Apple could develop a budget version of its popular iPhone handset within the next few years with an eye to offering a more affordable smartphone product in countries like China and India, according to a leading business source.
Gene Munster, an analyst at investment bank Piper Jaffray, told the Emirates Business that he predicted Apple will bring out an 'iPhone 5 mini' model costing around $200 (£125) by 2014.
The handset will be aimed at emerging markets in China and India because the Western mobile business model - whereby networks subsidise the cost of high-end smartphones and then recoup the money via their costly monthly plans - has yet to be adopted in those regions.
For example, if you take out a monthly contract on the iPhone 5 in the UK, you might pay an upfront cost of around £100. Apple itself would collect the full price of £529, and the mobile network would cover the difference by signing the customer up to a monthly data plan lasting on average 24 months.
Munster believes that by selling a cheaper iPhone model to these developing markets, Apple would gain an additional 3 billion customers. It is unclear whether Apple would also make such a reduced spec offering available in the US and Europe as well.
It seems to be a prudent time to make such a move, as rival Android handsets are currently building up market share in China. According to reports, 3.5 million Android mobiles were sold in China in the last three months, compared to just 2.3 million iPhones.
It is thought that the overwhelming obstacle in those countries to Apple ownership is price.
However, other industry insiders believe that Apple is unlikely to directly enter the budget smartphone market as it defies the ethos of the firm, which design guru Sir Jony Ive has summarised as a "sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better."
Instead, is thought that the influential tech titan may rehash some of its popular older models like the iPhone 3G and iPhone 4 at lower prices for developing markets.