The Apple rumor mill is currently working overtime with reports and leaks related to a new low-cost iPhone. In recent weeks, various photos have emerged, including the rear view of a plastic iPhone in a range of colors, as well as a pile of plastic boxes for an “iPhone 5C.”
While there’s nothing to guarantee that there’s any truth to the rumors, when the web-based chatter reaches this volume, there’s usually some level of fact in play. Prior to the launch of the iPhone 5, the bulk of the leaked information proved to be right, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that some of the reports that we’ve heard about the budget iPhone are correct.
Let’s assume that most of the rumors we’ve heard are true. What other assumptions can we hypothetically make about a new budget iPhone? Here’s what we could expect.
As we’re now playing the assumption game, let’s also assume that the cost of the budget iPhone is roughly half the cost of an iPhone 5. (A SIM-free 16GB iPhone 5 is $649 in the US right now, making our hypothetical budget iPhone cost around $325, which is broadly in line with internet rumor).
What will you get for paying double the price?
So what’s my problem with all of this? My main problem is that aside from the points above, consumers still get an iPhone after paying half the price. Most everyday consumers don’t even know how many megapixels their camera has, nor do they probably care. Furthermore, the lack of a retina display will most likely have no bearing on sales, as the lower-quality display has done nothing to stop the iPad Mini selling by the boatload.
We’re then left with the materials. The materials that have made previous iPhones seem luxurious and desirable are the same materials that result in expensive repair bills from disastrous smashed shells and screen incidents. With this in mind, I have to wonder if, when I go to buy my next iPhone, I’ll decide to buy one that costs half as much. More importantly, it will still only cost half as much when I have to replace or repair it.
I welcome the possible release of a low-cost iPhone. I also fully appreciate that there will always be plenty of people who simply have to have Apple’s flagship phone. This is, of course, made easier for consumers in countries where handsets are network-subsidised.
However, I can’t help but wonder whether Apple is underestimating how many people just simply want an iPhone and aren’t that bothered about specs and materials. While a budget iPhone will undoubtedly sell to millions of people who haven’t been able to afford one before, it may also encourage existing iPhone users to “downgrade” the next time they “upgrade.”