Just a few months ago, I asked you what features a budget iPhone could do without. Suggestions included a smaller screen with a lower resolution, a lesser camera, and a polycarbonate shell in place of the aluminum that resides on the iPhone 5. It looks like we are slightly closer to dubbing one of these a possibility for a future iPhone. The image above is an alleged polycarbonate shell of a low cost iPhone courtesy of case manufacturer Tactus in China. Tactus also recently provided images of an iPad 5 case that was not digitally enhanced, so the source is gaining credibility. Rumors of a budget iPhone seem to have finally reached a point where they matter even if this is just an early prototype.

Engadget reports that this iPhone was spotted at a Chinese plant which provides parts to Foxconn, Apples iDevice manufacturer of choice. The device is no doubt similar in style to Apple's last plastic gem, the iPhone 3G and 3GS, so it seems plausible Apple could follow this design language in a future device.

It's hard for me not to get excited about a low cost iPhone. I began my journey into smartphones with the iPhone 3G and was floored by the 3.5-inch display. The touch inputs on such a large screen really felt innovative back then. From Safari to iTunes, the original iPhone is nostalgic for me in many ways. It helped mold my passion for smartphones into what it is today. And contrary to the arguments of questionable build quality running rampant, I enjoyed the curved plastic nature of the iPhone 3G's backside in its hay-day. The smartphone cupped into the palm of my hand with ease. It was a joy to hold I did not struggle with it, nor did I have to worry about dropping. It was hard enough to deter minor blemishes, but slick as to create friction in-hand - the result was a device that was comfortable to hold. I wish I could say the same about the angular aluminum of the iPhone 5.

Despite my distaste of the cold and svelte iPhone 5 of yesterday, a plastic iPhone based on this same design language is very enticing. For starters, it's a welcome addition in developing markets where Apple has failed to grasp the sort of market share it needs to globalize the iPhone brand. There's a keen eye on countries just getting around to developing the mobile network infrastructure needed for decentralized connectivity, and this is where a low cost iPhone is looking to make its cameo. With that said, a low cost iPhone can only be as successful as the features it offers and the price it demands for said features. The budget iPhone rumors seem to have finally reached a point where they matter, but it will be in the device's execution at a price point that markets will be able to gauge its possibility for success as compared to the competition.

To be honest, I'm completely enamored by this image and its possibilities because (1) it looks like the iPhone 5, (2) it alludes to multi-colored devices seeing that it is a white variant, and (3) looks like the same fantastic plastic the iPhone 3G and 3GS once sported.

An important takeaway from the image is that much of the iPhone 5's design language has been incorporated into the plastic shell. The length and width seem similar in dimension, as do the volume rockers, camera cut-out and LED flash.  The polycarbonate backside looks to be flat which should help keep costs down by creating a simpler manufacturing process.

But the real kicker is the possibility of iPhone's in Magic Magenta, Steve Jobs Sage, and Estoril Blau. If any company is capable of capitalizing on the choice in the color of a smartphone, it is the technology fruit company. We've already seen Apple market interchangeable shells for the latest generation iPod Touch. If a smartphone were to follow in these footsteps, regardless of iOS, I'd be completely sold, and I think many would find value in the price and ability to choose a color, too. (And I'm also sold on the Google-Motorola rumor that they'll be offering multi-colored smartphones this year.)

Now, many sources close to Apple have alluded to a low cost iPhone for years. I feel like the Rumor Dog. With that said, not much solid evidence has come from the gossip. But since the mobile market has seen a drastic shift towards emerging markets, 2013 is looking more and more like the year we see such a device bearing Apple's logo.

Apple has not been coy in keeping price at a level where it cannibalizes their own brand. I have spoken about budget devices making their way up the totem pole in value leaving expensive smartphones seem like a waste of money before. Likewise, this is where a budget iPhone will find an integral part of its market will be from its current installed base of iPhone 5 users. We have seen Apple market the iPad mini for $329 since creation a year ago, and Apple has stolen sales of its full-size iPad along the way. However, the $70 price difference between the iPad Mini and $399 full-size iPad both come in around $300 less than the iPhone 5. Suffice it to say, Apple will have a potentially higher profit margin to play with a low cost iPhone if the company chooses to keep the device at a premium price point.

The last time we were reading about budget iPhone gossip most of us were caught up in the initial conversation of "How could Apple convince investors and their target market that a budget device was premium enough to put an Apple logo on?" But I think we may finally find out sooner rather than later.

What do you think of a polycarbonate iPhone following the iPhone 5's design language? Would iOS hold you back? At what price should Apple sell the budget iPhone? Let me know in the comments down below!

Image via Engadget.

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32 Reactions to this post

"Does a polycarbonate iPhone at the right price interest you?"

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Paul Alexandru
Paul Alexandru Fucking hate all the android users
Mark Belkowski
Mark Belkowski Nothing about an iphone interests me.
David DiPilla
David DiPilla They need to catch up to android before I buy one
David DiPilla
David DiPilla Looks like an iPhone 3G they need to change the design
Eric J. Powers
Eric J. Powers No
TuCan Dan
TuCan Dan I've never seen so many haters in my life.
Jason Sug
Jason Sug nope its just another ishit
Claudio J Tulino
Claudio J Tulino ..No
Zach Chapman
Zach Chapman If it has the retina display, is dual-core, and has a decent camera for a much lower price, sign me up! I loved my 3GS back in the day. I didn't have to worry about shattering the back glass like I did on my old 4s and it felt good in the hand. Bring it on Apple!
Jakarri Jacobs
Jakarri Jacobs Not for me, but for emerging markets this would sell like hot cakes for the right price
Anthony Bailey
Anthony Bailey An iPhone made of pure gold with silver trimming wouldn't interest me. Stop asking!
Edgar Borrero
Edgar Borrero Hell no
Viktor Oh
Viktor Oh For the right price this would make a great gift. However we all know Apple has a different definition of "budget phone". Full price if its the same cost of a nexus or less then maybe.
Reese Woodson
Reese Woodson Zzzzzzz........
Kal El
Kal El While I think it's a great idea from a business standpoint, I won't be interested in the base model. A major reason I switched to iPhone from Android, is the build quality and materials.
Paul Lopez
Paul Lopez I wouldn't take an iPhone if they gave to me for free.
Brandon Moran
Brandon Moran Meanwhile its still a ripoff if it costs anything more than their iPod Touch lol.. iPod 5th Gen & iPod 5 + Phone app pre-installed (iPhone 5 if you didn't get that) give you practically the same exact experience. Everyone says, oh the ipod touch is just like phone, except without the phone.. .. Well, download a voip app, and guess what.. ITS A PHONE. Verizon LTE Mobile hotspot 5GB a month for $50 a month. That's all you need. But even at $299 for the ipod.. ehh.. Better off with the Nexus 4. =) People suffer for what? Lack of Knowledge.
Joel Diaz
Joel Diaz A free iPhone Wudnt interest me. Just saying bro.
Franky Isaac
Franky Isaac The plastic looks amazing and after all it is a iphone.
Teron Facey
Teron Facey If this was the case stupid Apple fanboys can stop using this as excuse for the Galaxy phones since it some what of the same thing if this was to happen.
David John Balbin
David John Balbin not at all.
Lukasz Dudek
Lukasz Dudek No.
Arturo Atherly
Arturo Atherly Interesting how....there was all this clamor about plastic not being soo favorable...and look at "exclusive" apple and what theyre doing...
Warren Saunders
Warren Saunders An iPhone at zero price wouldn't interest me :-P
Jesus Salvador Delgado Martinez
Jesus Salvador Delgado Martinez i would so get this as a birthday present for my mother becuase ios is easy to use and if its a cheap one it would be great cuz she already knows how to use the ipod lol
Norris Reber
Norris Reber nope, my Note 2 will keep me happy, until the Note 3 comes out!!!
Lucas Hohn
Lucas Hohn As long as it has a retina display.
Sol Foster
Sol Foster Stop trying to resurrect the dead!!
Mark Impossible Prince Clarke
Mark Impossible Prince Clarke nope .. iOS is dated
Enes Nadir Çomoglu
Enes Nadir Çomoglu I'd rather get a Nexus device. Nexus 4 is at $299 off contract and it is still a better device than the overpriced iPhone 5.
Tyler Saddington
Tyler Saddington Nope, my main phone is my Nexus 4 and I have an iPhone 4s for all my apps that are iOS exclusives.
Ken Humphlett
Ken Humphlett Cuz what the iPhone needs is a smaller screen?!

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