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Cheap iPhone 'confirmed' by labor abuse report

John Cox | July 31, 2013
The long-rumored cheap, plastic iPhone is "confirmed" by a report on labor practices at the Chinese manufacturer that is assembling the device, according to the interpretation of some bloggers and tech news sites.

Aside from the abuses themselves, bloggers and technology news websites generally are interpreting the CLW information as confirming the existence of a cheaper, plastic-bodied iPhone, which has long been rumored.

"Apple's [AAPL] future plan to introduce a plastic iPhone is confirmed within this morning's shocking report into labor abuses at manufacturing partner, Pegatron," writes Computerworld's Appleholic blogger, Jonny Evans.

Evans linked to his own June 2013 post, headlined "Pegatron CEO confirms Apple's not so 'cheap' iPhone mini". But he based that claim on a post from the Japanese-language site Macotakara, which in turn based its account on a post at the Chinese language site, ChinaTimes

The Google Translate version of the ChinaTimes story is almost laughably obscure. Here's the opening: "And Master (4938) next version of Apple's new phone, the outbreak of the second half strong operational, but the chairman Tong Zixian rare on the market called cheap' iPhone quite critical, which means Price (price) is still high,' and that the electronics industry in the second half will be modest warming, PC will have some homecoming tide can be expected."

The Verge was somewhat more restrained in its assessment. "In particular, it sounds like the Pegatron factories are the site of the oft-rumored, low-cost plastic iPhone that Apple is expected to introduce later this year alongside a new iPhone 5S," writes Nathan Ingraham. In conclusion, he added, "Plans could still change, and this report shouldn't be taken as gospel in regards to future Apple products, but it's another piece of evidence that points to a new entry into the iPhone category."

AppleInsider interprets the CLW comments as evidence that the plastic phone is in either "initial production" or "testing," with "mass production" starting "soon." The headline: "Labor report reveals low-cost plastic iPhone in initial production at Pegatron."

Wall Street Journal Reporter Jessica Lessin, in a story this week, asserts that "Apple is working on a lower-end iPhone according to people briefed on the matter."

Either her sources weren't given much detail in the briefings, or they didn't give much of that detail to Lessin, because her story is notable for its absence. "The cheaper phone could resemble the standard iPhone, with a different, less-expensive body, one of the people said," Lessin writes. For someone who has been "briefed" on the cheap iPhone, this is pretty tentative.

Lessin recycles other long-rumored, and long-believed, cheap iPhone assertions. "Many other parts could remain the same or be recycled from older iPhone models," she writes.

Yet how much cheaper would such a phone actually be at retail, in the unsubsidized smartphone markets in "emerging economies" such as Brazil, China, and India? If Apple keeps the iPhone 5 processor and Retina display screen, the Lightening dock connector, how many elements of older models can it still incorporate? If it doesn't keep these components, and reuses older versions, why would someone pay for what amounts to an older iPhone with a plastic body when they can already by discounted iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models?


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