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Monday, September 26, 2011, 06:58 am PT (09:58 am ET)

Aluminum unibody iPhone 5, low-cost iPhone 4S seen propelling Apple's sales

Apple is expected by one Wall Street analyst to announce a completely redesigned "iPhone 5," with a new unibody aluminum design, as well as a low-end "iPhone 4S," geared toward the midrange smartphone market, in the coming weeks.

The two anticipated new iPhone models are expected by analyst Chris Whitmore with Deutsche Bank to push Apple's smartphone sales even higher. He sees the so-called "iPhone 4S" as a handset with a bill-of-material cost lower than $150, allowing Apple to sell it for between $300 and $350 without a carrier subsidy.

Whitmore sees a low-cost iPhone giving Apple even greater market penetration into the midrange smartphone market, where he estimates there are about 1 billion prepaid customers. Such a move would "drastically expand" the addressable smartphone market for Apple, he believes.

The anticipated iPhone 4S is viewed as essentially an 8GB iPod touch with an added cellular antenna. Whitmore believes such a device could achieve margins of around 50 percent, if it were to be sold for more than $300. He noted the current 8GB iPod touch, which sells for $229, has margins of about 38 percent.

In his note to investors on Monday, Whitmore also made brief mention of Apple's fifth-generation iPhone, which he expects will be a completely redesigned handset. Specifically, he said he expects the device to have an aluminum unibody construction to replace the current glass back of the iPhone 4.

In addition, Whitmore also believes that the so-called "iPhone 5" will sport a better camera and a slightly larger screen size. Various rumors have suggested the next handset will have an 8-megapixel camera along with an edge-to-edge screen.

Claims that Apple's next iPhone will sport an aluminum back first surfaced in March, when it was said that ditching glass could allow the handset to be even lighter. It was claimed again in August that Apple's iPhone 5 will sport a "metal chassis" replacing the reinforced glass on the back of the iPhone 4.

Purported iPhone 5 cases


Leading up to an anticipated iPhone announcement from Apple, a number of alleged parts have leaked from the company's overseas supply chain showing a handset largely similar to the iPhone 4. Some reports have claimed that these are for Apple's new low-cost iPhone 4S, while others have said the iPhone 5 will look largely the same as the current model.

Though no components showing a drastically redesigned iPhone 5 have appeared, a number of third-party cases have shown a redesigned iPhone with curved sides leading to a flat back. In addition, The New York Times has claimed that the iPhone 5 will sport a "fairly different" look on the outside.