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The Latest Low-Cost iPhone Rumor Conflicts with Apple's iPhone Philosophy Revealed Last Night

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Apple reportedly plans to launch two models of its iPhone family in the third quarter of 2013 and has asked makers in the supply chain to prepare production capacity for 20 million units a month, according to industry sources in Taiwan.

According to a report published today by DigiTimes, the two new iPhones are to be unveiled in June at the earliest, will include a revised version of the iPhone 5 and another low-cost iPhone model, which will be comparable to the iPhone 4S in hardware specifications but with a lower specification display and processor, the sources indicated.


While there's definitely a business case to be made for an economical iPhone, the description of such a "low-cost iPhone model" found in the DigiTimes report may not jibe with Tim Cook's view of a different kind of iPhone hinted at during last night's interview at the AllThingsD Conference.


Tim Cook's Philosophy Regarding a new Mid-Range iPhone


Apple's CEO Tim Cook opened the AllThingsD conference hosted by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher last night. Below is a segment of that interview where Cook is asked about a new type of iPhone for a different segment of the market. The quotes in the segment below are from the AllThingsD blog transcript from last night's interview and not directly from the video. So there could be a slight difference in coverage.


Walt Mossberg: on product strategy. With the iPod, Apple had a range of products each to hit different markets and use cases. In one case, Apple killed off its best-selling iPod Mini and introduced the Nano. You haven't done that with the iPhone. Instead, Apple has covered price points by keeping around older models at lower prices.


Why not do what Apple did with the iPod and have a range of new products each year.


Tim Cook: We haven't so far. That doesn't shut off the future.


As to why not so far, "It takes a lot of really detail work to do a phone right."


Cook said doing so might take off focus. With iPod, Cook said, the iPod evolved over time. But, take the iPod Shuffle, it had really different features and played a different role. When we brought out iPod Mini people thought it wouldn't sell because it had less storage. But it proved the market was there for lighter, thinner and smaller.


My only point is these products all served a different person, a different type. On the phone, that is the question. Are we now at a point to serve enough people that we need to do that?


Tim Cook's commentary on a possible new iPhone was very distinct in using the iPod Shuffle analogy of it really having to deliver different features that play a different role in the market compared to other iPhones. He repeated his main point that differing iPods "served a different person." Cook's commentary could re-open the door to the iPhone nano design which Apple sought to patent back in 2009.


At the end of the day, the market is fully expecting a possible economical iPhone design to look like a dumbed down iPhone 4S. Yet if Tim Cook's analogy proves true, then we could be in store for a very, very different and original design that few imagined. This is something that the Apple community would expect Jony Ive to pull off rather than debuting a rushed half-baked product.


On a last note, most are hoping for a new mid-market iPhone to emerge at Apple's WWDC. Yet there was just something in Tim Cook's response about the timing of a possible new iPhone model that was a little discouraging. Then again, I guess we'll find the answer to the new iPhone model mystery or not, on June tenth.


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I have a feeling Apple will have a hardware surprise at the event. And something more than just upgraded internals of existing products. I'm thinking a completly redesigned Mac Pro with the highest resolution display Apple has ever released on any of its products. It's long overdue, and I feel this kind of hardware (even though not for the average consumer) will have a welcomed spot with all of the software talk at the event.

You won't be seeing any announcements on new iPhones at WWDC this year as such. It will mainly focus on iOS and OSX, as it should.

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