Will Apple battle Nokia at the low-end too with lower-cost iPhone?

nokiacandySince Apple’s 2007 introduction of the iPhone, it has steadily nibbled away at Nokia’s leading handset position, ultimately contributing to the collapse of its throne (CP: Android passes Nokia as top smartphone that didn’t take long). Looking to pick itself up, Nokia which it’s no secret has been hard pressed to create a high-end smartphone that could get consumers queuing up has decided to instead focus on the mid and lower tiers of the market (CP: With new (including non-smartphone) devices, Nokia takes first steps toward its future).

“It’s not about a device, it’s about a whole portfolio approach a much broader approach than a single device,” Elop told the host of Finnish television program A-Plus in May, after being pressed about his plans to create “an iPhone killer.”

Unfortunately for Nokia, Apple may once again be at its heels.

The likelihood that Apple is working on a second, less-expensive new iPhone gained a bit more credibility today, with Bloomberg reporting that in February it was advised of such plans by “people familiar with the matter.

“Apple is also working to finish a cheaper version of the iPhone aimed at attracting customers in developing countries, the people said,” stated the report. “This device would use chips and displays of similar quality to today’s iPhone 4.”

In a February report with Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi, Apple COO Tim Cook kicked off the rumor, telling Sacconaghi that Apple didn’t want its products to be “just for the rich,” and that it was doing some “clever things” to get in on the prepaid market.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop also has an eye on “not rich” markets. At the Nokia Connection 2011 event in Singapore yesterday, Elop noted during his keynote that 90 percent of the world “does not have, or cannot afford, a smartphone or high-end device,” and that the SEAP (South-East Asia Pacific) region has an enormous youth population that’s heavily engaged with mobile technology.

Among the news Elop went on to share was the introduction of the X1-01, a handset with a dual-SIM (a handy feature for developing markets, where it’s common for phones to be shared) that will sell for about 35 Euro.

It’s unclear whether Nokia is more motivated by the dollar signs evident in the largely untapped SEAP region, or the desire to simply be where Apple is not and so save itself the headache of again competing directly.

Unfortunately for Nokia, Apple may have plans to be just about everywhere.

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