Analyst says free iPhone 3Gs could double market

A number of normally sober tech sites have picked up on the ramblings of RBC Capital analyst Mike Abramsky who has decided to share his opinion, apropos nothing very much at all, that Apple could double its presence in the US smartphone market by knocking out the iPhone 3Gs for free.

While we have no doubt that a few more people would, indeed, buy the long-in-the-tooth handset if its price dropped from $49 to nowt, we can't help but thinking that Mike has a limited understanding of Apple's key demographic if he thinks that particular trend will continue beyond the launch of the iPhone 5, now almost universally expected to arrive in September.

The point is, your average iPhone user probably spends more than fifty bucks on a haircut, so the difference between paying such a small amount up-front on a handset tied to a two-year contract is, for today's iPhone-toting bright young things, so much piffle.

According to Forbes, the market watcher says the predicted move by Apple, which would see the company with three live handsets on sale for the first time ever, is aimed at disrupting cheaper Android handsets which dominate the middle of the market.

But who would sign on the dotted line for a two-year-old Apple mobile which has been superseded twice when there are far more capable phones out there from the likes of Samsung and HTC?

Now, if Apple were to retool all of the gubbins inside an iPhone 3Gs and cram them into a case which looks like an iPhone 4, the company might be onto a winner.

As the number of cheap identikit knock-offs made in China attest, it's not actually owning the latest iPhone that counts for many, it's the perception that you own the latest iPhone.

Apart from anything else, anyone looking to buy a creaky old 3Gs will still have to go through Apple's credit checks which, we have been reliably informed, are the toughest in the industry.

Up to 90 per cent of the people who bimble into their local mobile phone shop intending to walk away with an iPhone end up with something else instead. Mostly something with an Android sticker on it.

Having to go through the ignominious process of having your credit application turned down for a third-rate phone might just be one insult too many for the phone-buying public.

And as for the possibility of a 'smaller, pre-paid version' of the world's most desirable phone in 2012?

Not while the trend for larger, clearer screens persists, not while Steve Jobs is at the company's helm, and certainly not while Apple is merrily selling as many full-priced iPhones as its manufacturing partners can physically make.