Following up on yesterday’s Sprint iPhone news, Reuters has filed its own report stating that Apple is preparing to launch an entry-level version of the current iPhone 4 with 8GB of storage intended for developing markets within the coming weeks.
The phone is expected to be launched first in markets such as China, where rumors of high-level discussions with China Mobile personally conducted by Steve Jobs have surfaced in recent weeks in a bid to increase the marketshare of the iPhone around the world against Android and its recent explosion in developing markets, which has contributed to its currently debated position as the most popular platform in terms of total devices shipped and activated.
Currently, the iPhone 3GS serves as Apple’s “entry-level” iPhone offering in the US which is currently sold by AT&T for $49 after a new 2 year agreement and as low as $9 for refurbished units. Should the report prove correct, the availability of an entry-level 8GB iPhone 4 would prove an enticing proposition for prepaid carriers in the US averse to heavy subsidies beyond the $100-$150 levels currently applied to handsets in order to draw customers and would give those same carriers a halo device to draw customers away from entrenched carriers and upstart flat-rate carriers. The opportunity also presents itself especially for prepaid providers such as Boost/Virgin Mobile and Tracfone’s Straight Talk, which currently tout unlimited data service for phones, though Virgin Mobile will begin throttling handsets on its Beyond Talk service plans beginning in October.
The offering would also prove to be stiff competition for Nokia, as the majority of its current marketshare is derived from sales and shipments of low-end and mid-range handsets in markets such as India, South America and China. The new iPhone is expected to launch within weeks, more than likely launching around the same time as the iPhone 5 in mid-October as previously reported yesterday, with initial availability in Greater China first on China Mobile and China Telecom before being expanded to other markets.