Apple's marketing chief appears to have denied rumours that the company is working on a lower-end iPhone.
Speculation that a cheaper iPhone is in the works has been building this week, with analyst and media reports suggesting such a device could be Apple's attempt at taking the iPhone beyond its traditional high-end roots – a strategy the company used before with the iPod when it added the Nano and Shuffle models to appeal to more price-conscious consumers and those in developing markets.
However, Apple's SVP of market Phil Schiller has rebuffed suggestions of a cheaper iPhone in an interview with the Shanghai Evening News, telling the publication that the company would not develop cheap smartphones to grab market share.
"More people are using smartphones in China, some manufacturers are beginning to develop low-cost smartphones to replace feature phones, but this is not within Apple's product development direction," Schiller said.
According to the most recent figures from analyst house Gartner, Apple has six percent of the total global mobile market, and 14 percent of the smartphone market. Schiller told the Shanghai Evening News that market share is not a concern for Apple, and the company prefers to focus on creating the best products. Market share is just a by-product, he added.
Does this mean an end to the speculation about a cheaper iPhone? Of course not - there's a lot of wiggle room in Schiller's comments. The marketing chief's may have confirmed that Apple may not be planning to make a feature phone replacement - but that doesn't mean no cheaper iPhone. Apple would be unlikely to see any such device as low-end - more a high-end product sold at a lower price.
Schiller could also be carrying on former Apple CEO Steve Jobs' tactic of rubbishing product lines that Apple would later bring out.
U-turns are something of tradition at Apple: from pouring cold water on rumours of an iPod capable of playing video back in 2005 (which then debuted weeks later) to slating 7-inch tablets as "dead on arrival" and "too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad" in 2010, before going on to release its own 7.9-inch tablet, the iPad Mini, two years later.
UPDATE: Curiouser and curiouser. Reuters has since withdrawn its story based on the Shanghai Evening News report, saying the story "was subsequently updated with substantial changes to its content". Apple has confirmed to some publications that the interview was genuine, however. More evidence that a cheap iPhone is on the way, or anything but? Let the speculation begin (again)...