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10 Sep, 2013 13:58

iPhone latest update may mark a shift to lower - end consumers

iPhone latest update may mark a shift to lower - end consumers

With Apple due to present a much-anticipated update to its iPhones on Tuesday, most analysts expect to see the technology pioneer shifting its focus to making more affordable products than engineering innovative breakthroughs.

Though Apple hasn’t disclosed what's on the agenda for the coming-out party scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. PDT (1700 GMT) on Tuesday at its Cupertino headquarters in California, market watchers believe this year's refresh of the iPhone line may address the growing popularity of cheaper Android phones.

It appears Apple is poised to release a less elaborate and less expensive version of the iPhone in an attempt to appeal to consumers too frugal or too poor to pay for the high-end model that sells for more than $600 without a wireless contract, the Associated Press says, citing leaks from suppliers.

Apple’s iPhone devices have reshaped the way people use computers since its debut in 2007. It has been under pressure from other smartphone makers who’ve been releasing lots of less expensive gadgets. Those concerns are reflected in Apple's stock price, which has declined nearly 30 percent since peaking at $705.07 at about the same time the iPhone 5 went on sale last year.

In the second quarter iPhone global sales stood at 31 million, which compares to 187 million Android phones made by the likes of Samsung, HTC and LG Electronics, according to the research firm International Data Corp.

If reports in technology blogs and newspapers prove to be true, the stripped-down iPhone will be called the “5C” and be housed in a plastic casing that will be offered in a variety of colors instead of an aluminum case.

Months prior to Apple’s presentation media said the company was going to introduce his iPhone in a gold color, which would become another sign the high –tech giant is  intensifying its focus on China. Being the world’s most populous country, where the standard of living is improving, China is a perfect market for millions of internet – connected devices. On top of that, gold color is considered to be a sign of good fortune in China.

A less expensive iPhone would also help Apple boost sales in some of the less-developed countries where people don't have as much disposable income as in the US and Europe.

A new version of the high-end iPhone also is expected to be revealed on Tuesday. The top-of-the-line model, expected to be dubbed the “5S,'' will be the first to be sold with Apple's revamped mobile software, iOS 7, already installed. The new system will automatically update apps installed on the device, can be downloaded to the iPhone 4 and later models, as well as to the tablets beginning with the iPad 2.

Apple CEO Timothy Cook.(AFP Photo / Chip Somodevilla)

Challenge for Steve Job’s successor

Even though Apple remains the world’s biggest company, with its market value estimated at $460 billion, lower stock prices are increasing the pressure on current CEO Tim Cook to prove he's the right leader to carry on the legacy of co-founder Steve Jobs. Since Cook became CEO two years ago, Apple has only pushed out new versions of products developed under Jobs, raising questions about whether the company's technological vision has become blurred under the new regime.

In public appearances, Cook has repeatedly said Apple is working on some exciting breakthroughs, but he hasn't revealed the details. The company is believed to be working on a so-called ``smartwatch'' that would work like a wrist-bound smartphone. Samsung Electronics, one of Apple's biggest rivals, introduced its own $300 smartwatch called Gear last week, as did Sony and Qualcomm Inc. It's unclear whether a smartwatch will be on Apple's Tuesday agenda.