Will Apple Debut Cheaper iPhone at WWDC?

A $99 iPhone may finally become a reality — with the key word there being “may.” A report published in the Financial Times on Friday reignited the long-standing rumor of a cheaper iPhone, suggesting Apple will announce a lower-priced, scaled-back device at its Worldwide Developers Conference next week.

Of course, the rumor may or may not prove to be accurate. Talk of a cheaper entry-level iPhone dates back to 2007, when word of an “iPhone Nano” first started floating around the tech blogosphere. Back then, analysts said the inexpensive iPhone would certainly hit store shelves by that year’s holiday season.

iPhone Rumor Patrol

So is there any reason to believe the latest analyst who, with a seeming sense of certainty, says a cheaper iPhone really is on the way? Not necessarily. It could very well turn out to be true — but it could just as easily not.

The analyst, a Morgan Stanley employee named Kathryn Huberty, claims the new iPhone will cost either $99 or $149. Huberty, for what it’s worth, has taken hits in the past for her predictions: A September 2008 survey published in Fortune ranked her as being the “worst” at estimating Apple’s sales.

“For fiscal Q2, for example, she predicted that Apple would sell only 1 million iPhones. Actual iPhone sales that quarter were 1.7 million,” the article states.

Whether Huberty’s current cheap iPhone prediction has any factual roots is, as of now, a matter of speculation itself.

Broader Apple Buzz

Buzz has steadily been building around the next-generation iPhone since the initial unveiling of Apple’s iPhone 3.0 software update in March. Apple has confirmed the new operating system will support more than 100 new features, including cut-and-paste capabilities, expanded landscape functionality, multimedia messaging (MMS), and push notifications. Built-in voice recording, device-wide search, and expanded calendar options are also among the confirmed additions. Numerous video-related iPhone features are rumored to be included as well, with some reports pointing to a device called the “iPhone Video” being debuted.

As far as price, recent scuttlebutt has suggested AT&T may be looking at dropping its iPhone service rates by as much as 14 percent in the near future. Other rumors have claimed Verizon could also get a shot at iPhone sales before long.

The guessing game will end — for a little while, at least — when Apple’s Philip Schiller takes the stage at the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday. With Steve Jobs still on medical leave (though set to return sometime this month), Schiller is scheduled to lead a “team of Apple executives” in delivering the keynote speech that kicks off the event. (From JR Raphael, PC World)

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