Why Apple will have to start making cheaper iPhones

The reason for smartphone dominance in such parts of the world for the likes of Samsung and Lenovo rests partly on their ability to bring sub-$250 devices to the market - there are many featurephone upgraders in rural parts of the country and the lower prices combined with ever improving hardware now make a smartphone a sensible choice given 3G networks are finally becoming more widespread.

So it would seem to the outsider that Apple would be mad to ignore such an opportunity, right? After all, it's got more cash than Scrooge McDuck many times over, so bringing a phone that costs $100, has the Apple logo on it and runs a watered down version of iOS is an easy win in the eyes of many.


And to those people Schiller's comments might reek of arrogance, of a firm that loves money and hates consumers and won't bring anything to market that it doesn't think will add to its massive money pile.

But look again at what he's really said and you'll realise there's a lot of wiggle room left with his words: a phone that uses 'the best materials we can' as well as cheap smartphones never being the future of Apple.

Of course they won't be the future. As long as Apple keeps making attractive smartphones to Western consumers (although there are some that think the mixed reception the iPhone 5 garnered is evidence that may not happen) it will maintain a healthy presence at the sharp end of the smartphone market and keep those high profit margin devices flying off the shelves for years to come.

But below the top end, there is absolutely room for an iPhone mini. One that uses older screen technology and lower cost materials but has a new design.

Which is precisely what happened with the iPad mini. In fact, it's hard to think of a top-end product range where Apple HASN'T made a mini version: the iPod, Mac and iPad all became miniaturised when Apple succumbed to pressure for a cut down version and decided such a model could flourish.

It didn't just make a low-capacity and rubbish quality version of any of these products though. It went back to the drawing board, looked at what was available at the price point it needed to hit, and found the perfect blend between profit and presence.

Apple iPad mini

So if it does ditch aluminium for polycarbonate, an 8MP camera for a 5MP variant and brings the screen size back down to 3.5-inch, you can bet it will do so in a new shape and with a fanfare large enough to extol the intelligence of all these decisions.

As Matt Bolton, Deputy Editor of Future's Apple Group in the UK, pointed out, Apple can always find a new way through when it looks like there's only one option: "I wonder if this is a netbook-like situation; by the time it looks like Apple has missed the boat, a new way of solving the problem comes along."

In that case it was the iPad, so Apple could just wait until some emerging markets become a little more mature and then bust out a strong mid-range device that costs perhaps $280 - keeping the aspiration levels high but maintaining its presence.

In short, Apple cannot continue with its strategy as it stands in the same way it couldn't let Google and Amazon hoover up the tablet market with the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. But that doesn't mean we're going to suddenly see an iPhone 3G with nothing more than a new name either.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.