New iPhone Could Be as Cheap as $99 at Release Date

By Craig Galbraith Comments
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**Editor's Note: Click here for our complete breakdown of the iPhone 5.**

It's looking more and more like Apple will abandon some traditional strategies and introduce a new, lower-cost iPhone later this year.

After being widely rumored for the past couple of months, "people briefed on the matter" say Apple will make a push to gain more customers in developing countries – such as China – by unveiling a less expensive version of its iconic iPhone in late 2013, the Wall Street Journal said. Bloomberg followed with a report that says Apple is considering a price between $99 and $149 for the device.

Taiwan's DigiTimes said earlier this week that the phone might even feature a bigger screen than what is offered in previous versions of the iPhone. To save money, plastic might be used rather than aluminum for the device's shell, and some of the parts might be recycled from older models.

Apple would obviously be giving up some of its profit margin to sell such a device, but the number of potential customers in emerging markets – not all of whom can afford to pay hundreds of dollars for an unsubsidized iPhone – might be just too appealing to pass up. While the iPhone remains a huge seller globally, Google's Android operating system – sold on a bevy of devices by Samsung and other manufacturers – is far and away the global leader in market share.

The company has been open to change over the last few months; it launched a mini version of its popular iPad at a lower price last fall.

Apple, per the norm, had no comment on the reports of a cheaper iPhone.

Meantime, Straight Talk customers at Walmart can get the iPhone 5 without a contract starting Jan. 11. The prepaid offering will set you back just $45 per month. The retail giant has sold the device since it debuted last September, but only on a two-year contract. It is, however, unsubsidized, so you'll have to cough up $649 for the 16GB version or $449 for 8GB.

Follow editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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