According to Japanese sources, the new handsets are expected to go on sale in the U.S. and in Europe as early as Sept. 20 and could be on the shelves in China as early as November.
The latest premium Apple phone, expected to be called the iPhone 5S, is widely rumoured to feature a more powerful processor, reworked camera applications and settings and a better flash and will incorporate a fingerprint scanner for authentication. Meanwhile, the lower-cost handset, which leaked images suggest will be called the iPhone 5C, will be available in a host of bright colours -- like Apple's existing iPod Touch range -- and will forsake expensive alloys and metals in favour of coloured polycarbonates in an attempt to keep the phone competitively priced while not scrimping on the quality of internal components.
And while Apple has continued to deny all rumours regarding any of its upcoming product releases, all is expected to be revealed during an official launch event on Sept. 10.
So far, Apple has resisted the lure of the low-cost smartphone market in favour of focusing on premium devices, but the latest figures suggest that market for flagship phones is already at saturation point, while, at the same time, demand for affordable smartphones has never been greater. A report published on Aug. 7 by ABI claims that low-cost smartphones are set to dominate the global mobile phone market over the coming years.
Over 238 million such handsets are expected to ship this year and by 2018 that number will have jumped to 758 million, due to growing demand from consumers in Brazil, China, India and Russia as well as other emerging markets.
"Despite the low-cost moniker, research has shown that the feature gap between low- and high-end smartphones is decreasing, making low cost smartphones a 'good enough' solution for price sensitive consumers in all markets," says senior analyst Michael Morgan.
The recent launch of the Motorola Moto X phone is a case in point. It combines cutting edge functions and services yet underneath its carefully crafted exterior beats a heart built of mid-range components.
As well as demand from newer markets, consumers who don't want to be locked into long term subscription contracts can find themselves priced out of the smartphone market as network carriers typically offer huge subsidies and discounts on handsets in return for a two-to-three-year commitment to their services.
ABI senior practice director Jeff Orr explains: "We are increasingly seeing low cost smartphones appear as a solution for prepaid operators in developed markets. By 2018, ABI Research believes low cost smartphones will account for 44% of all smartphone shipments as the market looks to capture the next billion smartphone users."