Okay, that headline about how an analyst thinks Apple should lower the price and add new features next June/July when they release the 4th generation iPhone (not iPhone 4G, that's a couple years and an LTE network away) is only semi-facetious. Apple has lowered up-front costs and increased features on every generation of iPhone, after all. Last year the iPhone 3G dropped to $99 and the iPhone 3GS added video recording, hardware encryption, voice control, and a host of other things -- never mind iPhone 3.0. According to AppleInsider, however, Katy Huberty of Morgan Stanley has two things more specific in mind.

"We expect Apple to launch new iPhones in June that offer both a lower total cost of ownership and new functionality, potentially including gesture-based technology."

We'll leave the part about gestures alone; just file it under "reads the same patent applications we do" and move right along. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), however, is interesting because in 2008, even as the iPhone 3G was offered at $199, the cost of the AT&T data plan rose to $30/m making the overall TCO (over the course of the 2-year contract) higher.

Now, if Apple wants the iPhone to battle it out with Nokia in emerging markets, TCO is vitally important. But Apple hasn't historically chosen to battle it out in the low-end PC space, and their answer to netbooks wasn't cheaper MacBooks but the iPad. Makes it tough to see them doing it with discount iPhones.

In the US, big, colorful charts show how much you can save in terms of TCO on other networks and devices. With the iPad coming, and tiered AT&T data plans coming with it, maybe it's not unreasonable to think a reduction in TCO is in order -- not just "everything unlimited" but "overall less expensive". Then again, AT&T isn't hurting for subscribers or iPhone sales, so where this downward pressure would come from, if not Apple or our simply wishing it so, is unclear.

What do you think? Any chance Apple will pull "magical new plans" out of AT&T for the 4th generation iPhone?