WSJ: Apple's Building a Cheaper iPhone (Again)

The WSJ, never ones to pass up a good (or bad) Apple rumor, is reporting that the company is working on a less expensive alternative to its $200 (on-contract) iPhone. And if that sounds familiar, well, it should. It's the same rumor they trotted out back in February of 2011.

In other words? Don't get your hopes up.

According to this latest report, Apple's rumored less-expensive smartphone would look much like its flagship (and, well, only recent) model, but would be built from more affordable polycarbonate plastic instead of the slick anodized aluminum of the iPhone 5. It would also likely sport the aging guts of an iPhone 4S, much like the iPad mini uses spare parts from the iPad 2.

So why be skeptical, aside from the coulds that litter the report, and the fact that nothing in it has changed substantially in the last two years other than that "the plan has been progressing"? Because Apple already has a cheaper iPhone. It's called the iPhone 4S, and it's available for $100 at the Apple Store. Or, if you're a real cheapskate, you can pick up the iPhone 4 on contract for free.

Is Apple working on prototypes made from cheaper materials? I'm sure it is. It's also working on prototypes with more expensive materials, and has been exploring both since the very first iPhone came out. But why would Apple sell an iPhone with iPhone 4S parts when it already sells the iPhone 4S? Why make an iPhone 5 out of cheaper materials when in less than a year's time the iPhone 5 will be discounted heavily to make way for a shiny new iPhone 6 (or 5S, or whatever)?

Could Apple muddle up its iPhone brand clarity by churning out a budget version? Of course it could. Anything's possible, and if the iPad mini taught us anything it's that the company's not afraid to put inferior guts in a good-looking body. But that doesn't mean it's about to happen, any more than it did two years ago. [WSJ]