Apple exec Tim Cook seems to confirm 'iPhone nano'

Apple seems to be set to release a cheaper iPhone after the company's executives made some uncharacteristically frank comments during an analyst meeting with Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi. Chief operating officer Tim Cook appears to have all but confirmed a cheaper iPhone is in the works.

Cook told Sacconaghi that the Cupertino company wants its iPhone to not be just a device "for the rich," and said the company is planning "clever" things for the prepaid market. He acknowledged that China, a major mobile market which the company is now focusing heavily on, is a country which has a large prepay base.

There was no market that Apple was willing to cede to its competitors, Cook said. Such an attitude from the company's top brass seems somewhat shocking, considering the company for so long prided itself on its exclusivity and highly targeted products.

It could be that Apple is now fully acknowledging the threat that is Google and Android, and it has made a conscious decision to take its competitors on at all levels -- thus protecting the dominant position in mobile devices that it has built over the past few years.

Cook's comments may give some credence to rumors that the company could be working on some type of carrier-agnostic device, where users select the carrier from within iTunes.

Enthusiast site AppleInsider reported on such a system earlier this month. The service acquisition process would be handled completely through iTunes, patent documents reviewed by the site revealed. Such an offering would also require some type of universal SIM, which means the carrier would need to cede a lot of power.

For chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer (also present at the meeting), carrier expansion seems a priority. While 175 carriers worldwide currently offer their customers iPhones, 550 currently have deals with RIM for the BlackBerry. Obviously, the market reach -- and the potential to sell a phone -- is greater for RIM.

This may be another signal that deals like the one Apple just announced with Verizon last month may be just the tip of the iceberg.

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