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Analyst casts doubt on reports of next-gen 'low-end' iPhone

Another analyst has countered recent reports that Apple plans to release a cheaper iPhone for the pre-paid mobile market, stating instead that the iPhone 3GS will continue to serve as the company's "low-end" handset.

BMO Capital's Keith Bachman called into question Monday's chatter over a lower-priced next-generation iPhone in a note to investors, Barron's reports. "We believe that the [existing] 3GS will be the low-end iPhone,” he wrote.

The analyst also lowered his estimates for Apple's iPhone shipments during the September quarter from 18 million to 17 million, citing a later launch than he previously thought. By comparison, Apple sold 18.65 million iPhones in the March quarter.

Bachman's position takes the opposite side of Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore. Whitmore sparked speculation of an iPhone priced aggressively for emerging markets early Monday with a much-discussed note predicting Apple will release both an iPhone 4S and a fifth-generation iPhone. He believes such a device could be priced at $349 and be sold contract-free.

Several other analysts have chimed in on the prospect of a more affordable iPhone. Katy Huberty of Morgan Stanley issued a note on Sunday also suggesting that Apple may release new iPhones with "potentially lower price points." She sees the company's next iPhone as going into production in mid to late August ahead of a presumed launch near the end of the September quarter.

Meanwhile, FBR Capital Markets analyst Craig Berger agrees with Bachman that a low-price iPhone is unlikely. The analyst's sources have indicated "no near-term plans for a low-end iPhone for emerging markets, or a new iPhone in a transparent case." He also believes Apple's next handset will be an evolutionary upgrade and will be marketed under the iPhone 4S name.

Media reports have also asserted that Apple is working on a cheaper iPhone. In February, The New York Times said Apple has looked into a cheaper handset. The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have also suggested Apple will introduce a cheaper device, though the publications differ on whether it will also be a smaller model.