While the Street has speculated Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) may be manufacturing a lower cost, more affordable iPhone for years, the time may have finally come. Taiwanese custom phone maker Techdy has released photos and a video of what it claims to be Apple’s cheaper version of its popular iPhone.
The phone is suggested to have a 4″ display, plastic chassis, and thinner bezel than the current iPhone 5. From the initial look, it seems Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is mainly sacrificing the traditional cosmetics of the product. It has not been announced if the lower priced phone will be similar in functionality to the iPhone 5.
While some analysts have actively voiced their concerns regarding margins and brand identity should Apple release a cheaper phone, I believe the launch would be beneficial for the company over the longer term. While Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) does maintain good market share here in the U.S., the global story paints a different picture.
In the majority of developing countries, including China, Apple has failed to establish a strong presence even with rising smartphone demand. Predominantly, the company’s high price point has turned would be Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) customers away from the brand and into the more generic offerings from Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) , Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY), and HTC.
By offering these consumers an entry level product, the company would be setting itself up well for long term success in the region. As incomes rise in these markets, consumers would be more inclined to trade up with a brand they are familiar with. The lower priced phone would become the starter product before the full functionality iPhone.
One analyst, Gene Munster of Piper, doesn’t believe the lower priced phone would significantly hurt gross margins as some have feared. Munster reported the odds of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s gross margins falling from 37.5% to below 30% are close to zero. He thinks if anything gross margins would still be 32%, even if a cheaper iPhone cannibalized 50% of regular iPhone sales and had only a 15% gross margins.
I would think the only sales which are vulnerable are those of Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) and Samsung. Up to this point, Blackberry and Samsung have dominated the Asia Pacific smartphone category.
While Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) looks inexpensive on paper, considering the company’s stash of cash, demand for its products may be in jeopardy. Going into the recently reported quarter many analysts and investors held high sales and earnings estimates. The company disappointed with poor performance resulting in yet another quarterly loss. The cash position, the only thing supporting this stock, has continued to shrink as a result of extensive R&D and cash burn.