The novel coronavirus outbreak has sent the stock market packing over the past few weeks. While the possibility of further downside is always a risk, the recent crash has opened up a nice opportunity for value-oriented investors to start building positions in top-quality companies.

Apple (AAPL 1.08%) is one of the top tech stocks investors should pay close attention to during this COVID-19-fueled crash. The advent of fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks and a fast-growing services business are tailwinds that could ensure long-term growth for the iPhone maker, despite the broader downturn in stocks. The good news is that investors now have one more reason to pick Apple stock during the current crash.

Person pressing a buy button on a keyboard.

Image source: Getty Images.

Apple's new plan

The Apple supply chain has been abuzz with rumors that the company could launch an entry-level phone for quite some time now. The 4.7-inch device is to be based on the chassis of the iPhone 8 and may be christened the iPhone 9, but 9to5Mac now reports that a "plus" version may also be in the works.

The tech publication cites snippets of the iOS 14 code and reports that Apple might be working on a bigger iteration of the entry-level device. That suggestion doesn't seem outlandish, as the iPhone 8 was also launched in two screen sizes -- 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches. 9to5Mac also reveals that both devices could be powered by the A13 Bionic processor that currently powers the iPhone 11.

This indicates that Apple is following a similar strategy as when it launched the iPhone SE in March 2016. Priced at $399 when it was launched, the iPhone SE was essentially a smaller iPhone 6S. Apple had given its budget phone nearly all the goodies that came with the much more expensive iPhone 6S, launched just months before the SE.

But the launch of a "plus" version this time around indicates that Apple is likely to follow a two-tier pricing strategy for its most affordable phone. Such a strategy might make a lot of sense in both emerging markets and developed nations.

Why this could be a genius idea

The launch of new, compact devices from Apple could turn out to be a nice upgrade for users of older models such as the iPhone 6S, the iPhone 6S Plus, and the ones that came before them. By the end of 2018, these models accounted for 41%, or 75 million, of Apple's installed base in the U.S., according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP).

The iPhone 8, the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X, and the 2018 models -- XS and XS Max -- accounted for 25% of the installed base in the U.S. at that time. Now, CIRP didn't break down the installed base by iPhone generation in its latest report, which was released in November of last year. But going by the latest available numbers, it is clear that many users could still be on older iPhones with screen sizes of under 6 inches (the iPhone XS' screen size was 5.8 inches).

So a 5.5-inch entry-level iPhone at a competitive price point could encourage those users to upgrade this year. The 4.7-inch entry-level iPhone's price is expected to begin at $399, according to third-party reports. This is why Apple is likely to start pricing any 5.5-inch model at a higher point -- say $500. That would be close to the average smartphone price of $528 in the U.S.

As a result, Apple could attract mid-range smartphone users into its fold and boost its market share with a 5.5-inch budget device in developed markets. The cheaper 4.7-inch model, meanwhile, could come in handy in emerging markets such as India, where smartphones in the price range of $300 to $500 are witnessing rapid growth.

So Apple can do itself a huge favor if it actually launches two budget-friendly iPhones this year, giving investors another solid reason to buy more of this potential growth stock despite its being beaten down badly of late.