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Speculating about iPhone nano, aka budget iPhone (not iPhone 3GS)

Speculating about iPhone nano, aka budget iPhone (not iPhone 3GS)

Apple just might have had the iPhone nano -- or whatever you'd prefer to code-name the second, lower budget version of the iPhone family -- ready to go as early as WWDC 2011, though they chose to make that keynote focus exclusively on OS X Lion, iOS, and iCloud. What people mean when they talk (or leak) about iPhone nano is still unclear, however. Just like "Apple is working on a TV" ultimately turned out to be a 27-inch iMac, and Apple's "interesting ideas in the netbook space" ultimately turned out to be iPad and the 11-inch MacBook Air, what "iPhone nano/budget iPhone" turn out to be will no doubt be difficult to predict in advance but obvious in hindsight.

Today, BGR reported:

According to our source, Apple will indeed be launching a prepaid / lower cost iPhone this year. We are told the handset will retail for no more than $350 without contract. Ready for the really interesting part? It’s entirely possible that the low-cost iPhone will in fact be the iPhone 3GS. [[BGR]http://www.bgr.com/2011/07/18/apple-to-launch-low-priced-iphone-for-350-iphone-4s5-end-of-summer/)

We've long speculated that iPhone nano might be a stripped down iPhone 3GS, same lower resolution screen and lower cost, high volume, components, but a smaller, tighter, refreshed package. Again, that's pure speculation but based on iPhone nano not being a straight up iPhone 3GS. (Or just a new name for the discounted iPhone 4 when iPhone 5 goes on sale.)

Apple has been tremendously successful at dominating the high end, premium phone market, and have grown by adding Verizon as a carrier. They've also done a good job in grabbing those who transition from feature phones to smartphones; an ever increasing number. That last group is hugely important, as are emerging markets. Low cost options are important to them, but so are low cost plans. Apple could make an iPhone nano free on a 2 year contract but AT&T and Verizon voice and data plans make that difference negligible when it comes to total cost of ownership (Saving $100 when you're spending $2000 is nice but not transformative.)

Cheaper plans on alternate carriers in the US, and certainly internationally, are one way to address this. (The other is a non-app phone, but it's hard to see Apple pull a ROCKR again.)

Either way, it's going to be interesting to see if Apple finally decides to pull the trigger on a second class of iPhone, and how they choose to market it. iPod nano became the best selling MP3 player in history. Could that lightning strike again in the smartphone space?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 11 comments. Add yours.

derloos says:

For a number of reasons, I still believe it's gonna be a Sprint-bound phone to crack up the US market.

mtcowdog says:

I can see the appeal of a low cost iPhone model, especially one that is available off contract and unlocked (for GSM version). Personally I don't find a several year old 3GS appealing and hope that if Apple releases such a phone it has some updated hardware that can reasonably run iOS5 and whatever for a couple of years. And things like a front facing camera seem necessary to this consumer.
I'm looking more for the next iPhone. I really hope it is more than a spec bumped IP4.
I guess the real news is that the iPhone rumors are so bonkers that what we really know is that we don't know squat about what Apple will do next.

mlfgc says:

I don't understand why not have just a cheaper ver of the iPhone? I.e 64gb v 32gb v 16gb ?
That's way more likely imo

Smurf9t9 says:

The 3GS CPU is not entirely dissimilar from th A4 chip. A4 gets a faster clock, more RAM, faster bus CPU-RAM and better GFX, however raw processing power is quite good with the 3GS.

(Copy of) Dev says:

If Apple offers a stripped down phone, they had better offer a stripped down OS and/or up-to-date hardware with it. Whether a 3Gs or a new device, if the performance is as poor as my 3G was on the initial release of iOS4, it will poison the brand on the low end.

Kumar says:

ios 5 work just fine on iPhone 3gs even better than ios 4

Shrike says:

Which USA MVNO is GSM again? Not much use for a budget smartphone unless it comes with budget service. Something like $30/mo for both voice and data (150 MB/mo?) would be acceptable for me. Of course I'd be fine with all data + 3rd party VOIP service...

mlfgc says:

There's as much likelihood of an iPhone nano as there is a 7" iPad coming out.
With that said, the rumors with Verizon over a year back speculated talks over a tablet (iPad) and a budget smaller n lighter ver of the iPhone.
Given that there are confirmed CDMA versions of iPhone since 2008 I think it's just a matter of if it's released, but not "when" at this pt.

OrionAntares#CB says:

An 8GB iPhone 4 for AT&T just like last year with the 3Gs.

train21reb says:

You are exactly right. Apple already has a budget iPhone. It's called iPhone Last Year.

WAMadden4 says:

iPhone Nano? LOL just call it iCheapAss.... get one of those and people would be laughing at you.... Apple doesnt do cheap stuff... if you cant afford it, you cant afford it.... save up!