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Apple looking at bigger iPhone screens, more colors

To compete with other smartphone companies, Apple considers bigger iPhones in more color. 

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For this year, Apple is expected to launch two new models, widely referred to as the iPhone 5S, with new fingerprint technology, and a cheaper version in plastic casing, supply chain sources have said. Apple plans to dress up the cheaper phone in a range of 5 to 6 colors to differentiate it from the more expensive model that has traditionally come only in black and white.

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The US firm has discussed a price of $99 for the cheaper phone, the timing of which could slip to next year, one of the sources said. It's not yet clear what the final price would be.

Apple – whose revenue growth has decelerated from the heady days of 2010 when it introduced the iPad and when the iPhone was the world's top-selling smart phone – has sought ways to reenergize its flagship line. 

BROADER PRODUCT RANGE

Analysts say the company needs a cheaper gadget to push on in growth markets in China and Inida, and to counter Samsung's edge in having phones priced up and down the spectrum. China, the world's biggest smart-phone market, is set to grow 48 percent this year, outpacing the global increase of 31 percent, according to industry forecasts.

While Apple only offers a single phone model across all markets, it has successfully marketed the iPod music player and its iPad in different sizes and at varying prices. Asked at last month's AllThingsD industry conference why Apple hasn't launched different sized iPhones, chief executive officer Tim Cook said: "We haven't so far. That doesn't shut off the future."

He explained that the range of iPods serve different audiences and needs. "On the phone, that's the question. Are we now at a point to serve enough people that we need to do that?"

Cook noted a larger screen comes with trade-offs on features such as battery life, resolution, and brightness.

Test production for both the standard and cheaper iPhone models aims to start next month, with mass production ramping up in August to meet a September launch target, two people said.

"Trial production was originally planned to start in June, but the mixing of colors is taking longer than expected as Apple has very high and idealistic standards," said one source in Asia, adding that 20 million plastic iPhones are expected to ship in the October-December quarter.

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