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Apple reportedly considers making iPhone less expensive

By Miguel Helft and Nick Bilton
New York Times / February 18, 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO — Apple has been exploring ways to broaden the appeal of the iPhone by making the popular device less expensive and allowing users to control it with voice commands.

But contrary to published reports, Apple is not developing a smaller iPhone, according to people briefed on Apple’s plans who requested anonymity because the plans are confidential.

Apple’s engineers are focused on finishing the next version of the iPhone, which is likely to be similar in size to the current iPhone 4, said one of the people. The person said Apple was not planning to introduce a smaller iPhone any time soon. Analysts expect the new iPhone to be ready this summer.

Another person who is in direct contact with Apple also said the company would not make a smaller iPhone at this time, in part because a smaller device would not necessarily be much cheaper to make, and because it would be more difficult to operate.

More important, a phone with a smaller screen would force many developers to rewrite their apps, which Apple wants to avoid, the person said.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, appeared to reinforce that last point recently when he praised the iPhone’s uniformity, contrasting it with phones based on Google’s Android software, which come in many formats.

“We think Android is very, very fragmented and getting more fragmented by the day,’’ Jobs told financial analysts in October. “We think this is a huge strength of our approach compared to Google’s.’’

Another senior Apple executive said during a private meeting recently that it did not make sense for the company to make multiple iPhone models, noting that Apple would stick with its practice of dropping the price of older models when it introduced a new one.

As part of its effort to find new customers for the iPhone, Apple plans to make it easier to operate the device through voice commands, removing an obstacle for people who do not like using a virtual keyboard, said another person with knowledge of Apple’s plans.

Apple is also considering changing internal components of the device to bring costs down. “Although the innards of the phone, including memory size or camera quality, could change to offer a less expensive model, the size of the device would not vary,’’ said the person.

Another person with knowledge of Apple’s plans said the company was building a more versatile version of its MobileMe service, which allows users to store music, photos, and files online and have them accessible on all their devices. The current version of MobileMe, which costs $100 a year, has failed to catch on with consumers.

The new version of MobileMe is expected to be free and would allow users to synch their files without using a cable.