I've lost count of how many times now it's been claimed that 2013 will see Apple launch both an iPhone 6 and a lower-priced iPhone 5S to widen the iPhone's appeal downmarket.
Apple boss Tim Cook, as you would expect, is saying nothing to help settle the argument one way or another. He quite obviously knows, he's just not telling us.
That's no surprise, of course. A lot of Apple's success down the years comes from the obsessive secrecy it enforces around upcoming products, which gives it control not only over what it's working on, but also when we get to hear about it. Everything's on Apple's terms.
And it seems Cook is as good at playing that game as Steve Jobs was. Speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference yesterday, Cook sorta kinda hinted that a cheaper iPhone might be on the way, but did so without saying anything definitive one way or the other.
Instead he focused on the perception of affordability, saying that while Apple would always strive to make the iPhone more affordable, it didn't want to be associated with products that were first and foremost thought of as “cheap”.
He used the iPod as an example, citing the range of iPod variants that are now available, all of them considerably cheaper than what the original iPod sold for but none of them deliberately feature-bare for the sake of a lower price tag.
“Instead of saying, ‘How can we cheapen the iPod?’,” Cook argued, “we said ‘how can we do a great product that will allow us to sell it cheaper?’”
Cook also pointed to the iPad as an answer to calls down the years for it to make its entry point to the computing market more affordable. "The only thing we'll never do," he said, "is release a crappy product."
In other words, a future more affordable iPhone (not “cheap iPhone”, of course) may be a smaller-screened version of the current iPhone, but it may also be an entirely new type of device altogether. That said, it may not exist at all.
In other words, as you were.