Apple Inc. plans to sell a smaller, cheaper version of the iPhone as soon as this year, according to reports from Bloomberg news and The Wall Street Journal.
A person familiar with the plans told Bloomberg the cheaper phone is part of a push to gain customers in developing nations.
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), which had been working on a more affordable smartphone since at least February 2011, is weighing retail prices of $99 to $149 for a device that would debut in late 2013, at the earliest, according to the person, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are private. Apple has spoken to at least one of the top U.S. wireless carriers about its plans, the person said yesterday.
“One possibility under consideration is lowering the cost of the device by using a different shell made of polycarbonate plastic; in contrast, the iPhone 5 currently has an aluminum housing,” The Journal reported.
“Many other parts could remain the same or be recycled from older iPhone models,” the newspaper added.
Executives at Apple have been particularly interested in building a lower-cost model with less-expensive components as a way to appeal to customers in emerging markets, another person has said. More affordable iPhones would help Apple play catch-up with smartphone makers such as Samsung Electronics Co. using Google Inc.’s Android mobile software system. Android made up 75 percent of smartphone shipments in the third quarter, compared with 15 percent for Apple, according to IDC.
Natalie Kerris, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California- based Apple, declined to comment.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has said China is a priority. The company generated $5.7 billion in sales in China in the quarter ended in September and sold more than 2 million iPhone 5s during its weekend debut there last month.
Adding a less-expensive version of the iPhone would be a strategy shift for Apple, which has until now tried to appeal to more budget-conscious customers by cutting the prices of older models. After introducing the iPhone 5, Apple kept selling the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 at reduced prices.
The device would use cheaper parts and may be smaller than current models, people familiar with the plans said. Apple was also considering a more versatile version that would work on multiple wireless networks, according to people who were briefed on the plans.
Apple has sold more than 270 million iPhones worldwide. The device generated $80.5 billion in sales last year, accounting for more than half of Apple’s revenue.