Walmart represents, in Seth Weintraub's distinctive headline, the "mainstreamification of the iPhone." Wal-Mart sells iPods, of course, and many other premium brands, but the idea of a cheap iPhone at this most hated of discount stores hits a nerve with some. This is, in fact, a reminder that Apple has always considered itself mainstream, and has never enjoyed its reputation as a maker of fancy toys for a computing elite. What Apple enjoys is control, of the kind people assume is lost amid the bargain bins and generic cornflakes of a big box retailer.
If there is a $99 version, this will tempt the lower income demographic a bit more, but the biggest expense – by a landslide – is the AT&T monthly fees. In fact, on a few of AT&T's plans, the $99 will be eclipsed in the first month of wireless charges alone. This, however, will sell many more phones and won't tarnish the brand. Not everybody is as sure as I am that cheaper iPhones are a good idea. UBS analyst Maynard Um said yesterday, "A $99 iPhone would be atypical of Apple's premium brand strategy. More likely is a scenario in which select Wal-Mart, and possibly Sam's Clubs, are simply added as further iPhone distribution points." Really? What would a $59 iPod do to the brand?Google's brief history of mainstreamification has the iPhone with GPS, games, podcasting, twitter, anime and cryptozoology.