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Are Apple Working On An iPhone Nano?

David Gilbert by

Is Apple Working On An iPhone Nano?

The words Apple and budget very rarely find themselves in the same sentence – unless of course, it’s “I can’t wait to blow my child’s university budget on the latest iPhone.” Today however reports have emerged that the fruity company is working on an iPhone which will retail for just £125 – contract free!

According to sources who spoke to Bloomberg, the new scaled-down iPhone (possibly called the iPhone Nano?) would use left over parts from the iPhone 4, though we doubt we would be seeing a Retina Display in this budget model at that price. The reports come from Bloomberg’s usual “people familiar with the matter” who actually saw the device last year though since nothing has been heard about it until now, chances of it actually making an appearance this year seem less than certain.

The new phone will be one third smaller than the current iPhone 4 and Apple is thinking about launching the device at the crazy price of $200 without a contract – which is about what you would get an iPhone 4 for at the moment but with a back-crippling 24 month contract on top. Should this actually come about, it will see Apple attempt to break into the mid-range market sector they have never touched previously, despite a lot of money being made by other less premium manufacturers. It would also open up whole new countries such as India and China, who at last count have quite a few people living in them.

In other Cupertino news, Bloomberg also reports that Apple is planning on doing away completely with separate CDMA and GSM models, preferring to bring out the next iPhone which will work on both. It is a logical step really since it launched the Verizon iPhone on the CDMA network last month. The report also goes on to speculate that Apple are working on a universal SIM, which would let iPhone users pick from a variety of GSM networks without having to switch the so-called SIM cards that associate a phone with a network. We can’t imagine this is a step in the right direction but for Apple it would probably mean more control over its product.

As with all rumours about Apple, these have to be taken with a large pinch of salt. However the idea of a scaled-down iPhone doesn't strike us as the most ridiculous idea we've ever heard, and opening up the iPhone brand to a lot more people would surely be appealing to Apple. And it's not like Apple haven't done something similar with the Nano and Shuffle versions of the iPod.

Source: Bloomberg

Go to comments


February 11, 2011, 6:28 pm

This has been speculated for a while and *if* it's genuine, I wonder what they will cut from the spec. Certainly I'd expect retina display, front facing camera, maybe GPS will be cut, but what else can they lose without it losing the essence of what makes it an iPhone or what people expect in any phone at a minimum? They have to have at least a rudimentary rear facing camera (name any phone released in the last 5 years that doesn't) and it obviously needs to have GSM at least (if not 3G) to function as a phone. Wi-fi is surely a given for anything bearing the iPhone brand, as is a multitouch display. They can't cut the form factor down too much because the screen needs to be sufficiently large (and with enough pixels) to function with all existing iPhone apps. This means we'll be seeing a 320x480 px screen, same as the original iPhone up until iPhone 3GS. I don't see how it would be usable with a smaller than 3-ish inch touchscreen, and the home button is part of the iPhone control mantra so you can't dispense with that (though it could I guess be cleverly relocated to reduce the bezel size). As I understand it all iPhone models to date have been pretty much jammed full with components, so even if the ergonomics would allow it there would be a mammoth engineering challenge to cut the physical size down, even assuming the removal of all but the fundamental features.

And all that before you factor in the simple truth that the iPhone is a premium product and Apple will almost certainly want to avoid the "anti-halo" effect (I just coined that term) of having a cut down version available for a third of the price.

In summary, I'm not convinced.


February 11, 2011, 6:38 pm

Love the iPhone shuffle concept! About removing SIM cards - Would love to read a speculative editorial piece on that. I presume that would mean that your future £700 iPhone 6 or 7 would be stuck on whatever network Apple decides to allow you to use? How progressive.


February 11, 2011, 7:05 pm


I just had some serious déjà vu!


February 11, 2011, 7:22 pm

@lifethroughalens considering that the iPhone is selling on all networks and can be easily bought unlocked from Apple I can't see why you would presume that.

The SIMless phone is a standard proposed to the GSM assoc and open to all, the idea is that the network releases an app that handles the necessary account creation and crypto generation, so instead of obtaining and fiddling with tiny bits of plastic it's all done in software. Couldn't make more sense really, especially when you go abroad. Combine that with something like in-app purchases for PAYG credit and it could be like a miracle come true.

But the main reason is the SIM takes up too much space, as you can see in iFixit's teardown of the iPhone 4. Space that can be better used to launch a world-mode phone supporting CDMA and GSM...

Andy Vandervell

February 11, 2011, 8:05 pm




February 11, 2011, 8:09 pm

@GK.pm - ah, now the implementation has been explained a little, I get it. I was wondering what would substitute the swapping of SIM cards on the fly. I can still think of plenty of reasons to keep a removable SIM card, but on balance it could be beneficial. Look forward to reading more on the topic.


February 11, 2011, 8:40 pm

@lifethroughalens Last time this was mentioned, in November, it was met by a massive backlash from the networks who even threatened to stop subsidising the iPhone, so I suspect it was actually too good a deal for consumers :-)

This article covers most developments: http://gigaom.com/2011/02/10/c...


February 11, 2011, 9:14 pm

This has been rumoured for as long as the iPhone itself. Obviously Apple keep tinkering and never feel they've got it right, so hold back on releasing it. I do feel it's about time they brought out a cheaper iPhone to capitalise on their current hype before Android starts to take over.

I think a small change in iOS to provide a software button would allow them to ditch the wasted space at the bottom of the phone, remove the grill at the top and put it on the side, slap in a cheaper LCD but otherwise use iPhone4 parts, and there you've got a small iPhone that they can sell much cheaper than the iPhone 5.


February 11, 2011, 9:19 pm

The iPhone is already a nano. Fine if you like small phones (and massive bezels) but 3.5 inches doesn&#8217t cut it against the big boys.

Hans Gruber

February 11, 2011, 10:11 pm

@ Gk.pm - interesting. Ta. I was wondering if the proposal for a SIM-less phone could mean use of multiple lines, meaning business users and others with a need for more than one number could use the same phone but simultaneously make and receive calls with different network/tel no.s associated to them? Might get a bit confusing though but would save people carrying more than one phone/cutting up their SIM cards etc...

As for small smartphones - I think some people are crying for them. Well, my old dear for one. What us bigger boys (n gals) might regard as svelte or even small in a phone, some (more feminine or more petite?) types might find cumbersome or even far too large.

I quite liked the look of the iPhone shuffle mock up also btw. Could imagine spinning through apps as you would do a numbered combination barrel. Though I seriously doubt it'd be particularly useful as a phone.


February 11, 2011, 10:18 pm

@JohnH: not everyone has humongous pockets ;-)


February 12, 2011, 12:22 am

ipod touch + GSM receiver = £193 + £10 ($13 us dollars ) = iphone nano = £203

cheap enough for an iphone


February 12, 2011, 12:59 am

£125!! What are you smoking? Even the ridiculously limited 8GB iPod nano still retails for £131. Apple just don't do budget products. I'd love to see how they hit that price while maintaining their mahoosive profit margins.

$200 might be within the realms of possibility but I'm fairly sure that would translate to £200. Maybe even £202 given that the $99 Apple TV is now £101. Margins must really be tight given that they couldn't absorb the VAT hike!


February 12, 2011, 1:32 am

@Soliber: I'm guessing the "H" in "JohnH" stands for Holmes.


February 12, 2011, 7:03 pm

I think in this case that the nano would really be a cheaper rather than smaller option. Making an iPhone smaller would probably increase the price of it. The screen might be reduced in size a little, keeping the resolution of the 3GS but with increased ppi, but if it were too small it would not be finger-friendly. I reckon 3" minimum. Moore's Law effects could probably squeeze the 3GS internals down to a slightly smaller size, especially if most components are on 1 chip. I think the VGA facetime camera would stay, but the rear camera would be perfunctory. Maybe only an 8GB model? Though this is all a bit too predictable for Apple - they would surely only bother if they could claim some innovative twist.


February 12, 2011, 8:08 pm

I can categorically state that Apple will not introduce a nano iPhone. It just won't happen. It really won't.


February 13, 2011, 5:19 am

What's up with this annual non-sense rumor?

An iPhone Nano would make ZERO sense for Apple. It would just cannibalize the regular iPhone's sales.

Look at the Macbook Air. Apple made sure no-one who thought about a Macbook Pro was getting swayed. Same here. If they make an iPhone Nano for the form-factor, it won't be dead cheap!


February 14, 2011, 4:07 am


I think you missed the regular Macbook, which sways many people who can't afford or don't think they need MB Pro.

It is perfectly sensible to produce a cheaper iPhone that does not tick all the boxes but would still appeal

the lower cost market. In the past it didn't make sense because the competition has only really caught on now, but I'm pretty sure

it's in the cards.

After all those cheapo Android are cannibalizing sales, so I'm sure Apple would prefer punters to remain with them. Most people don't buy Android because it's more open or any of that nonsense, but simply because there's more models and it's cheaper.


February 14, 2011, 3:49 pm

The white Macbook is a real mystery to me, I have to admit.

Apple has a cheaper iPhone that doesn't tick all the boxes, they call it iPod Touch.

What functionality could Apple reasonably exclude from the iPhone Nano? It's not as if the regular iPhone was the most feature packed phone to begin with. Hardware-wise the iPhone 4 is just a mainstream phone.

A lower-res display, a worse camera, less memory. It's doable, but it won't significantly drive down costs. At a sale price of just $200 and without a share of carrier subsidies, they'd be selling it at a LOT less profit than the iPhone 4, which various web sources put at more than 250$ NET PROFIT for Apple.

I can see Apple building an iPhone Nano (or Air) for the form factor or as a style trial, maybe to try something new. But at $200 it wouldn't make fiscal sense. Unless Apple wants to fight a market share battle. That they can't win that against Asian low cost opposition seems a foregone conclusion.

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