Talks that Apple is releasing two versions of iPhone this year is growing by the day, fed by forecasts from key analysts, but a new report suggests that if indeed an iPhone Mini will come out, the earliest that the handset will hit global markets is by 2014.
Citing the latest analysis provided by Neil Mawston of Strategic Analytics, CNET reported that Apple will have to wait until next year to roll out the iPhone Mini, which experts said is the tech giant's way of expanding its reach, protecting its smartphone business in the process.
Why the long wait? The year 2014, according to Mr Mawston, appears the right moment for Apple to open another front on its growing market strategy. By that time, "Apple's penetration of the global postpaid smartphone market will be nearing saturation," he added.
"We expect the iPhone Mini to be more likely next year, in 2014 ... (when) Apple will be forced to discover fresh growth streams elsewhere," the analyst told CNET.
At the moment, Apple has no compelling reasons to adjust its business model, as suggested by some analysts, Mr Mawston said, adding that the company's latest offering is yet to realise its full potential more than two months after its launch.
"The iPhone 5 is growing fast and profitably right now, so there is limited incentive for Apple to launch a profit-squeezing iPhone Mini this year," he explained.
However, Mr Mawston allowed that for Apple to consider different servings of its money-maker is inevitable, conceding that "Apple will have to launch an iPhone Mini at some point over the next three years."
This move will be geared for "the hundreds of millions of prepaid users worldwide that cannot afford the current iPhone," he stressed. The tech giant will also benefit in terms of widening its market reach, likely gaining more inroads in emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific region, in China specifically.
Apple has been clear on its intention to further penetrate the vast Chine market and Tim Cook's, Apple CEO, recent visits in China only fanned speculations that the company is closing in on a deal with China Mobile.
With Apple pushing deeper into China, and looking into a massive market of up to 120 million active subscribers per reports by AllThingsD, the company will have to reconfigure its smartphone lineup to best suit the mass market characteristic of the world's second biggest economy, analysts said.
Issuing the iPhone Mini is a logical decision on Apple's part, they added.
Also, by manufacturing cheaper iPhone models, Apple is likely to win over more following in Australia, where the smartphone adoption rate is over 60 per cent at the last count, one of the highest in the world, according to the Australian Financial Review.
If Apple can put together future iPhone versions that do not exceed the $400-mark, it is set for better business prospects in the country, Telsyte analyst Foad Fadaghi told The AFR.
The Australian prospect is more than promising for the iPhone maker, Mr Fadaghi said, noting that multitudes of Aussies are still in the feature phone world and Apple can finally lure them by introducing an attractive but affordable iPhone Mini.