The $99 iPhone – what you just might see inside

iphone5If rumours of a $99 Apple iPhone are true and we know it’ll come in six colours, what else can we expect from an entry-level smartphone from the computing giant?

Typical $99 smartphones from major brands today usually tend to feature 3.5-inch screens with at best 800×480-pixel resolution, although more likely it’s 320×480-pixel resolution. Dual-core CPUs are not rare but they’re not exactly falling off the backs of trucks either at this stage. It all depends on where your starting point is – the budget no-name or the top-shelf brand name?

Apple isn’t going to want to trash its profits so it’ll likely settle with a phone that offer less than you’d expect for screen and performance from a $99 entry-level Android phone these days.

The key thing for Apple is that over the last couple of years, it has built up a stock of in-house designed CPUs, going back to the Apple A4 from the original iPad. Drill down a little further and you get the iPhone 3G S.

We think these are the two most likely options.

The 3G S has the 3.5-inch/HVGA (320×480-pixel) screen, can upgrade to iOS 6.1.4 for the latest apps so it’ll be familiar to many users already. Importantly though, for Apple, it won’t have sufficient horsepower to canabalise sales of more profitable phones – something no vendors wants to seriously do. At $99, Apple has to manage expectations without selling the phone too short. It may want to bump up the 3.15MP image sensor from the 3GS up to 5MP but again, it’ll want to keep a lid on costs: this puppy will still need to turn a profit.

The 600MHz Cortex A8 CPU from that 3G S will deliver enough battery life, just enough performance to keep apps ticking over, even capture VGA video at 30fps.

The question is whether Apple feels this will be enough for a $99 phone or whether it needs to consider something with a bit more beef behind it like the A4 design to boost things along. Again, putting more speed than an original iPad into a smartphone won’t leave original iPad owners feeling too well. Another option may be for Apple to do what it did with the original iPhone – downclock the A4′s clock speed to gain the power efficiency of that design but lock down the performance levels.

Sure, it’s all speculation, but it’s an interesting exercise nonetheless. For our money, some sort of an iPhone 3G S / Apple A4 CPU fusion is probably what we’d likely see.

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