A Cheap iPhone Will Get Tim Cook Fired

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I hope I'm as right about this rumored "cheap" iPhone as I was about Apple's (AAPL) iPad mini.

When iPad mini was about to hit, most everybody said it was going to be "cheap" and would fail. Wrong on both counts. It's relatively expensive and, as far as we know, a major success.

If Apple entered the $199 space against Google ( GOOG) and Amazon.com ( AMZN), it would have won. The Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire have a tough enough time competing against premium-priced Apple tablets; there would be no contest if Apple went the inexpensive route.

That might sound like an opportunity to you, but it's not. It's an easy short-term answer (to a question we should not be asking) that Apple avoided -- thankfully -- with iPad mini. No low price. No plastic backing. No significant corner cuts. Put an iPad mini side-by-side with an iPad. You'll find there's nary a difference, other than size, between the two products.

With that in mind, Apple absolutely should not extend the strategy to iPhone.

With iPod, Steve Jobs went in various directions on both size and color. Fine. It worked as a one-off to sustain the iPod line. You still see people carrying around and buying Nanos so it's all good.

With iPad, Apple offered another size -- while maintaining a premium price -- but don't expect it to go the multi-color route.

For iPhone, Apple should scale back this somewhat lame cosmetic strategy even further ... to the point of doing nothing.

Tim Cook breaks a long-standing Apple motto if he extends superficial color and size tweaks to iPhone. He capitulates to what consumers allegedly want as opposed to knowing what they want and prescribing it to them. If cheap, multi-sized iPhones hit the market, Apple becomes what Steve Jobs called everybody else -- from Samsung to BlackBerry ( BBRY) -- a copycat. If you're an Apple fan, the mere thought of doing anything at all because somebody else does it and it "works" for them should scare the living snot out of you.

As it focuses on its next breakthrough -- be it a television, set-top box, smartwatch or all or some combination of the above -- Apple should work to evolve platforms such as Siri and Passbook to the extent that they become revolutionary. Further integrate them with existing products, make them key components of whatever hardware comes next and use them to create an even more seamless connection across the entire ecosystem.

If all is right with the world and at Apple, talk over size, color and price is one big head fake. A suite of rumors the Wall Street analysts who spread them today will refuse to own in a few weeks or months.

Simply put, a cheap iPhone will ultimately get Tim Cook fired. If, however, he has small teams working on Siri, Passbook and the next beautiful piece of premium hardware, he could end up going down as the guy who took Apple to the next level.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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