There's a new chapter in the epic saga of the stripped-down "budget" iPhone. Apple has filed a patent for a new iPhone made entirely of plastic, which could be taken a sign that the rumored cheap iPhone may actually be on the way.
Rumors about a cheaper iPhone have been coming in and out of focus for months now. The popular consensus is that Apple may or may not be building a stripped-down version of the iPhone 5, possibly made of plastic, as a response to investors who would like to see the company expanding into new markets. A cheap iPhone would theoretically allow Apple to compete in a market segment where, till now, the product's premium price tag has posed a barrier to many entry-level consumers.
True to form, the potentially cheaper iPhone doesn't have a few of the device's potentially price-hiking elements. Aside from the plastic body, the patent image shows a device that's all screen and bezel: There's no front-facing camera and, shockingly, no home button. Without those three elements-metal/glass chassis, a physical button, and one of two cameras-the device would certainly have to be markedly cheaper than the standard iPhone.
The patent describes the design in more detail:
"A portable device has a rear facing camera assembly and a front facing display assembly that includes at least a protective cover layer, a display stack that includes a plurality of display components arranged in a plurality of interconnected layers, the display stack providing an imaging service, and a flat support chassis arranged to provide support for the display stack... The back of the device is embroiled by a protective cover that Apple says "can wrap around and protect at least the rear portion of the portable device without adversely affecting an image capture process carried out by the rear facing camera assembly."
However, it's worth noting that just because Apple has filed a patent doesn't mean that this device is actually being made. For all we know, Apple designed the model in response to the rumors. Then again, it is suspicious that Apple is patenting the idea. Certainly, the idea that Apple is working on a budget phone is as plausible as it's ever been.