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Japanese Apple rumours website Macotakara says Apple may release a low end iPhone in 2014. It will be made of polycarbonate to save money.

A new low cost iPhone has been rumoured for some time. The Macotakara blog posting is more specific than any others, and the details have been picked up and relayed around the iOSphere.

The key aspect of the Macotakara story is that the new iPhone will be built of polycarbonate rather than aluminium. This will save money, but means the phone will have to be thicker. But it will also be bigger, with a 4.5” LCD screen. And polycarbonate means bright colours – designed to appeal to young fashion conscious Chinese users.

Macotakara has a good track record at Apple predictions. It accurately described last year’s new iPods two months before they were released.

Quoting the ubiquitous ‘informed sources’, which seem mostly to be Apple component suppliers in China, Macotakara says the machine will be aimed squarely at the Chinese market. It is aimed at users are in their 20s, who are more fashion conscious. It is not aimed at Android users in the 30s or older.

Apple has used polycarbonate in low end Macs, so that makes sense. The cheaper material means it could sell the phone for us low as $330, says Macotakara, while still maintaining fill iPhone 5 functionality. By the time the phone is released the basic componentry of the iPhone 5 will be much less expensive, also enabling a lower price.

Remember that the $330 is a subsidised upfront price, which equates to about half what the current iPhone 5 costs. This price is hidden from most Western consumers, because carriers subsidise the cost, but it is a significant price difference in China, now by far the world’s largest (and most competitive) smartphone market.

“It seems to be gaining size to maintain strength,” says Macotakara. “The goal is to keep the price down. Polycarbonate will also enable various colours. The polycarbonate packaging will be similar to the front of the lower priced education-oriented 13-inch MacBook.”

There is no doubt Apple is readying a low end iPhone. It is now playing catch up. The improved functionality and sheer volume of Android phones, and their massive success around the globe, caught Apple by surprise. It needs a phone like this to compete.

Apple of course does not comment on any rumours. But we know that there is a low cost iPhone in the wings. A repackaged polycarbonate iPhone 5 makes perfect sense.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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