Apple planning to sell a cheaper, iCloud-based iPhone alongside iPhone 5?

One of the most popular rumors to float on the Web this “iPhone refresh” season has been that Apple would launch both an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 4S, or some other cheaper version of the iPhone. That’s a rumor that received new life on Thursday.

The report, from Apple’N’Apps, cited three unnamed “independent sources” that said that Apple will launch two iPhones this fall. The first, the report said, will be the next-generation iPhone 5, and the second will be a cheaper device currently codenamed the iCloud iPhone.

Now that we know about iCloud, the idea of a cheaper iPhone that reduces flash memory storage and puts most of your data into the (i)Cloud makes a lot of sense. After all, the latest teardown by iSuppli said that 15 percent of the cost to build the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 3GS, as well, is flash memory.

When Apple introduces a new iPhone, it usually sells the prior generation for $99, with memory reduced by half. That is to say, while normally the lowest priced iPhone is $199 with 16GB of storage, the prior year’s model is sold for $99 with only 8GB of storage.

An iCloud iPhone certainly wouldn’t have zero storage, but could be sold with, say, 4GB of storage, with most of your data in the cloud, meaning the parts that take up most of an iPhone’s storage: music, data, and videos. The device would still need a decent amount of internal storage for apps.

There’s another problem with this idea: iCloud doesn’t (yet) have music streaming. If it had music streaming, this would sound like a great idea to us. Without it, it’s a far more iffy proposition.

That said, it’s still possible Apple could release a cheaper iPhone to go along with the iPhone 5. A recent report said that, beginning in October, China Mobile would begin selling a “simplified iPhone 4” along with an iPhone 5.

The report said that Apple was seeking to sell the iCloud iPhone for free, on contract, or for $400, unsubsidized.

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