By Harry McCracken | Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 7:56 am
Boy Genius Report, which has a pretty good record for reporting stuff about phones before anybody else, has posted about the possibility of a $99 4GB iPhone to be sold exclusively by Wal-Mart. It does look like Wal-Mart will become the fourth iPhone seller (after Apple itself, AT&T, and Best Buy). But Boy Genius goes to pains to say that the $99 bit is a rumor from a source of unproven reliability. And as I think about it, it seems unlikely.
For one thing, I’m not sure how well the math works: At the moment, an 8GB iPhone is $199 and a 16GB one is $299. That’s a $100 premium for an extra 8GB of memory, so it’s not clear that reducing the memory by 4GB would save Apple and Wal-Mart enough to slash the price of an entry-level iPhone by $100. And a $99 iPhone would be big news and a big hit–I have trouble believing that Apple would allow Wal-Mart to rack up all those sales and deny its own stores, AT&T ones, and Best Buy to get in on the action.
Then there’s the fact that a $99 4GB iPhone would represent a major cutback in the phone’s capability to hit a low price point. That’s certainly a Wal-Marty thing to do, but it sounds out of character for Apple, which stopped selling the 4GB iPhone (which originally sold for $499) as soon as it could.
I’m not saying it won’t happen. I’m just saying I can think of more reasons why it won’t happen than ones why it might. I do think, however, that there will be some sort of sub-$100 iPhone eventually–maybe one that’s a lot like current models, once component prices have come down and Apple has released a true next-generation iPhone or two. But not now. Probably.