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Alleged prototype of Microsoft flagship smartphone surfaces in photos

The phone, reportedly codenamed McLaren, was apparently set to become a new flagship Lumia smartphone for Microsoft but was dropped at some point this year.

Is Microsoft crafting a flagship smartphone? Microsoft

Microsoft was close to trying to go head-to-head with Apple's flagship iPhone 6 with a device codenamed McLaren -- if newly leaked images are to be believed.

Several photos were published on China-based site Baidu on Thursday showing a rumored flagship Windows Phone smartphone, codenamed McLaren, sitting next to an iPhone 6. Images of the handset show a massive camera on the back and a 5-inch screen. McLaren is noticeably larger than the iPhone 6, appearing to be both taller and thicker than Apple's smartphone.

The trouble with the photos, however, is that the alleged prototype will likely never see light of day. McLaren was allegedly designed to be the next Microsoft flagship smartphone, but was shelved earlier this year, The Verge reported, citing people who claim to have knowledge of Microsoft's move. Those same sources told The Verge that the device would have come with a high-end camera and featured 3D touch gestures to mimic the hands-free interaction users can have with the Microsoft Kinect gaming peripheral.

Microsoft has been tight-lipped on any plans for a new flagship handset. After acquiring Nokia's handset division earlier this year, Microsoft nixed the Nokia name from all Lumia products, deciding instead to go with its own branding. Rumors have been swirling for months that Microsoft has been hard at work on a flagship smartphone that would carry its branding and attempt to compete on the same level as the iPhone 6 and flagship smartphones from Samsung, HTC and others.

Delivering a flagship smartphone would be an important move for Microsoft. The company's smartphone market share stands in the low-single-digits worldwide and a solid device could improve its standing.

If McLaren is, in fact, dead, that may mean Microsoft has something else up its sleeve. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.