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iPhone 5S could be made of plastic for cheaper price

New reports suggest a budget iPhone will arrive this year with a cheaper casing.

The next iPhone could be fantastic plastic, as new reports suggest a budget iPhone will arrive this year with a cheaper casing.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a budget iPhone will launch this year, with a new design that cuts the cost. "People briefed on the matter" reckon Apple has plans for a cheaper iPhone made of polycarbonate instead of the glass and aluminium of the current model. For an example of a polycarbonate phone, check out the colourful Nokia Lumia 920.

The specs for this rumoured iPhone 5S -- or whatever it's called -- are likely to be the same, or perhaps recycle elements of older phones such as the iPhone 4 or 4S.

An iPhone mini would follow the iPad mini, a sawn-off 7.9-inch version of the original 9.7-inch iPad. The iPad mini shows Apple is prepared to vary things a little if there's a demand. While the rumoured 5S is likely to be cheaper, its unlikely to actually be physically smaller, like the iPad mini: the iPhone is one of the smaller phones on the market these days, and the trend is for phones to get bigger.

The iPhone has just been overtaken by the Samsung Galaxy S3 as the best-selling phone, so maybe it's about time Apple made a few changes. Analysts reckon a cheaper iPhone is inevitable as everybody who can afford one owns one (unless they have an S3), meaning Apple has to turn to customers with less cash to sustain profits. But each new version still sells like hot cakes on a particularly cold day, so Apple may be loath to cheapen the brand.

But as long as Apple doesn't go down the route of the Galaxy S3 Mini, a flagrant cash-in on the S3 name, then Apple's premium brand could remain unbesmirched. Because let's face it, 'cheaper' is relative, and 'budget' in the Apple Store means something quite different than in the real world.  

Would you buy a cheaper iPhone, or would a plastic iPhone cheapen the brand? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.