Rumor of cheaper iPhone gets new life after Reuters pulls report

The iPhone 5 in white.

Speculation that Apple may release a cheaper iPhone is getting its second wind after conflicting reports suggest there might be some truth to the rumors.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, citing "people briefed on the matter," that Apple is working on a less-expensive iPhone to compete with more affordable smartphones on the market. According to the Journal, Apple has been considering a cheaper smartphone "since at least 2009." A spokesperson for Apple told CBS News that the company does not comment on rumors.

It was later reported on China's Shanghai Evening News that Apple senior vice president Phil Shiller debunked the reports. According to a translation done by The Next Web, Schiller was quoted as saying: "Despite the popularity of cheap smartphones, this will never be the future of Apple's products. In fact, although Apple's market share of smartphones is just about 20 percent, we own 75 percent of the profit."

The Next Web says Apple confirmed Schiller's interview was "official." But questions over his comments have since been raised. A curious move by Reuters to pull a story regarding Shiller's interview has given rumors of a cheaper iPhone new life.

Reuters withdrew a story Friday with the headline "Apple exec dismisses cheaper phone as a market share grab-report," in which the news agency cited reports from the Shanghai Evening News of Schiller's comments.

It's not clear why Reuters pulled the story. The news agency simply writes that the report, which was based on the Shanghai Evening News, was "subsequently updated with substantial changes to its content."

Venture Beat national editor Devindra Hardawar posits that by rescinding the story, "Reuters continues to fuel the rumors that we'll see a cheaper iPhone sometime this year."

Hardawar also points out that Schiller's quote only suggests that a cheaper iPhone will not be the future of Apple's overall strategy, but that doesn't mean the tech giant will never make a less-expensive iPhone.

According CNET, citing Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, Apple could sell 580 million total units this year, if it releases a cheaper iPhone. Munster added that Apple could sell 100 million low-cost iPhones in 2014.

"We believe the opportunity for Apple is too large to miss as the low-end market is growing significantly faster than the high-end smartphone market," Munster said.

Estimates of how much a cheaper iPhone would cost ranges between $99 and $250. Currently, unlocked iPhone prices range between $649 and $849.