Apple snatched back its smartphone crown from Samsung and would want to remain on top this year by unleashing the iPhone Mini as early as April 2013 with starting price tag of $US330.
The tech giant, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, might just pull off a hell of a surprise by suddenly issuing the rumoured budget handset a few months from now.
"We believe Apple could launch iPhone Mini at $US330 ... The iPhone Mini adds incremental revenue and gross profit dollars," the analyst was reported by CNET as saying in a research note.
Foremost of Apple's concern is to upgrade its market presence in China where the iPhone Mini is set for initial release, Ms Huberty noted. From its present 10 per cent share of the overall Chinese smartphone market, the iPhone maker is gunning to increase its pie by up to 30 per cent.
The best tool for Apple to achieve that goal is through the low-priced iPhone Mini, which has been the subject of speculations from analysts. The general sentiment is Apple will indeed opt for a more affordable handset to gain foothold in markets traditionally dominated by feature makers like Nokia, Samsung and a number of Chinese firms like Huawei and ZTE.
Part of Apple's planned Chinese approach is to secure deals with giant local providers like China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, which would further shave off the unlock price level of $US330.
If arrangements would come into fruition, iPhone Mini in China would likely be distributed by telcos with pricing that can go as low as $150, analysts said, adding that the onslaught will further endanger the business of firms like Nokia and BlackBerry.
Morgan Stanley's projection would give Apple more than a month to produce and distribute the smaller or cheaper iPhone variant though reports that started circulating this week have indicated that the tech giant will commence production of the refreshed iPhones in March.
It was unclear, however, if the initial batch of devices from Apple's Chinese production lines will include the iPhone Mini.
Based on specifications provided earlier by KGI Securities, nothing much would change in the physical make up of both the iPhone 5S and the iPhone Mini save for some minor component adjustments.
The iPhone 5S, for example, will start selling without major design alterations but it will have the A7 64-bit computing chips. The iPhone Mini, on the other hand, will pretty much retain the whole iPhone 5 design and functions.
Its major departure from Apple's template, KGI said, is the casing material with Apple using plastic case for the new handset that will come in six colour variants, including the company's signature black and white.