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Don't Go There, Apple

By Dave Mock - Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 8:03PM

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The iPhone doesn't need deep discounts yet.

With the economy showing little signs of life, big discounts are giving consumers some price relief in areas few thought they'd ever see -- including cuts to $1,000-plus big screen TVs and even $4-a-gallon gasoline. Some of the hottest gadgets are on the sale table these days as well, and rumors have popped up that even the iconic Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone will have a discounted model available soon at -- where else? -- Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT).

Neither Apple nor Wal-Mart is commenting on the rumors of course, but numerous blogs and news sources have been citing inside talk of a $99 iPhone model -- a price point achieved by cutting the memory down to only four gigabytes. There seem to be plenty of Wal-Mart employees confirming that the discount chain will sell the device before year's end, but no one seems able or willing to corroborate the $99 price level.

The best evidence so far of the rollback on the iPhone is a Wal-Mart ad leaked on MacRumors that details a much less impressive $2 discount off the eight-gigabyte model, normally offered for $199 by Apple and AT&T (NYSE:T) with a two-year contract. This would make more sense as it would not significantly undercut fellow independent retailer Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), which offers the iPhone at the $199 price point for an eight-gigabyte model and $299 for the 16-gigabyte.

At this point in the iPhone's life cycle, Apple also has little need to plunder even lower down in the wireless device pool. With its international appeal and availability, I don't believe Apple will have any problem significantly exceeding its target of 10 million devices shipped this year. Sacrificing profitability and high-end appeal for an even greater market share doesn't necessarily give shareholders the best return -- just ask Nokia (NYSE:NOK) shareholders what garnering 40% of the market share, primarily by offering low-cost phones in emerging markets, has done for them.

And Apple has no serious, immediate threats to the iPhone platform either. Neither Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) Storm (offered as a joint venture between Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone) nor Samsung's Instinct (offered by Sprint Nextel) will significantly undercut or outperform the iPhone, although each may capture a decent-sized piece of the smartphone pie.

If I were an Apple investor, my 2008 holiday wish would be simple: With respect to the low-end phone market, just don't go there.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock was a good boy again this year, but it never seems to matter. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Wal-Mart, Nokia, and Best Buy are Inside Value recommendations. Best Buy and Apple are Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy. The Fool's disclosure policy sat on Steve Jobs' lap and asked for its iPhone already.

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Stocks Mentioned

Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
$168.49 (-0.44%) $0.75
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Stock Quote
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
$129.82 (0.96%) $1.24
Best Buy Co., Inc. Stock Quote
Best Buy Co., Inc.
$80.42 (2.43%) $1.91
Nokia Corporation Stock Quote
Nokia Corporation
$5.21 (0.00%) $0.00
Verizon Communications Inc. Stock Quote
Verizon Communications Inc.
$44.78 (-0.13%) $0.06
AT&T Inc. Stock Quote
AT&T Inc.
$18.04 (0.17%) $0.03
BlackBerry Stock Quote
$6.74 (-2.74%) $0.19

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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