The Budget iPhone May Actually Just Be A Plastic iPhone 5 In Different Colors [Rumor]

Budget iPhone part leaks indicate that the device will have the same dimensions as the iPhone 5.

Budget iPhone part leaks happen to indicate that the device will have the same dimensions as the iPhone 5.

Since the beginning of this year, reports have been saying that Apple is working on a cheaper, ‘budget’ iPhone. In the last several months, we’ve seen part leaks and more info point towards Apple releasing the plastic-enclosed device this fall alongside the flagship iPhone 5S.

Apple has always dropped the price on the previous iPhone model by $100 when a new one comes out, but that business model hasn’t been able to help the company grow in emerging markets around the world. The budget iPhone is expected to cost around $300 unsubsidized, which would unlock a whole new market of potential customers.

There has never been two independent iPhone lineups at once, so introducing a totally separate model would be a big move for Apple. But what if the multi-colored, plastic iPhone everyone expects is just a retooled version of the current iPhone 5?

Micah Singleton of CE: The Magazine claims that “instead of adding another iPhone to its lineup, Apple has decided to refresh the soon-to-be mid-range iPhone 5 with a selection of colors and a reduced build cost, thanks to some well-placed plastic.” It’s important to note that CE: The Magazine doesn’t have a super consistent track record with Apple rumors, but the site did correctly report details about the third-gen iPad last year. Singleton has also said that Apple’s 2013 iPhone event (where we’ll see all of this announced) will be held on September 18th, which sounds totally plausible—but only time will tell.

The world’s biggest technology company has another trick up its sleeve. Making a slight shift from its one iPhone per year schedule, Apple will unveil two iPhones this year. According to our source, along with its customary brand new iPhone, Apple will refresh the iPhone 5, adding a colorful touch. The refreshed iPhone 5 and the new iPhone will be announced at a September 18 event, a date previously reported by CE: The Magazine.

For Apple, this approach is actually pretty smart. Singleton makes the case that updating the iPhone 5 with a plastic, colored exterior will help with part constraints for the iPhone 5S, which is expected to look just like the iPhone 5. So the iPhone 5 gets a plastic shell with different color options, and the more expensive parts continue to be put into the iPhone 5S. That also keeps Apple’s iPhone lineup at three models: iPhone 4S, the updated iPhone 5, and the iPhone 5S.

Singleton says that the retooled iPhone 5 will cost $99 with a two-year contract, which sticks to Apple’s existing model in the states.

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  • i_phone

    Alex – I don’t think Apple will continue carrying the 3.5″ iPhone 4S. It doesn’t make much sense for them to do so while a cheaper 4″ plastic iPhone is in their lineup. Not only that, but the 30 pin connector iPhones are a thing of the past.

    I lay down some really great arguments for why bringing in that 4″ plastic iPhone will add a tremendous amount of hidden value to Apple. I suggest you check out what I have to say:

    http://www.christopherdungeon.com/2013/07/25/plastic-4-iphone-hidden-added-value/

  • GarionDK

    A low cost plastic version of the iPhone 5 is precisely what I expected the new models to be. And they only make sense if Apple simultaneously stops making and selling the “metal version” models iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5. Come this holiday season and I think the customers looking for at new iPhone will face a simpler choice: The new iPhone 5S, physically similar to iPhone 5 but with improved components, and the new more affordable line of colorful plastic iPhones, technically similar to the current iPhone 5. The new plastic iPhones is a change of Apple’s previous strategy of keeping older iPhone models in their line up as the low cost alternative. Keeping the profit margin up is the name of the game.

  • Paul Burt

    If it comes at all, a plastic iPhone would be the free on-contract option and Apple would drop the 4S. Then all the iPhone models sold would have 4″ screens and Lightning connectors. This would fall in line with their move last fall to discontinue the 3rd-gen iPad (seeing as how the iPad 2 should be discontinued this fall too). That will leave the iPod Classic as the only 30-pin device, unless Apple decides to finally give it an upgrade or kill it.

    Personally, I think it’ll be hilarious to see everyone’s reaction when the iPhone event rolls around and the plastic iPhone is nowhere to be seen :)

  • Paul Burt

    If it comes at all, a plastic iPhone would be the free on-contract option and Apple would drop the 4S. Then all the iPhone models sold would have 4″ screens and Lightning connectors. This would fall in line with their move last fall to discontinue the 3rd-gen iPad (seeing as how the iPad 2 should be discontinued this fall too). That will leave the iPod Classic as the only 30-pin device, unless Apple decides to finally give it an upgrade or kill it.

    Personally, I think it’ll be hilarious to see everyone’s reaction when the iPhone event rolls around and the plastic iPhone is nowhere to be seen :)

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath has been a staff writer at Cult of Mac for three years. He is also a co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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