Not long after Apple’s World-Wide Developers Conference, rumors began swirling about the next generation of iPhone. With iOS7, Apple Nation had been given a software upgrade. Would new hardware soon follow? Talk of iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 have littered the internet, yet the most interesting and plausible rumors don’t revolve around another premium, metal-encased phone, but a neon-colored, low-cost contender alternately called an iPhone Color or iPhone Lite.
Rumors of Skittle-hued iPhone prototypes with non-carrier-subsidized prices in the hundred dollar range are being backed by photos. This would give the iPhone a cheaper chromatic little brother, its own Nano, if you will. When it debuted in 2005, the Nano was advertised as a more affordable version of the always-popular, never-cheap iPod. The Nano helped Apple cover the market on lower grade MP3 players, as the brand name was enough to draw people and their teenagers away from Sandisk and other makers.
Apple has denied rumors of an iPhone Color/Lite (and we can all agree they may be one of a dozen prototypes that never get beyond R&D), but the pictures and rumors persist. This is partially because Apple is in need of some kind of expansion in the smart phone market. While the iPhone has been a juggernaut in the high-end, it has been dethroned by the Samsung Galaxy S. Where it once was a trailblazer and must-have piece of tech, Apple has fallen behind to bigger, thinner screens.
As the U.S. smartphone market cools, cheap, candy colored iPhone Minis may sell well with U.S. parents looking to add their kids to a family carrier plan (and cannibalize iPod Touch sales in the process). But the real opportunity for Apple lies in countries where phones listing for $600 are neither subsidized by carriers (in exchange for locking you into 2 year contacts) nor generally paid for by employers. Like China, where that huge market is dominated by domestic smartphone companies like Yulong, Lenovo and Hauwei, companies that have learned how to churn phones listing at less than $100. Half of them run on Android, an easy operating system for manufacturers to get a hold of and install on their phones. The combination of rock-bottom prices and near-comparable style has allowed Android to grab 75% of the global market.
Though the thought of Apple coming out with a cheap iPhone has ruffled some feathers, it’s a smart move if the rumor proves to be true. A $100 iPhone would jumpstart BYOD, to date mostly an American phenomenon, globally. The market for iOS7 apps would explode, boosting developers of both consumer and business solutions (including Avaya– our Avaya one-X Communicator Speech, 3100 Mobile Communicator, Avaya one-X Mobile, and Avaya Web Collaboration all run on iPhone). For a global brand, Apple hasn’t embraced globalization in this way. If it does, the rising tide out of Cupertino will lift many boats, including those of unified communication vendors, along the way.