Apple may be shifting up its strategy, if these newest reports hold true.
If you’ll remember a short month ago Jared wrote a compelling piece arguing for the iPhone 3GS as a cost-effective alternative to the iPhone 4. One of his reasons? AT&T reportedly managed to activate 1.3 million more phones than Verizon (surprising, for a number of reasons), which suggests a trend that would seem to buck one of the more critical views held of Apple fans: Consumers still want iPhones even if they’re not the shiniest, newest models.
Now a new report from Reuters is suggesting that Apple may be planning to release a cheaper iPhone 4 model to go alongside the unveiling of the iPhone 5 this fall. If true, it’s an idea that could help placate one of Apple’s more dogging criticisms: Its products have a short shelf life and feel dated rather quickly.
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But this new iPhone 4 model will reportedly sport 8GB of storage (current versions only come in 16 or 32GB) and would be intended for emerging markets that don’t exactly require the highest-end of the highest-end. Doing so could price it competitively under $200, maybe even $150 or $100. This wouldn’t be the first time Apple’s done this, either. When the iPhone 4 was announced, a $99 8GB iPhone 3GS was rolled out alongside it.
While the iPhone 5 has been pegged to have everything from re-imagined rounded edges, to a newly svelte body, to a bigger (albeit slightly lower resolution) high-definition retina display, keeping the iPhone 4 in the picture could prove advantageous for a couple of reasons.
For example: Although Apple is the world’s biggest smartphone maker, its iOS still lags behind Google’s Android, which owns 37% of the smartphone market versus Apple’s 26%. Of course, this is because Android spreads its operating software across a number of different hardware models (Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility notwithstanding).
Pushing the iPhone 4, even if it’d be in the shadow of the 5, could indicate that Apple’s keen on growing its iOS market share, theoretically increasing the company’s revenue through software purchases and app fees.
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It’d be a nice move on Apple’s part. The company gets a deserved bad rap for alienating consumers who’ve purchased products only to have newer versions mysteriously appear a few months later. Plus, I mean, the iPhone 4 is still (at least I think) the standard by which other smartphone manufacturers aspire to, and though I’m hoping Google releases a killer in-house smartphone in the near future, I can’t see the iPhone 4’s throne being usurped by anything that’s not the iPhone 5 anytime soon.
It’s like my grandfather used to say: If it ain’t broke, why not sell a cheaper version of it and make gigantic piles of cash?
Chris Gayomali is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @chrigz, on Facebook, or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.