Apple is abandoning its insistence on premium models in uniform sizes and starting to offer a wider range of sizes and prices. The strategy already became evident with the release of the iPad Mini tablet PC late last year.
The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday said Apple is likely to release mid- to low-priced iPhones later this year. It did not reveal the exact prices of the mass-market iPhones but said Apple plans to make them from plastic rather than the trademark aluminum to save costs.
Although the cheaper iPhones will use the same components as premium iPhones, a lot of the parts will be recycled from older models. They will target China and other emerging countries where Apple has been less successful in sales.
The new approach marks a major shift in strategy for the California-based company, which has prided itself on giving no quarter on specifications.
Apple is expected to offer a wider range of colors including yellow and pink. According to IT blog Mashable, the iPhone 5S to be released this summer will be offered in five colors. So far the phones are only available in black and white.
Apple is also likely to offer different screen sizes, according to Mashable.
With the iPad Mini in October last year, Apple already showed signs of betting on a wider range of models and prices. The iPad Mini costs US$329, half the price of the latest iPad ($599) and also broke away from the tradition of unveiling new tablet PCs in March each year.
The iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch screen, which the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs had dismissed as too small.
Apple's move apparently aims to stemming the rapid decline of its share of the global smartphone market. Until the fourth quarter of 2011, the company had a 23.6 percent share of the global market, but that dropped to 16 percent in the third quarter of 2012. Meanwhile, rival Samsung Electronics increased its share from 23.2 percent to 33.9 percent.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, who took the helm in 2011, has a different management style than Jobs, who took pride in appealing to hardcore followers with innovative products.
Critics say Cook is merely trying to maintain the status quo rather than attracting customers with innovative products, but some pundits say that may be the only choice Apple has given its position in the market.