"The iPhone's market share in the U.S. is a direct outcome of a pricing model that encourages purchases of high-end devices over mid-range or low-end devices," Singh concluded.
In the 12 weeks ending Nov. 25, 2012, Apple scored a 53% share of U.S. sales, largely on the back of the then-new iPhone 5, said research firm Kantar Worldpanel Comtech last year. Metrics company comScore, however, recently put Apple's share of all U.S. smartphone subscribers at 38% for the three months ending January 2013, ahead of all other handset makers but behind Android's overall share of 53%.
Unless U.S. carriers change their tune -- perhaps not possible considering the deals they've struck with Apple to purchase set numbers of iPhones -- the rumored lower-priced iPhone won't change that.
But a lower-cost Apple smartphone -- Singh speculated that it would replace the iPhone 4 in Apple's current line-up, and be priced at least as high as the $329 iPad Mini -- could add to the Cupertino, Calif. company's market share in, say, Europe, where contract costs are more in line with the price of the handset.
The wildcard in the U.S., said Singh, was T-Mobile, which will start selling Apple devices, presumably iPhones, this year. T-Mobile is notable because it's dropping subsidies -- requiring customers to pay full, unsubsidized prices, which for the iPhone start at $649 and climb to $849 -- but compensating with unlimited no-contract data plans and handset upgrades at any time.
Because T-Mobile asks customers to finance the smartphone purchase in monthly installments, it's more closely synchronizing the two-year cost with the price of the device. Lower-priced smartphones, in other words, result in lower monthly payments, and less paid out of pocket over a 24-month period.
If T-Mobile's strategy works, AT&T and Verizon could follow: CEOs of AT&T and Verizon told the Wall Street Journal in January that they're watching their rival's experiment, and could mimic it if customers take to the idea.
T-Mobile has slated an announcement for Tuesday, March 26, where it's expected to formally debut its no-contract, no-subsidies model.
A lower-priced iPhone could play well at T-Mobile, and if others emulate that carrier, be a necessity for Apple to maintain its market share position. Apple, of course, has been mum on plans for the speculated device, but Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets was adamant last Friday that one will come.
"We're now sure that a cheaper iPhone will come out this year, also in June along with the iPhone 5S," said White in an interview last week.