In about a month from now, Apple should officially announce a new (and probably not that revolutionary) iOS smartphone, possibly called iPhone 5.
But will it be just one new iPhone? Rumors about a smaller and cheaper iPhone (iPhone Nano or whatever) have been around ever since the Cupertino company introduced its first smartphone back in 2007. And this year we’re seeing more reports about an alleged cheaper iPhone than ever.
Important publications like The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have informed the world that Apple may want to launch two new iPhone models this year: one as a high-end successor to the iPhone 4, and another one as some sort of an entry-level iPhone, made with emerging markets in mind.
However, it doesn’t make much sense for Apple to manufacture two new iPhones. And here’s why:
When iPhone 4 was released, Apple dropped the price of the iPhone 3GS to $99 (on contract at AT&T). Right now, the iPhone 3GS is even cheaper: $49. A similar thing can – and most likely will – be done after the iPhone 5 is launched: the iPhone 4 becomes the cheap model, while the iPhone 5 replaces it as Apple’s top of the line handset. But how cheap can the iPhone 4 go? I’d say not more than $300, or even $250 unlocked, and free on contract. Read on to see why I’m making such a seemingly crazy statement.
iPhone 4 16GB’s BoM (Bill of Materials) was estimated by iSuppli to be of $187.51. That was in June 2010, thus more than a year ago. Right now, I guess the same materials cost less, let’s say $150. Of course, the actual value of an iPhone 4 also includes R&D costs, assembly costs, plus packaging and shipping costs. But I’m pretty sure the R&D costs have been already covered a while ago – because Apple must have sold more than 30 million iPhone 4s since launch, and profits have been huge. It’s a bit weird that Apple didn’t specifically say how many iPhone 4s have been sold until now, but official figures* suggest the company may very well sell a total of 50 million iPhone 4s before the new iPhone 5 hits the market (October).
So, R&D costs aside, I don’t think I’m wrong to say that Apple could offer the iPhone 4 16GB for about $250 unlocked and still make profit. The profit margin would not be high, that’s for sure – but the iPhone 5 (which should have an average selling price of about $600) will certainly compensate for that.
With a $250 iPhone 4 16GB available in both GSM and CDMA flavors, Apple can penetrate any market, via any carrier. And let’s be honest, the iPhone 4 is a good smartphone – mind you, I’m saying this as an Android user. The iPhone 3Gs and 3G may have been just good phones, but iPhone 4 is a good smartphone (emphasis on smart). Priced at just $250 or thereabout, it will become an excellent one, even in 2012.
Sure enough, you may wonder: why would someone buy the new iPhone 5, when the iPhone 4 will be way cheaper and still offer a high-end user experience? Well, those who have the budget for a new and expensive iPhone will get one anyway, regardless of how good the older model still is. That’s how the mobile market is build. Just look at Samsung – it’s currently selling the Galaxy S i9000 (another excellent handset, by the way) for much less than what it’s asking for the new Galaxy S II i9100 flagship, and this doesn’t affect sales of the latter.
Now, I can’t say Apple will definitely not introduce a new, cheaper iPhone this year. I just think it has no strong reasons to do it, not as long as it can sell the iPhone 4 16GB for the price I’m thinking it can sell ($250). Making a brand new product implies lots of new efforts, including new R&D costs, new assembly lines, finding new component suppliers and so on. So why do that, when you already have a product that can act as a significantly cheaper alternative to your next big thing?
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