Budget iPhone to feature hybrid plastic/metal design, due later this year

3gs up close

Last week, DigiTimes released a report, claiming that its sources had seen prototypes of a low-cost iPhone floating around Apple’s supply chain. Both The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg corroborated the story via their own independent informants.

Today, DigiTimes offers up a few more details about the fabled handset, claiming that Apple is toying with both an all plastic and a hybrid plastic/metal chassis for the cheaper handset, as well as a special ‘see-through’ design. More details after the fold…

From DigiTimes’ report:

“Apple’s rumored entry-level iPhone reportedly may adopt plastic for its chassis instead of reinforced glass or unibody metal as in the company’s standard iPhone models, to save cost, according to sources from the upstream supply chain…

…other rumors are circulating that the entry-level iPhone will adopt a chassis mixed with plastic and metal, with the internal metal parts being able to be seen from outside through special design, the sources noted.”

The publication adds that its sources say the related upstream components for the low-end iPhone are currently going through validation, and the handset could hit the market in the second half of 2013. This timeframe, of course, jives with previous reports.

It’s worth noting that while DigiTimes has a fairly hit-or-miss reputation in Apple rumors, it nailed the 4th-gen iPad and iPad mini last year. And this particular report is backed by other, more reputable publications. The point is, there’s an awful lot of smoke.

But is there a fire? A lot of people seem to think so — especially given recent talk that Apple has been seeing weaker-than-expected iPhone 5 demand. Industry watchers feel like a low-end iPhone would give the smartphone line an inroad into emerging markets.

Me? I think there’s too much supply chain talk about this device for it not to be real. But will we see it this year? I don’t know. This special see-through design sounds interesting though. Maybe Apple has built/is building something completely different this time.

What do you think?

[image via flickr: jayhauf]