Why We Could See a Retooled iPhone 4 This Fall

BGR picked up on some interesting comments made by Brian White of Ticonderoga Securities yesterday. In a note to investors, the analyst cited a report from Sohu.com claiming that Apple and China Telecom were putting the finishing touches on an iPhone 5 partnership.

We’ve known for quite some time that Apple was working on closing a deal with China’s 3rd largest carrier, but we didn’t know how soon it’d be finished. White told shareholders yesterday that China Telecom would have 2 iPhone models by October of this year — 2 very different models

The first model is — stop me if you’ve heard this before — a revamped iPhone 5 that will be Apple’s flagship smartphone. And the other would be that low-priced model that we’ve been hearing about for months.

But while we’ve heard theories that the low-budget device could be the iPhone 3GS reincarnated, White believes it’s going to be a retooled version of the iPhone 4. Now I know we’ve heard hundreds of predictions about the mysterious device, but this particular one seems to make a bit of sense. Stop me if this sounds too crazy.

The iPhone 4 has been one of Apple’s greatest successes. People love the way it looks and how it works — it’s a hit. But one of the things holding it back from reaching a much wider audience is its price tag. Its glass casing and the complexities in manufacturing it brings will continue to keep the device pricey.

But imagine if Apple replaced the expensive glass panels with cheaper plastic ones. This would save money on both component and manufacturing costs, and would allow Apple to be more aggressive with the device’s pricing. And here’s the twist, we may have already seen it. Remember that iPhone 4 “Lite” that recently surfaced?

You know the one I’m talking about, the device that appeared to be an iPhone 4 with a “conversion kit.” A lot of folks wrote it off as a fraud, pointing out its awkward appearance and the fact that it was jailbroken. But why couldn’t this be an iPhone 4 Lite?

The fact that we’ve continuously heard 2 very stark but different possibilities for the next iPhone seems to confirm that there will indeed be 2 models. And an economized iPhone 4 would make sense as the low-end device, considering all of the rumors we’ve heard that Apple’s next smartphone will look very similar to its predecessor.

If you haven’t heard the latest projections, Apple could sell as many as 30 million iPhones next quarter. Now those are some big shoes to fill. But if Apple can produce an attractive phone cheap enough to make inroads with the prepaid markets that dominate Europe and Asia, they might just have a shot.