New Contract-Free iPhone in the Fall? Analyst Stokes the Coals

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Just in case you forgot, Apple may introduce a relatively cheap, contract-free iPhone this year. Or not.

But Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore told investors that now is the time. He believes that Apple will launch a mid-range, pre-paid iPhone for $300 to $500 in September, Apple Insider reports.

(READ: Top 10 Back-to-School iPhone Applications)

This, Whitmore believes, is the fabled ‘iPhone 4S,” a new category of device released alongside the iPhone 5. Instead of resembling the iPhone 4, Whitmore thinks it’ll look like a low-end iPod Touch (pictured). If priced at $350, it could still provide Apple with a healthy profit margin while tapping a huge global market of pre-paid phone subscribers. He noted that out of 1.5 billion worldwide customers, two thirds are pre-paid users.

Although Whitmore’s remarks seem to be nothing but speculation, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of such a rumor. In February, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reported that Apple was working on a smaller, cheaper iPhone that would work anywhere in the world. The New York Times contested that the phone would not be smaller, but would definitely be cheaper as a way to target the pre-paid market. Of course, all these reports cited anonymous sources.

(READ: Whispers of a No-Contract, Carrier-Jumping iPhone)

I’m skeptical, if only because of little we’ve heard from the rumor mill on this front since February. Apple released an unlocked iPhone 4 for $650, but that’s mainly for world travelers who would otherwise spend lots of money on AT&T’s expensive overseas rates. If a cheap, contract-free iPhone was imminent, I’d expect to be hearing more rumors by now. The volume of iPhone 5 rumors, by comparison, is through the roof.

Whitmore is right on at least one thing: The pre-paid market is ripe for Apple’s picking. A contract-free iPhone seems inevitable, even if it doesn’t happen in September.

READ: Apple Rumor Ping Pong Places iPhone 5 in September Again

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