'Cheap' iPhone Won't Be Cheap

Don't expect the low-cost plastic iPhone to be "cheap," says Pegatron CEO. Instead it will be a mid-range device with a mid-range price tag.
Apple iOS 7's Dramatic Design: Visual Tour
Apple iOS 7's Dramatic Design: Visual Tour
(click image for slideshow)
The lower-cost iPhone won't be an inexpensive toy, according to T.H. Tung, CEO of Pegatron, one of the Chinese firms tasked with assembling the device. Speaking to shareholders this week, Tung said that the low-cost iPhone will land in the high end of the middle tier in today's smartphone market. He went on to say that "cheap" is not a word that should ever be associated with Apple's products.

The Apple iPhone has always been a high-end device with a price tag to match it. The first iPhone cost consumers $599 out of pocket, which was the full price of the handset. The cost was unheard of at the time. In 2007, other smartphones sold for $300 or $400. Now, the iPhone 5 and other high-end smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 are priced at or near $649.

Tung wasn't only referring to the iPhone's cost, of course. He was also inferring that just because the device will be made of plastic, a material less expensive to work with than aluminum, doesn't mean it will be shoddy or poorly made. Remember, the iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS all used plastic in their design and still offered something close to a premium feel. It wasn't until Apple made the iPhone 4 in 2010 that it switched to glass and metals to make it a more high-end device.

[ Samsung pulls ahead of Apple in the smartphone race. Read Samsung Galaxy S4 Outsells iPhone 5. ]

Reports earlier this year indicated that Pegatron planned to hire some 40,000 workers to help it fill orders for the iPhone. Even so, Apple's longtime partner Foxconn is expected to share the manufacturing burden. It is possible that one of the companies will build the lower-cost iPhone while the other concentrates on the iPhone 5's successor, the iPhone 5S.

Earlier this week, schematics of both phones leaked, offering clues about the size and shape of the yet-to-be-announced iPhones. The schematics refer to the devices as the iPhone 5S and the iPhone Light. They won't be exactly the same size, but they'll be close: The iPhone 5S will measure 12.38 by 5.86 by 0.77cm, and the iPhone Light will measure 12.44 by 59.2 by 0.85cm. The iPhone Light will be 0.8mm thicker than the 5S. This makes sense, as the shell will need to be a little bit thicker in order to match the strength of the 5S's aluminum body. AppleInsider published some renderings of what the final iPhone Light might look like.

Apple isn't expected to announce the new iPhones until September or October, which is when iOS 7 is expected to exit beta and become available to all iOS devices.

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