(The following is a guest post from our friends over at International Business Times.)
Rumor has it that Apple has three different iPhones in development, but reliable sources note that a new “low-cost” iPhone is indeed set to be released later this year.
Rumors about this cheaper iPhone — possibly called iPhone 5S or iPhone 6 — have been circulating since early January, when a slew of reports from supply chain sources and even major U.S. news sites such as the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg took notice of a new iPhone in development strategically targeted toward lower-income, emerging markets like China and India.
On Monday, iLounge Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Horwitz followed up on his Friday exposé of next-gen iOS devices with a new report detailing what he calls the "budget iPhone 5," which will allegedly look like the iPhone 5 but feature several new design elements and tweaks.
“Yes, it will be made substantially from plastic,” Horwitz wrote, echoing an earlier report from DigiTimes that said the iPhone 5S or 6 would feature a hybrid chassis made of both plastic and metal. “No, it won’t just be a Retina- and Lightning-equipped refresh of the iPhone 3G or 3GS, Apple’s last plastic iPhones, nor will it look just like an all-plastic version of the iPhone 5. This new model is actually a cross between the iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch and — wait for it — the iPod classic. Yes, really. It will have a 4” screen, like the iPhone 5, a bottom like the latest iPod touch and a shape that’s most similar to the iPod classic.”
The original DigiTimes report said the new iPhone’s internal parts could “be seen from the outside through a special design; if this turned out to be true, the finished design for the iPhone 6 might look like an iPhone 5 mixed with the plastic enclosure of the iPhone 3GS from 2009 mixed with the final design for the Bondi blue iMac in 1998, which was characterized by its brightly colored, translucent plastic casing, letting users see the inside of their desktop computer for the first time.
The new low-cost iPhone 5S or 6 is said to feature nearly identical specs to the iPhone 5 but “a half-millimeter taller and a half-millimeter wider,” according to Horwitz, as well as a full millimeter thicker. But iLounge noted that the biggest design change in this cheaper iPhone will be the curves.
“Apple’s budget housing looks closest to the iPod classic in shape, though not in materials,” Horwitz said. “Unlike the plastic iPhone 3G/3GS, which featured soft curves on all sides, the budget iPhone’s curves start and end at flat surfaces, so each side and the back are flat. This seems like a trivial change, until you realize that it allows Apple to use flat rather than curve-matched parts: the right side has a flat, centered SIM card tray just like the iPhone 5’s, while all of the buttons and ports are on flat rather than curved surfaces. A flat-backed iPhone won’t rock on a flat surface when it vibrates, either.”
In addition to the new form factor, Horwitz believes the iPhone 5S or 6 will have very similar features to the iPod Touch, including identical proportions and locations for the camera, microphone and rear flash. The headphone jack, Lightning dock, bottom microphone and speaker are in the same location as the iPhone 5, but the new phone is said to have an extra microphone on the bottom, as well as four individual holes for the speaker grill, rather than the 26 speaker holes at the bottom of the iPhone 5.
“In summary, the budget iPhone will look a lot like an iPhone 5 from the front, an iPod classic from the side and an iPod touch 5G on the bottom — only made from plastic rather than glass or metal,” Horwitz concluded. “It won’t make any bold departures from past Apple designs, but then, it’s supposed to be an inexpensive iPhone and achieves that goal pretty much as expected.”
Dave Smith is a reporter for International Business Times, where this article first appeared.