Apple's Schiller: Don't hold your breath for a cheap iPhone

Rumors of a cheap iPhone are unfounded, Apple's Phil Schiller has insisted, saying that despite the sales potential for a budget smartphones such models "will never be the future of Apple's products." Schiller, SVP of worldwide marketing, denied a super-cheap model was Apple's strategy for the developing market in an interview with the Shanghai Evening News, even though recent leaks indicated that a low-cost iPhone was in the pipeline for 2013.

Instead, Schiller pointed out, Apple plans to continue its premium approach to phones. The company has 20-percent of the market share but 75-percent of the profit, the exec argued, and has no intention of undermining that with a device that undermines its halo products.

Still, there's sufficiently wiggle-room for Schiller's comments to co-exist with the chatter earlier in the week of "a smaller, cheaper version of the iPhone as soon as this year ... part of a push to gain customers in developing nations." Pointedly there's no specific mention of figures, such as what the marketing chief considers to be a "cheap" smartphone.

Apple already offers more affordable iPhones than the iPhone 5, by shifting its former 4 and 4S flagships down to lower price points. Meanwhile, despite previous rumors of a smaller, cheaper iPad, when the iPad mini finally launched it was a premium product in its own right, rather than simply being a pared-down version of the 9.7-inch original.

That may well be Apple's strategy with a new device: make a convincing argument for a smaller smartphone that has its own standalone merits, rather than being positioned as a cheaper iPhone 5. Longstanding chatter of an "iPhone mini" has continued since the launch of the original model.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is currently in China on what has been described as "iPhone business," though the chief exec did also take time out to confirm the cellular version of the iPad mini will launch in the country before the month is out. The Chinese market is an important one if Apple wants to continue its growth, though local carriers implemented heavy subsidies for the iPhone 5 launch so as to buoy demand.

[via iDownloadBlog and via TNW]