Apple expected to launch 'cheap' iPhone this year

Apple: reportedly developing a cheaper version of the iPhone
Apple: reportedly developing a cheaper version of the iPhone

Apple is reportedly developing a lower-end iPhone to strengthen its loosening stranglehold on the smartphone market, as a result of the rise of rival Samsung.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a less expensive version of Apple's flagship device could reach market later this year, with the brand having considered launching a cheaper phone since 2009.

The news comes as Samsung rapidly erodes Apple’s lead in the UK smartphone market after a period of "tremendous growth", according to data from comScore.

Samsung doubled its market share from 11.2% to 24% during the three months ending October 2012 and is closing the gap on Apple, which has a 28% market share.

The "cheaper" handset will reportedly resemble a standard iPhone with a different, less-expensive body, with plastic being considered for the outer shell, rather than aluminium.

Under Steve Jobs, Apple persevered with a single flagship device for its phone and tablet offering, but the company is now beginning to shift its strategy under the stewardship of new chief executive Tim Cook.

The California-based tech firm now offers a miniature version of its tablet device, after launching the iPad mini in November 2012.

However, some analysts speculate that Apple risks cannibalising its own sales because it no longer staggers its product launches sufficiently.

Last year, Apple rolled out a fourth large iPad, the iPad mini, a new iPhone, a new iPod touch range and an updated version of the Macintosh and iMac.

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