The Case For Apple's Cheap Plastic iPhone

colour iphoneLeaked photo of what could be the plastic iPhone.

Yet another leak of Apple’s alleged budget-friendly iPhone hit tech blogs today.

The phone, which reports from publications like The Wall Street Journal, plugged-in analysts, and others in the industry say will launch later this year, will have a plastic construction and sell for significantly less than other iPhones. Leaked photos also show that the budget iPhone could come in a variety of different colours.

So is this thing real? And if so, how will it fit into Apple’s iPhone lineup once the new top-tier “iPhone 5S” is introduced later this year?

Let’s try a bit of informed speculation:

Traditionally, Apple has kept its older iPhone models around and sold them at a discount. Right now, you can get the iPhone 5 for $200, the iPhone 4S for $100, and the iPhone 4 for $0 with a contract from your carrier. Part of the reason Apple sells so many iPhones each quarter is because customers can get a great smartphone experience by buying one of the older iPhones at such a discount.

But here’s the thing. Apple is trying to migrate all of its iOS products to the new tiny Lightning connector that charges devices and syncs them with your computer and other accessories. The goal is to eventually phase out the original 30-pin connector you see everywhere. Apple has already accomplished that with the iPad now that both the full-sized iPad and iPad Mini use Lightning connectors.

However, if Apple maintains the pattern of keeping three generations of iPhones on the market at the same time, then the iPhone 4S will be the only iOS device for sale that still uses the old connector once Apple introduces its next iPhone (5S?) later this year. The iPhone 4S would also be the only iPhone in Apple’s lineup that doesn’t have the larger, 4-inch display.

So it would make a lot more sense for Apple to kill the iPhone 4S this year and introduce a new entry-level iPhone with a 4-inch display and Lightning connector instead. That entry-level iPhone would have similar internal hardware as the current iPhone 4S, wrapped in a budget-friendly plastic shell. 

The move would bring consistency to the entire iPhone lineup and make things a lot easier on third-party accessory makers and app developers. It’d also ensure an identical experience across all iPhone tiers.

Again, this is pure speculation based on the leaks, rumours, and reports we’ve been seeing lately. But as leaks continue to flood in, it sure does seem likely.

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