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Report: Smaller iPhone 'intended' for summer release

A report by the Wall Street Journal suggests a new, cheaper iPhone will launch as early as this summer along with an upgrade to the iPhone 4 and revamped MobileMe.

One concept design for a 'Nano' iPhone. Davide Casalt

After Bloomberg last week reported that Apple was working on a smaller, cheaper iPhone, the Wall Street Journal has added some more details to the rumors, suggesting the new, smaller iPhone could be available as soon as this summer.

According to the report, a person who saw a prototype of the new iPhone said the "device was significantly lighter than the iPhone 4 and had an edge-to-edge screen that could be manipulated by touch, as well as a virtual keyboard and voice-based navigation." The source added that the new line of iPhones along with a revamped MobileMe "are intended for release this summer, though those plans could change."

The new products are "the top priorities of Apple Chief Executive Steve Job," said one of the people familiar with the situation. Despite being on medical leave, Jobs has "been closely involved in the development efforts."

As previously reported, the new iPhone would be about half the size of the iPhone 4 and be available to carriers for half the price of the current model, potentially allowing them to subsidize its entire cost, making it a free phone with a two-year contract (that would obviously help Apple compete with new, cheaper Android smartphones).

The new model--the Journal says one of its code-names is the N97, which ironically is a Nokia model number--would offer the same functionality as the current iPhone and not be a stripped-down model. However, the report offered no hint as to what screen the new phone would have or what chips would power it. That said, Bloomberg reported that the smaller iPhone would likely use components of the current-generation iPhone to lower costs.

The Journal's source also that Apple, "also plans to upgrade the iPhone 4," which isn't news. However, the choice of words is interesting because it suggests the next iPhone might be more of an "upgrade," not a substantially redesigned phone. In other words, we could be looking at an iPhone 4GS instead of an iPhone 5.

Either way, we should officially know in June what Apple's iPhone line looks like. But expect plenty of rumors between now and then.

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