Could Apple benefit from a ?cheap? iPhone?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| Published: January 10, 2013

A rumor that I’ve been seeing around every corner recently is that Apple may be planning to release “cheap” iPhones sometime in the near future. While it’s true that Apple is no longer the “top dog” so to speak when it comes to mobile market shares, they’re not doing that bad either. They’re still getting a lot of publicity, the iProducts are still extremely popular, and they’re doing that Apple-y thing that Apple does best – making money. But would an iPhone CheapS necessarily be the answer to getting back to the top?

There is some speculation as to exactly what “cheap iPhone” means. Some speculate that it means the phone would be made out of cheap materials and using less-than-stellar specs under the hood, in turn making the phone less pricey. Others predict that it means they’ll use materials that are more abundant and cheaper to produce, yet durable, therefore making the device tougher and at a more pleasant price-point.

My question to you is: when in the last three years has Apple been that concerned about how durable their phone is?

The first iPhone up until the iPhone 3GS is the most I will give Apple for a conscious effort to make a somewhat durable smartphone. Anything after the iPhone 4 has been a blatant money-making scheme that has worked wonders. The moment you start unnecessarily putting a glass back on a phone that only needs it on the front is an obvious tactic to push products like “ultra-durable cases” and screen protectors… for the back of your phone. Basically, you’re just asking for your entire phone to shatter with one slip of a butterfinger if you don’t have some sort of case covering the back. And what is with those “bumpers” they sell, anyway? That’s like buying a skydiving harness without a parachute attached and seeing how lucky you are when you land.

While they may have gotten rid of the glass backing when they released the iPhone 5, things didn’t exactly get much better by using aluminum as a substitute. Shortly after the iPhone 5’s release, the Apple forums saw an alarming number of posts regarding damage to the aluminum bezel and the device bending; the phone will literally bend without much effort. Why? Because that’s just what aluminum does!

The only way Apple will be able to make a cheap phone out of quality material is if they make an entire phone out of those indestructible admittance wristbands that you get at skating rinks and carnivals. You know the ones I’m talking about.

Personally, I don’t see Apple making any changes to their current plan. The iPhone 5 comes out starting at $199, the iPhone 4S drops down to starting at $99, and the iPhone 4 becomes free; you’ve got your expensive, your mid-range, and your nada prices. You’ve got iPhones at almost every “milestone” price point for consumers. Lather, rinse, and repeat. What’s the point of throwing in a 4th option that probably wouldn’t amount to being any better than the outdated device anyway?

If anything, I think Apple needs to focus on making their phones more durable. Even if they found the most abundant and most durable element on earth to make their phones with, I bet you anything they would inflate the stuffing out of the price of that material. And I would probably still buy it.

But that’s just how I feel about it. The question now is, even though Phil Schiller of Apple claims that cheap phones will “never be the future” of Apple’s products, what does that really mean? Will there come a point where Apple will need to start changing the price point of their devices in order to stay ahead while they still can? Let me know what you think!