While there are plenty of people out there who are currently enjoying their iPhones, there are plenty more who would be enjoying them if it weren't for the obvious problem: a lack of cash on hand to buy the devices, or a lack of confidence in the economy to make a two-year contract sound sufficiently appealing to go that route in getting one. But according to some recently-tapped sources, there may be a less expensive iPhone (News - Alert) to come, and it may show up before the closing days of 2013.
According to that ever popular source known as "people briefed on the matter", Apple (News - Alert) hasn't let its recent slips in dominance in the smartphone market go without notice or without challenge. While Apple has been considering the idea of a budget-friendly iPhone for some time, actual follow-through on those considerations has been a bit light. But with the recent appearance of a budget iPad in the iPad Mini, it may be time to look closer at a budget iPhone as well.
The sources in question offered some possibilities in terms of just what that budget iPhone would look like, including a less expensive overall construction. An outer shell of polycarbonate plastic instead of aluminum, for example, would go a long way in reducing costs, as would hardware recycled from earlier versions of the iPhone.
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Apple itself, meanwhile, is staying mum on the idea, with a spokeswoman declining comment and the possibility that Apple could scrap the entire plan very much on the table. But one thing is quite clear; while Apple is still a major name in the smartphone field, it's been losing market share to the growing lineup of Android (News - Alert) devices, some of which can compete with the iPhone on quality, and many of which destroy the iPhone on price.
In the third quarter of 2012, for example, Apple only had 14.6 percent of worldwide smartphone shipments from a peak of 23 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Naturally, the fourth quarter numbers will likely look much different thanks to the release of the newest iPhone; some countries only just got the chance to buy it a few weeks ago, and most iPhone 5 sales wouldn't be counted until the fourth quarter of 2012 anyway.
One thing's for sure, though; selling multiple iPhones at once would be a new phenomenon for Apple, who normally brings out one new one a year. Sure, there's always overlap--people are still buying iPhone 4S models despite the release of the iPhone 5--but it's quite clear that there's plenty of room out there for bargain-priced electronics. Apple can ill afford to ignore that market for long, especially given the rush of Android devices moving in on it.
Apple has fantastic name recognition and brand loyalty; getting users in the Apple fold often keeps them there. But with budgets weighing heavily on households these days, as well as the economy still moving along at a snail's pace, a bit of a sea change is in order. With Tim Cook's rise to the CEO slot of Apple, Apple has been seen more open to making those changes, though whether they will make this one is somewhat unclear.
Still, it's a reasonably safe bet that, at some point in 2012, we'll likely be greeted by news of an inexpensive iPhone. Whether or not it will be on par with its competitors--or even its own line--remains to be seen, but the release itself is fairly likely.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman