Multiple readers of French technology site PCInpact are claiming to have been called by Orange regarding an upgrade to the future Apple handset (English translation through Electronista).
The first solution would allegedly entail a direct swap. A trade-in for the current model would reduce the price of a new iPhone to 50 Euros, effectively subsidizing nearly all the cost of the new phone with the old one.
Alternately, subscribers could obtain the next iPhone at what's referred to as a "generous" discount, the website claims, although what this would involve is a mystery.
Orange, for its part, remains silent in regards to the matter and has yet to address PCInpact's claims.
If true, such a gesture by the carrier would represent the first instance of a subsidy connected to the new and likely 3G-capable iPhone -- an offer previously unavailable with any of the iPhone's six countries, which for now offer the handheld at full price and compensate Apple by supplying a portion of its subscription revenues each month.
Other changes from the iPhone's largely fixed prices have revolved around temporary discounts to clear overstock at certain carriers, including a £100 price drop for 8GB iPhones through O2 UK and an ongoing variable-rate discount through T-Mobile's German branch that discounts the iPhone depending on the customer's choice of service plan.
Analysts have suggested that Apple may need to begin subisidies with its next-generation iPhone to maintain sales momentum and expand to certain markets. As an established product, the iPhone is seen by experts as needing more than just publicity to drive sales and may be switched to a subsidized model, particularly in China and other countries whose carriers may reject any revenue sharing deals outright.
Regardless of how accurate the calls may be, the true extent of any alleged change in business models is likely to be felt in June, when most expect Apple to introduce its long-awaited 3G iPhone model and give local carriers an opportunity to formally unveil their own plans.