A Cheap iPhone: What's In It, What It Costs, Where It Fits and When It Comes Out

I just cant square the cheap iPhone thing with how, it seems Apple usually conducts business. Here's my sticking points:

What's it Cost?

An unlocked iPhone 4 is still $450 USD, which I think everyone agrees is too much. For a cheap iPhone to do what everyone wants it to do, especially in developing countries, its gotta be a Nexus 4 like $299 USD or less.

What's in it?

I would assume that it's at least last gen hardware. An A5, in the iPhone 4s, will be over 2 years old by the summer. But that seems like a long term platform for them, since they just released the iPad mini with it. Seems like a good choice. Probably a little storage, 8 GB. Would they go back to a non-retina screen? Probably not. Would they even go back to a 3.5" screen? Maybe. Maybe a 5 screen on 4s internals, maybe that screen is old style on-cell and not in-cell to save money. Which also means 3G, not LTE. So it seems to be settling on a plastic bodied 4s more than a plastic 5.

Where does it fit?

Apples lineup (usually) leaves little confusion as to what to buy. They've gotten away from that a bit with keeping the iPad 2 around, all the retina Pros and regular Pros, but it does remain.

So 4s internals in a plastic body for sub $299. What room does that leave for the iPod Touch? It's a bit thinner, but that's not an iPod to iPod mini like trade-off.

On one hand you have a moderately thicker device with cell radios and less storage and on the other a thinner one with slightly newer chips, more storage but wifi only. Seems muddy.

So the most obvious thing that no one should be surprised when it happens: the touch and the cheap phone living side by side and being a non obvious choice for people. They will mostly be differentiated by storage space, which Apple always does and pisses off everyone who knows how much those chips cost.

So given the choice, which would you buy? A contract-free 3G plastic iPod touch or a bigger, faster, thinner iPod touch, both for $299? Or, where do you think I have miscalculated?

When's it come out?

If they get away from the "move last years model down the line" approach to retool the lowest end device, when does it come? The summer, in the same press conference as the 5s? Or later, maybe the fall? This could help them drain inventory, and smooth production ramp. Make 2 splashes instead of one.