Cheap iPhone Rumor Keeps Spreading, But Is It A Pipe Dream?

The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday repeated a new rumor that Apple is working on a cheap iPhone model, further legitimizing the rumblings. 

But the nearly constant flow of rumors about Apple iPhones, iPads and other devices often leads tech-lovers to premature exuberance, as the gadgets never hit the market, or the predictions about them turn out to be dead wrong, as many guesses about the specs, features and design of the iPhone 6 surely will be if and when the company releases such a model. 

As such, the news in the Journal begs readers to question whether a cheap iPhone really is on the way, or whether such a prospect is nothing more than a pipe dream.

The rumor first hit the Web in less mainstream publications like DigiTimes.com, which reported earlier Tuesday that "supply-chain sources" say Apple is planning to release a cheap iPhone model to help boost sales as iPhone 5 sales continue to underwhelm tech observers.

The impetus for the move, according to DigiTimes.com, may be rooted in the success the company has had in selling the iPad mini, a smaller, cheaper version of the standard iPad:

"Growing sales of the iPad mini, particularly in China and other emerging markets, may have served as an impetus for Apple to roll out a low-cost iPhone to repeat its success gained on the sale of the iPad mini, the sources commented," DigiTimes.com wrote, adding that the cheap iPhone model would likely be targeted at China and other emerging markets.

The Wall Street Journal article referenced "people briefed on the matter," and a spokesperson for Apple declined to comment, but the piece provides details about the possible design of the phone, as told to them by the aforementioned "people":

"While Apple has explored such a device for years, the plan is progressing and a less expensive version of its flagship device could launch later this year, one of the people said," according to the Journal article. "The cheaper phone could resemble the standard iPhone, with a different, less-expensive body, one of the people said."

The Journal went on to explain that the device's cost could be lessened by making it out of polycarbonate plastic rather than the aluminum that currently houses the iPhone 5.

That jibes with the DigiTimes article, which stated that its sources said "the low-priced iPhone will also have a brand new exterior design."

DigiTimes also added that "other sources" said cooperation between China Mobile and Apple could lead to a TD-version of the iPhone in China sometime in the future.

The Journal noted that Apple -- which currently sells the iPhone 5 at a minimum price of $199 with a two-year wireless contract, or $649 without one -- has been looking at the prospect of developing a cheaper iPhone since "at least 2009."

Despite the fact that multiple sources are repeating the cheap iPhone rumor, it is next to impossible for Apple-watchers to predict with any degree of certainty whether such a device will ever hit the market. So it's a waiting game, as always with the company Steve Jobs built.

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