Call it the iPhone Mini, the budget iPhone or the iPhone Lite. Whatever Apple’s newly rumoured device is called, it will be an undoubted success for the Cupertino giant. In fact, you could go as far as to say that it’s the most inevitable gadget release of 2013, ahead of the fully fledged iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S4 in the nailed-on stakes.
Why? Well, it’s not just the rumours, although those are helpful in framing this story. It comes down to Apple’s need to compete in the hotly contested budget end of the smartphone spectrum. You could argue that it already does this pretty successfully by still selling its older iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models at knockdown prices.
But older is the operative word here. Consumers, especially technology consumers, want the newest thing going and those models are tainted simply by the fact that they’re no longer the new kid on the block. Apple knows this and is putting the wheels in motion to do to the iPhone brand what it has already done to the iPad brand with the iPad Mini. Past gossip about an iPhone Mini was easy to scotch, with the argument that Apple is clearly not keen to devalue its premium smartphone, which redefined the market and led to the world of app laden smartphones we now enjoy.
However, the game has changed a lot since the original iPhone landed five years ago. Android has made smartphones a ubiquitous, cheap must-have for everyone. Who wants a feature phone anymore when you can get an entry-level smartphone for less than £100 upfront? Q3 2012 figures show that Android shifted on 122 million new phones around the world at that time. Half of those were in the lucrative Asia/Pacific market. Google and its Android partners are absolutely cleaning up in emerging markets, where Apple has always struggled due to its premium price strategy.
Apple desperately needs an in to try and break the Big G’s dominance and expand its brand in China and beyond. An iPhone Mini would help do this, no question. The power of the Apple brand, and the luxury cache that it still carries, would doubtless convince millions to buy one of these cheap(er) devices. Of course, it’s unlikely that Apple will release a phone that sells for next to nothing. The iPad Mini is hardly a bargain bin device, especially compared to similarly sized rival slates from Amazon and Google. But there’s no denying that this is an area that Apple will have to address in 2013.
It may feel as if Google is leading them in this direction, something that Tim Cook and co won’t like. But if they want to stay on the tails of Mountain View, they have no choice but to unleash an iPhone Mini as soon as possible.