What Will Apple’s Cheaper iPhone Look Like?

The buzz about Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) apparent plans to release a low-cost iPhone for emerging markets later this year is getting stronger. But what features will this phone with “a different, less-expensive body,” as The Wall Street Journal put it, have? According to the report, instead of a metallic exterior, Apple will likely use a polycarbonate plastic casing.

Apple does have some experience working with plastic cases, with the iPhone 3 and 3GS both featuring a plastic exterior. In addition, the company may recycle some parts from older iPhone models instead of using expensive and updated components of its latest device.

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According to The WSJ, the launch may come as early as late 2013. But doing so would be a complete switch in strategy for Apple, which has never sold multiple new iPhone models with different storage capacities. While the lowered price tag crimps on Apple’s margins, it would help the company grow sales in areas like China and India, where there are no carrier subsidies.

In the U.S., because of the subsidy and a two-year contract, the iPhone 4 — Apple’s most basic active model — is currently available for free. But the same phone without a contract costs $450. The latest iPhone 5 starts at $649 without a contract. Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) flagship Android phone, the Nexus 4, starts at a much lower $300 with no contract.

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According to the report, a cheap iPhone has been on Apple’s radar since 2009, but with the pressure from rivals increasing and the demand from international markets growing, it may finally have become a necessity.

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