Will $300 iPhone Mini Have a Translucent Plastic Back Case Like iMac G3 from 1998?

From the get go, I've made no secret of my reservations about the possible and perhaps already imminent release of a budget version of Apple's premium smartphone.

As I've shared in my 'Cheap iPhone' entry, one of the main selling points of the iPhone is that it's an aspirational device. When you say 'iPhone', you immediately think of that adjective along with expensive and high-end. Given this, I think that a cheap iPhone isn't only ironic but it can also pull down the branding and image of iPhone as a whole. Likewise, a budget version of the handset will definitely cannibalize on the sales of the premium variant just like how iPad Mini negatively affected the sales of the iPad with Retina Display.

Cheap iPhone = iPhone Mini?

Despite my reservations, however, I continued to check out rumors and insider information about this upcoming product. I guess I'm just that big a fan of Apple -- that even their not so premium releases still interest me.

(Besides, I know that while iPhone Mini comes with a handful of downsides, one good thing that it can accomplish is that it can introduce and endear iOS to budget-conscious users previously alienated by the hefty price of Apple's mobile devices.)

Recently, I read that representatives from a Chinese manufacturing company that Apple supposedly tapped for the production of this budget handset is already calling the product "iPhone Mini". I'm not sure if "mini" means that the handset will be smaller than the regular variant or if it will have 'minimized' technical specifications -- but I believe that this could very well be the official name of this release as it is in line with the Cupertino company's nomenclature for another device in its current product line-up.

Other rumors point to iPhone Mini's possible price range. According to analysts, the budget iPhone could end up being not so cheap after all. "A $250 to $300 price range would also be competitive with China-based Xiaomi that offers a high-end phone experience at a mid-range price of around $320 in China," Topeka Capital Analyst Brian White shares. "We believe a $250-to-$300 price point will allow Apple to significantly expand its reach in the smartphone market and better address developing markets such as China, while opening up more opportunities in Brazil, Russia, India and elsewhere."

Translucent Back Case : A Throwback to the iMac G3

But of all insider information about iPhone Mini that I encountered these past few days, the most interesting would have to be the one about its supposed design language and plastic back case.

According to DigiTimes, which first posted this photo from an anonymous source, "The entry-level iPhone [Mini] will adopt a chassis mixed with plastic and metal, with the internal metal parts being able to be seen from outside through special design, the sources noted."

Notice that this design identity is largely similar to that of Apple's consumer desktop iMac G3 - released in 1998 - which flaunted a translucent Bondi Blue colored plastic back case. Eventually, Apple replaced this initial hue with new colors, namely, Blueberry, Tangerine, Grape, Lime, Strawberry, Snow, and Ruby, among many others.

If you wonder why Apple gave the iMac G3 this see-through look, it's because - back then - one of the company's goals was to make the computer look more personal and less alien to consumers. If you remember, most PCs during that point had an almost standard grey, white, or black box look that appeared very cold and even mysterious to a lot of users. Apple - with Steve Jobs as its new CEO then - perhaps wanted to give the consumer desktop a more unique, fun, and endearing air and appeal.

TP Thoughts

Looking at the photo of the purported iPhone Mini with that back cover, I'm not sure if a lot of users would find it cute. Honestly, I don't think it's all that attractive. Apple has grown leaps and bounds since 1998 especially when it comes to product design and I think that the translucent look doesn't quite cut it these days -- more so, when you compare it to the extremely gorgeous design of the iPhone 4 or even the first iPhone.

However, if that see-through back case comes with intangibles or reflects Apple's new ideals and objectives (just like the iMac G3's design), then its lackluster appearance is something that I can overlook. Come to think of it, smartphones these days are starting too look all the same and technical specifications along with synthetic benchmark scores are becoming most users' only considerations in choosing a handset over others. If it takes an average-looking iPhone with a translucent plastic back cover to open our eyes and make the mobile experience fun again (and not just all about numbers and specs comparison tables), then I'm all for it.