Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook was in China this week to meet with senior executives from partner carrier Chinese Telecom, Apple Insider reports. While a high level meeting with such an important partner is not necessarily surprising, the lack of information about the meeting has given rise to a spate of heavy speculation.

Apple

Is the iPhone Lite on the horizon?

The most interesting speculation is the idea that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has a new, inexpensive iPhone coming to market in the next year or so, what Apple watchers have dubbed the iPhone Lite. If that’s true it wouldn’t just mean that more consumers can get access to the world’s most popular smartphone, it would be a significant change in Apple’s corporate strategy.

iMacs, iPods, iPhones and nearly every other product that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) produces is more expensive than most of its rivals. Apple has never tried to seriously compete on price, trusting that higher quality and the strong brand identity would carry it through. While this strategy almost drove the company under during the 1990s, after Apple made its resurgence with the iPod it has been seen as integral to the company’s success.

Manufacturing a cheap iPhone model could threaten Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s image as the upmarket gadget maker of choice by flooding the market with a product that was once reserved for the hip and somewhat wealthy, and which presumably wouldn’t provide the same level of user experience that people expect from Apple products.

Nonetheless there does seem to be a consensus among Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) watchers that the low-cost iPhone is coming out in September. iPhone 5C cases are already available on Amazon, and there are pictures of the new colored model available online.

Apple continues to develop relationship with Chinese firms

Whether or not Cook discussed these plans with his Chinese Telecom counterparts, there were plenty of other issues that likely needed to be addressed, including the relatively flat Q2 sales and planning for the next generation iPhone, a process that starts well before the public ever hears about it. Cook has previously gone to China to inspect the Foxconn manufacturing facilities and has met with executives at China Mobile, the world’s largest cellphone provider.