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Rumors have low-cost iPhone using plastic body

updated 09:39 am EST, Tue January 15, 2013

One rumor claims possibility of see-through design

Apple's alleged low-cost iPhone could use plastic for its chassis instead of metal or glass, as with the most recent iPhone models, say supply chain sources for DigiTimes. A material switch is one of the first specific cost-saving measures to be suggested for the device. The iPhone 3G and 3GS used plastic backs, but Apple migrated to glass for the iPhone 4, and metal for the iPhone 5.

DigiTimes mentions two other rumors, including one that the maker of the cheaper iPhone's chassis will be a US-based manufacturer. Apple currently relies on Asian companies for virtually all of its supply and assembly needs. The other rumor suggests that the new phone may use a mixed plastic-and-metal chassis, allowing people to see the phone's internal metal parts. Such a design would be a break from Apple's normal aesthetics, however.

Either way, sources say that components for the low-cost model are currently undergoing validation. A launch is only expected sometime in the second half of 2013.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    Yes, of course. We all know that the glass and metal cost hundreds of dollars.

    Seriously, plastic will cut a few dollars off the price. What else can Apple do to bring the cost down?

  1. coffeetime

    Senior User

    Joined: 11-15-06

    Apple producing cheap phone? No way! They don't even make cheap Mac. It's probably a knock-off counterfeit iPhonie from a company in China.

  1. SierraDragon

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 03-22-04

    Originally Posted by hayeskView Post

    What else can Apple do to bring the cost down?

    Basic ongoing tech evolution allows them to bring the cost down. E.g. the iPhone 1 display no doubt cost hella more than the same display today, and a few mm smaller would be cheaper still.

    Existing high margins allow them to bring the price down by reducing margins on the lower end products. Benefits of market share to the ecosystem may even justify very low margins on the lower end iPhones.

    High-volume plastic is cheaper than high-volume machined metal, and a less expensive iPhone may well have truly huge volume, lending itself to good cost benefits from the latest high-volume plastic manufacturing technology.

    Also a differentiated-as-less-expensive product need not present absolute top latest-tech performance like a flagship product must.

    Some features can be dropped or can be lower end. Camera for instance. Retina display for another.

    However overall product quality _must_ be kept at very good.


  1. SierraDragon

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 03-22-04

    Note also that now-common LTE makes presenting the older non-LTE iPhone versions as the entry level a less acceptable strategy. Entry-level iPhones (but with LTE) make a lot of sense.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Though I personally much prefer the metal-glass type phones, Apple has already (previously) made good-looking plastic phones before (the first few iPhones) so we know that is possible. We also know that plastic has some resiliency, and that it's better for antenna issues. That's why so many non-iPhone phones are made of plastic.

    However, it's an environmental wreck and (even though NO OTHER COMPANY gets stick for this) I can hear Greenpeace screaming from here at the very thought of a new plastic smartphone from Apple. So I really don't think that's going to happen unless Apple has invented some kind of highly-recycleable plastic shell that can be used.

    Apple has historically tried to ADD VALUE to premium designs rather than scale downwards, so it will be interesting to see if they even WANT to come up with a cheapo iPhone. So far, all I've *actually* seen evidence of is Apple seeking to lower the cost of manufacturing the EXISTING iPhones.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by chas_mView Post

    Though I personally much prefer the metal-glass type phones, Apple has already (previously) made good-looking plastic phones before (the first few iPhones)

    Second and third iPhone (3G/3GS).

    The first one was aluminium (though it had a plastic bottom end for the antenna).

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