Talking tech since 2003

A post on 9to5Mac today points the way back to a report from the Wall Street Journal that seems to confirm the impending release of a plastic-backed, low-cost iPhone from Apple. The report is concerned with detailing the working conditions of a Pegatron plant in China, and relies on the personal testimonies from workers at the plant as gathered by China Labor Watch, helping to further legitimize the recent rumors that Apple has put such a phone into production.

Here are a few choice quotes culled by 9t05Mac that confirm the device’s manufacture:

“[Pegatron’s] assembled products include iPHone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, and low-priced plastic iPhones. […]

Today’s work is to paste protective film on the iPhone’s plastic back cover to prevent it from being scratched on assembly lines. […]

The new cell phone has not yet been put into mass production, so quantity is not as important. This makes our job more slow paced than in departments that have begun mass production schedules.”

These quotes would seem to confirm that the less expensive version of the iPhone is coming soon from Apple, though it’s not clear quite when. It’s not entirely clear when some of these quotes or reports were gathered, though the report came out today. As such, it’s possible that the plastic-backed iPhone could come out by the end of this year, or maybe not until sometime in 2014. Our own post about the rumors from back in January peg the release as sometime in 2013, but until Apple actually makes a formal announcement, it’s difficult to say for sure.

In addition to having a plastic back—which would be the most outwardly significant sign of it being the “budget” version of the iPhone—I have to wonder about what other features might be cut out of the lower cost version of the device. While we explored some speculation regarding the device earlier this month, I have my own theories (uninformed though they may be).

Will the cheaper iPhone have less RAM? A slower processor? Less storage capacity? What features will Apple take away to make it not only more cost-effective than the regular version of the iPhone, but also still a reasonable option for those looking to get an iPhone? After all, handicapping the gadget will only serve to make it less desirable, in that it won’t be able to do as much as, well, an iPhone. Sure, it’ll have the iOS operating system, but an OS with hobbled hardware isn’t much of a selling point to me. Furthermore, it makes me wonder how Apple will be able to sell the cheaper iPhone when there are plenty of low-cost Android phones on the market already.

I suppose it’s entirely possible that Apple could simply rely on its company’s reputation, as well as the iPhone’s status as a popular and trendy product in order to move the newer version. But then that raises the question: will consumers still enjoy the cultural cachet that owning an iPhone brings if everyone can see the brightly colored plastic back that denotes the fact that it’s a “budget” iPhone? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

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