Whispers of a No-Contract, Carrier-Jumping iPhone

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Apple may be targeting the lower end of the cell phone market, reports Bloomberg, citing unidentified “people who have been briefed on the plans.”

Apple is apparently working on a smaller version of the iPhone that uses older components and has no “Home” button. It’s roughly two-thirds the size of a regular iPhone and would supposedly cost $200 out the door with no two-year cell phone service plan required.

Before you get too excited, these same people have indicated that although “Apple has aimed to unveil the device near mid-year, the introduction may be delayed or scrapped,” according to Bloomberg.

If released here in the U.S., such a device would need to be compatible with the various network technologies used by the major service providers. It’d be interesting to see if Apple would cram multiple compatible chipsets into a single handset or offer separate handsets compatible with each network.

One iPhone to rule them all?

It may have some sort of plan in the works already, according to a second rumor from the same Bloomberg article. Apple has apparently been working on a universal SIM card that would allow an iPhone to hop from network to network via a simple software setting. It’s unknown whether the mythical $200 iPhone would be the actual phone used with this universal SIM card or not.

On a GSM network such as the ones used by AT&T and T-Mobile here in the U.S. and most European carriers, a phone is identified as belonging to a particular network by a small, interchangeable SIM (subscriber identity module) card. Though the cards themselves are the same, physically, across networks, the information contained on the cards is specific to each carrier.

This supposed universal SIM card that Apple’s apparently working on would be built directly into the phone itself and could have its network compatibility information altered via software. The idea would be that you could just walk into an Apple store, buy an iPhone, and then set it up yourself with whichever carrier you feel like using. Don’t like that carrier? Switch to another one.

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