When Apple gets around to announcing the iPhone 5 at some point in the next five weeks, it will already have a lower-cost option available to consumers. Citing sources familiar with Apple's plans, Reuters contends that an 8-GB version of the iPhone 4 will hit store shelves before the end of September.
This would follow a pattern set by Apple for years. When it debuted the iPhone 4 in June 2010, Apple dropped the price of the iPhone 3GS with 8 GB to $99. The 8-GB iPhone 3GS is still available for $99, leaving those who can't afford the more expensive $199 and $299 models with a least a foot in the iPhone door, so to speak.
It comes as no surprise that Apple would do something similar this year. It makes perfect sense for Apple to debut a $99 iPhone 4 with 8 GB of storage alongside whatever the iPhone 5 turns out to be. If Apple sticks to its playbook, the iPhone 5 will be available with 16 GB and 32 GB of storage for $199 and $299, respectively.
What's not clear is if other components of the cheap-o iPhone 4 also will be downgraded. There have been reports in recent weeks that the glass surfaces on the front and back of the iPhone 4 will be replaced with less expensive plastic.
One analyst, however, believes it may be impossible for Apple to manufacture an iPhone 4 for $99.
"Apple may want to push into the emerging market segment, where customers want to switch to low- to mid-end smartphones from high-end feature phones, which usually cost $150 to $200," Yuanta Securities analyst Bonnie Chang told Reuters. "But I think for an 8-GB iPhone 4, the price is hard to go below $200, so Apple will still need a completely new phone with low specifications for the emerging markets."
Switching gears, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Sprint will carry both the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4 in October. Reports have suggested since April that the next version of the iPhone will be a world phone--supporting both GSM and CDMA networks. In order for Sprint to offer the iPhone 5, Apple needs to create a version supporting CDMA. It already does this for Verizon Wireless. (Sprint has lamented its lack of iPhone as cause for poor financial performance in recent quarters.)
A dual-mode iPhone 5 could support the networks of all the national U.S. carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
The Journal reports that the iPhone 5 will launch on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless's networks in mid-October. It will be thinner than the iPhone 4 and have a better camera, but will look similar.
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