According to sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is moving forward with the development of a less expensive version of the iPhone that would launch later in 2013 in emerging markets such as China.
The downmarket device would have a similar design as its higher-priced cousin, but instead of an aluminum body, the phone casing would be made of a cheaper polycarbonate plastic. The internal hardware, including the graphics chip and processor, could be made from either new parts originally designed for older models, or recycled parts from older iPhones.
Of course, the rumors are just that--the Cupertino-based company refused to comment on the possibility of a cheaper device, and similar rumors have happened before many times. In fall of 2011, tech watchers were disappointed when an expected a low-price version of the iPhone 4, built in Brazil and aimed at China and similar markets, failed to materialize.
Apple has historically refused to downgrade the quality of its products in favor of lower prices. In 2008, Steve Jobs famously wrote off whole swaths of potential customers as out of reach for his company.
"What we want to do is deliver an increasing level of value to these customers, but there are some customers which we choose not to serve," Jobs said. "We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk; our DNA will not let us do that. We've seen great success by focusing on certain segments of the market and not trying to be everything to everybody, and you can expect us to stick with that winning strategy."
But the iPad Mini may be an indication that CEO Tim Cook's philosophy may be more pragmatic than his visionary-to-a-fault predecessor, especially as demand for lower-priced older iPhone models remains extremely high.