It has long been rumoured that Apple is working on a cheaper version of its flagship handset. At one point CEO Tim Cook said his Californian tech firm was “making moves to make things more affordable”.
But previous comments from the company’s head of marketing Phil Schiller appeared to contradict any notion of a budget iPhone when he said: “Despite the popularity of cheap smartphones, this will never be the future of Apple’s products.”
Now, however, leaked details have emerged about the potential new product which appear to make it a much more concrete proposition.
According to a Japanese blog, Apple is gearing up to launch a new, plastic bodied version of the iPhone later this year.
The reports claim the new, more pocket-friendly iPhone will cost just £220, around half the price of the high-end version of the iconic smartphone costs without a contract.
It is understood Apple will save money on materials by encasing the cheaper handset in shiny polycarbonate plastic, similar to the case found on the company’s entry level MacBook, which it is no longer making. The previous MacBook was replaced by the 11-inch MacBook Air.
The budget phone is expected to be targeted at young, middle-class customers in emerging markets including India and China.
While the new iPhone 5 is just 7.6mm thick, and made with aluminium and glass, the entry level phone will not be as thin. It will need to be thicker to make its plastic body less likely to break.
Even though the cheaper iPhone will be made from different materials, it is thought to have a design similar to previous models, including a home button sited beneath the LCD display.
In order to appeal to a youthful market, the cheaper handset is expected to be available in a variety of vibrant colours.
Apple has not released a genuinely new product since Cook took over as CEO so any new gizmo from the company is long overdue and would go some distance towards satisfying shareholders.
It comes after technology analysts suggested Apple should produce a cheaper handset to gain a bigger share of the increasingly important Chinese market.
The cheaper iPhone is said to be just one of two new handsets set to arrive in the next two years from Apple.
The company is also said to be planning a next-generation handset with a 4.5-inch display, set to be released in 2014.
Meanwhile, the firm is also working on an iPhone 5 follow up, the iPhone 5S, which is set to have the addition of a dual-flash LED module on the back on the gizmo in order to make taking pictures easier.
The timescale for both the budget handset and the update to the iPhone 5 is a release in August this year. Analysts at Barclays Capital have said the cheaper iPhone edition will be built by both Apple’s usual manufacturing partner Foxconn and Pegatron. Foxconn is also said to be the exclusive manufacturer of Apple’s iPhone 5S.