Apple CEO Tim Cook has highlighted the huge potential growth for iPhone, arguing that despite the smartphone's existing broad availability, there's still plenty of room to find new owners. "It may surprise you," Cook said during the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference today, "but iPhone is only available to about 50-percent of the subscribers in the world."
That's a huge potential audience, Cook argues, highlighting China as one such area in which Apple has made inroads but still sees plenty of room for more. It's worth noting that many emerging markets might not be able to stomach the pricing of the current iPhone range, something Cook did touch upon a little.
Apple's existing lower-cost iPhone plans have centered around making the last-gen hardware more affordable. That, Cook says, actually led to a surprising degree of demand among consumers. In fact, the company "didn't have enough supply" of the iPhone 4 when Apple cut the price, something which Cook says "surprised us" given there was a more up-to-date model on the market.
Nonetheless, the two-year subsidies familiar from many markets - and which allows for a "free" iPhone 4 on contract - simply won't fly in other countries. There, cheap Android handsets have proliferated, and it's questionable whether Apple could - even with two-year-old hardware - cut its production costs of any currently released devices to match.
Still, as we've seen before with netbooks, when Apple can't hit something on price that it believes also meets with its ethos, it often goes a different direction (in the case of netbooks, it went to iPad). Whether that means the long-standing chatter of a budget Apple iPhone for developing nations could come to fruition remains to be seen.