Apple working on less expensive iPhone - Report

Sources say company has been planning lower-end device for years, though it may finally ship this year with shell made of polycarbonate plastic.

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Apple is currently working on a less expensive iPhone, sources reportedly familiar with the matter have told The Wall Street Journal. According to these people, Apple has contemplated a lower-end iPhone for years, though the company is more serious this time, and could even ship the device as early as later this year.

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The less expensive iPhone would resemble the standard issue iPhone, though it would feature a cheaper body made of polycarbonate plastic. By comparison, the iPhone 5 has an aluminum casing. Other parts of the phone could be recycled from older iPhone models, the sources said.

In the United States, the new iPhone 5 model begins at $199 with a two-year contract at carriers like Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and AT&T. The iPhone 4 retails for $99 with a two-year contract, while the iPhone 4 is free.

Apple has not commented on the rumor.

The move comes amidst increased competition from rivals, including Google's Android line. The newspaper reports, citing International Data Corporation figures, that Apple held just 14.6 percent of worldwide smartphone marketshare in the 2012 third quarter, down from a previous high of 23 percent a year prior.

The sources further claimed that Apple executives tabled the idea of a cheaper iPhone model years ago due to concerns that a second iteration would "complicate its manufacturing processes." Instead, Apple chose to keep aging iPhone models on the market for less, a decision that did not require the design and development of any new products.

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