at the prices, these two models will have:

        iPhone 5 = 650$
        Budget iPhone = probably around 390$ idk.

        So why would somebody buy an iPhone that is cheaper in every single aspect instead of buying one of apples predecessors that come with a front facing camera, a better CPU etc ?

        No offense, but just my honest thought of the existance of a budget iPhone in the future.

      • NoBrainer

        btw i really appreciate the existance of your blog, it’s very informative, up-to-date and well written. I check it multiple times a day. Thanks for that.

  • Um…it says “clear plastic,” not “cheap plastic.”

    • Shit, you’re right. I’ve updated the post, thanks for the heads-up

  • Jon

    Absurd, yes. But so is posting the same exact comment as every other person that has posted. We get it. The 4 and 4s are cheaper…

  • dedegarrido

    Im from brazil and this price isn’t the correct price that they are selling the iPhone 5 in here… the real price is 1700 US and the iPhone 4 is a little bit cheaper, somewhat around 600 US

    • NoBrainer

      Wow that sucks for you then..

  • apple wouldn’t be so stupid to leave their ONLY thing left what is called–>most beautiful products!

    • who said It’s gonna be ugly ?
      look at iPad mini, more gorgeous than the original iPad 🙂

  • With all these patents that Apple publishes, it seems like Apple’s biggest strength is also their biggest weakness.


  • Apple files lots of patents, they don’t use every single one. I still highly doubt Apple would replace aluminum with plastic. Plus Johnny Ive loves aluminum

    • Mohammad Ridwan

      They also love money..

  • Donovan Davis

    it’s not outside the realm of beLief that apple would make the new budget iPhone with the now older iPhone 5 materials for a new budget iPhone 5 when the 5S comes out to further differentiate the models in terms of looks and specs, all the while reducing their manufacturing cost on the premium build quality iPhone 5 which the iPhone 5S will surely mirror. That will save them incredibly in manufacturing cost on the phone while still being able to use the a6 custom SoC in the cheaper body maybe even offering an A5 in it rather than a 4S it is apple after all

  • wtf like seriously Aplle???? why call ur iphones things like u r now like the iphone math and now the iphone budget WTF????? Next thing u know it will be called the fucking iphone idk like the iphone take wherever u go i liked it better when they amed there iphones the iphone 2g,3g,3gs,4,4s,5 and probaly 5s or 6 i liked it this way cuz its easier to remember the names of the iphones cmon apple wat happened to u guys to make u change so much it was better when steve jobs was around now that tim cook is here he is fucking up apple have u guys even looked at the stocks of apple how it has dropped so much since tim COCK FACE TOOK OVER APPLE

  • couldn’t this be an Apple TV remote? I mean the full size (and rumored) Apple TV