Apple's 'Cheap' iPhone: The World Gets a Glimpse

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) --In an attempt to hold onto market share, Apple ( AAPL) is reportedly going to announce a low-end iPhone. A picture of the reported packaging, dubbed the iPhone 5C, has been put on the Web for the world to see.

Chinese Internet site WeiPhone posted pictures of the casing for the rumored phone. The C could stand for color, as it's been reported the lower-end iPhone could come in multiple colors, similar to what Apple has done with the iPod Nano. Currently, the iPhone only comes in white and black in multiple sizes.

CEO Tim Cook seemed to fuel speculation that Apple could potentially make a lower-end phone to stave off competition from Google's ( GOOG) Android, which is the dominant operating system in the market. "The only thing we'll never do is make a crappy product," Cook said at a Goldman Sachs conference in February. "We're going to make a great product. And so that's the only religion that we have is we must do something great, something bold, something ambitious."

Pricing of the low-end iPhone is still anyone's guess, with several analysts on Wall Street throwing out numbers as low as $329, compared to $649 for the iPhone 5. The average selling price (ASP) for the iPhone in Apple's fiscal third quarter dropped to $581, falling below $600, further fueling speculation that Apple could announce a lower-end phone as people want Apple product, but are not willing to pay up for them if there is no perceived value.

Apple could not be immediately reached for comment for this story.

Apple has lost market share in the smartphone market, particularly to the team of Samsung and Google. According to research firm IDC, Samsung held 30.4% of the worldwide smartphone market as of the end of the second quarter, compared to 13.1% for Apple. In the second quarter of 2012, Apple held 16.6% of the market, compared to 32.2% for Samsung.

Apple sold 31.2 million iPhones in its fiscal third quarter, up 20% year over year, helping Apple generate $35.3 billion in revenue for the quarter.

Competition for both companies is coming at the low-end of the market. Companies like LG, ZTE and Lenovo have gained market share over the past year, and pressure from shareholders and Wall Street have weighed on Apple to stave off that competition.

There's been a lot of talk that the smartphone market is maturing, particularly at the high-end of the market, with analysts asking Cook about that on the conference call. Cook noted that he was not seeing the same slowdown others were.

"And I don't subscribe to the common view that the higher end if you will of the smartphone market is at its peak," Cook said on the earnings call. "I don't believe that but we will see and we will report our result as we go along."

Apple shares were higher in Monday trading, up 1.33% to $446.84.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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