Rumors about a new, cheaper iPhone have been swirling for several days now, hitting a fever pitch as Bloomberg reported Thursday that a phone made of cheaper products could sell for under $150, and perhaps as little as $99.
But Apple executive and head of global marketing Phil Schiller stepped in to stop, or at least slow, the rumor mill with comments to the Shanghai Evening News, as translated and confirmed by The Next Web, that cheap smartphones will “never be the future of Apple’s products.”
On the face of it, that directly contradicts reports that the company will turn to lower-quality materials to bring down the cost of an iPhone for the lower-end of the market. Apple has been known to change its mind about products in the past — the existence of the iPad mini is a great example of this — but for now, at least, it seems Apple is putting the kibosh on a phone made of cheaper materials.
That doesn’t mean that Apple may not sell less expensive phones, however. After all, the company has already shown increased willingness to meet more price points. It sells older iPhone models at a discount, sometimes free on contract. It works with some carriers to sell the phones on pay-as-you-go plans.
Thursday, Walmart and Straight Talk Wireless announced they will offer the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 on a no-contract $45 per month plan, and bring the cost down to $25 with a Walmart credit card. Customers will still have to buy the iPhone at its full price, however.
Offering a less expensive iPhone would make a lot of sense for Apple as it looks to China and other emerging smartphone markets where the company is looking to repeat its knack for catching the wave of smartphone adoption.
China, particularly, is an important market for the company. Apple chief executive Tim Cook has visited the country twice in the past 10 months and announced Thursday that the company will introduce an iPad mini that operates on cellular connections by the end of January. CNET reported that Cook made those comments to the Chinese news outlet Tencent.
Apple also has plans to open more retail stores in China. The company currently has four retail locations in the country and has trouble meeting demand for its products.