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The persistent rumors of a cheaper iPhone refuse to die, threatening to eclipse even those of Apple's so-called "iPhone 5S" expected in mid-year. But the company may have to make some compromises to get there.
DigiTimes reported Monday that Apple may be adopting the use of plastic as the exterior casing for its rumored entry-level iPhone, which analysts believe could retail for as little as $99.
Such a move would be a departure from Cupertino's most recent handsets, which have used Gorilla Glass (iPhone 4, 4S) or unibody metal (iPhone 5) for the outer casing. The previous iPhone 3G and 3GS models did feature a plastic back, which may provide some clues as to what Apple might do with a less-expensive model.
A move back to plastic is all about cost, according to sources in Apple's supply chain. The company could also be dabbling with the idea of a plastic and metal mix "with the internal metal parts being able to be seen from outside through special design," sources claim.
Whatever the handset will be made from, a cheaper iPhone is not likely to arrive until the second half of 2013, by which time most of us will have already picked up this year's refresh of the flagship iPhone 5.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter