Rumblings of a low-cost, plastic iPhone have been popping up fairly frequently throughout 2013, and today the rumored device is making headlines once again. The difference between this latest report and most others, though, is that rather than being based on statements from some anonymous sources, this latest intel comes to us from the non-profit organization China Labor Watch.
While conducting a report (PDF link) on the working conditions at Apple supplier Pegatron, China Labor Watch sent several undercover investigators to look into claims of poor working conditions at three factories. Buried inside its findings are mentions of the unannounced plastic iPhone. For example, CLW says that Pegatron is responsible for assembling the "iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, and low-priced plastic iPhones."
Later on in its report, CLW details one investigator's time spent helping to assemble the device. The agent describes the job as requiring them to "paste protective film on the iPhone’s plastic back cover to prevent it from being scratched on assembly lines." The investigator goes on to say that this product "will soon be released on the market by Apple" and that, because the phone "has not yet been put into mass production," speed wasn't a priority while pasting the protective film onto the plastic iPhone's back.
Previous rumors have suggested that Apple's low-cost iPhone could sport a 4-inch Retina display similar to the iPhone 5, but with a plastic rear shell that would make the device more affordable than its aluminum and glass-clad sibling. It's expected that Apple is planning to use the budget iPhone to help it gain more traction in developing nations. While Apple does currently sell older iPhone models for affordable prices, a new low-cost handset could allow it to sell a cheaper device that retains features that it wants to be more widely-adopted, like the 4-inch display and Lightning connector. The budget iPhone is rumored to be launching later in 2013.