China Telecom deal to include two new iPhones?

Once again there's the rumor that Apple's cooking up two different iPhones for launch later this year. This time it's attached to rumblings of a deal with carrier China Telecom.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read
iPhone 4 users on the product's launch day last year.
iPhone 4 users on the product's launch day last year. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

File this one away in the "rumors that won't quit" section, because there are more rumblings of Apple doubling up with two--count them two--new iPhone models this fall.

In a report on China-based Sohu.com, which is making the rounds this morning by way of AllThingsD, the site says carrier China Telecom has reached a "preliminary agreement" with Apple to sell the iPhone some time before the end of October. Furthermore, it won't just be the much-expected iPhone 5, it will also include a lower-cost variant of the iPhone 4.

The report, which was picked up in a note to investors by Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White, is reminiscent of a June investment note from Deutsche Bank suggesting that Apple is working on two different devices. That report included mention of a slightly souped-up version of the iPhone 4 that would be available at a lower cost, and able to be used on prepaid cell phone plans.

As for the carrier factor, Reuters last month reported that China Telecom planned to launch the iPhone by the end of this year, a move that would make Apple's cell phone available to an additional 106 million subscribers. Apple already offers the iPhone in China through carrier China Unicom. The two companies inked a three-year agreement to offer the device there, beginning with the iPhone 3G in 2009. The carrier got the iPhone 4, Apple's latest generation of the device, less than a year later.

China Telecom specifically makes up close to 12 percent of China's total wireless subscriber base, which White pegged at 896.2 million in a research note last month. Of that, 73.8 million are 3G subscribers, with China Telecom accounting for a little more than a quarter of that total.

Reports that Apple is mulling bringing the iPhone to additional carriers in China existed before a CDMA version of the iPhone was announced, including a prediction by J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz in October that such a device would be headed to China Telecom "in early to mid-2011." In June, an alleged photo of Apple Chief Operating Office Tim Cook making a visit to China Mobile, the largest mobile operator in China, cropped up, suggesting the two companies were also working on a deal.

As for the low-cost iPhone rumor, that one's been kicking around for ages. Though of special interest, a photo and hands-on account with a purportedly plastic-clad iPhone 4 variant cropped up last week, suggesting the low-cost version could be a reality.

The expected timing on Apple's next iPhone (or iPhones), continues to shift based on various reports. While many of the reports from earlier this year suggested a launch in September, recent reports have suggested it spanning into October. As background, the iPhone 4, which was first unveiled at last year's WWDC,hit store shelves last June.

You can catch up with all the iPhone 5 rumors on CNET's lovingly maintained iPhone 5 rumor roundup page, which tracks scattered reports going back to early January.