Oh, the rumors! They wash to and fro amongst a frenzy of bloggers and tech journalists, devouring them like piranhas on a baby calf. One of the latest is that Apple is going to release an “iPhone Nano” – a phone a third to half the size of the current iPhone (whatever that means). And they’re going to sell it for $199 with no contract! Sources cite the need for a less expensive phone to lure in the low-end market who might want an iPhone, but can’t afford it.

Newsflash: the iPhone already costs $199. And it’s the full-sized iPhone 4 with all the bells and whistles.

Monthly pains

The reason the iPhone isn’t being adopted by price-conscious consumers isn’t the $199 price point – it’s the cell phone plans that require a $30/month data plan which means your minimum monthly bill is $60 with only 450 minutes and no text messages included.

And if you purchase an “iPhone Mini” you’re still going to have to activate it with a carrier who is still going to charge you the same, high monthly rates. So you’ve gained exactly…nothing.

Except that you have a smaller, less functional phone with fewer features.

So the only real benefit is no contract. But that has nothing to do with price. And the people who care about not having contracts so they can switch to the latest and greatest gadget probably don’t want a low-end version of an iPhone.

Not to mention the headache it would cause developers to have to worry about slower processors and different screen resolutions/dimensions.

Besides, if you want a budget iPhone, Apple doesn’t need to mass produce a separate model – you can pick up a brand new 3GS right now from AT&T for $49.

Don’t eat your young

Putting an iPhone Mini with no contract at $199 cannibalizes their iPod Touch sales. Currently, the lowest priced iPod Touch has 8 GB storage and sells for $229. I don’t think Apple is going to kill that cash cow.

By the way

I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but Apple doesn’t do low-end.

Streaming Only Version

There is also the idea floating around that the iPhone Mini/Nano/Unicorn will be streaming only – all your music, videos, pictures and contacts will stream over the cell network to/from your MobileMe repository in the sky. This would mean minimal on-board storage which would cut the cost of producing the phone and allow Apple to hit the $199 price point.

While I think this could be the future, I don’t think the future is now. For one thing, it would suck your battery life faster than you can say “Boom”. Second, carriers are starting to impose caps on data usage. What was once an unlimited data plan, AT&T now caps at 2 GB per month. Take a lot of pictures and videos of your kids? With no on-board storage every 5 mpx picture and 720p video would be uploaded instantly, blowing through your data in no time at all. Overages, I believe, are $20/GB. Ouch.

Time will tell

I could be completely wrong on this. Bloomberg thinks I’m wrong. The Wall Street Journal thinks I’m wrong. But I’m going to stick to my guns on this one. Unless El Jobso (may he recover quickly and fully) has some crazy black magic up his turtleneck’s sleeves I don’t think we’re going to see the iPhone Nano anytime soon.

Thoughts?