Foxconn4-thumb-620x401-102212

We’ve heard an unusual amount of chatter regarding the next generation iPhone over the past few months. Especially since the iPhone 5 just launched 6 months ago. But folks seem pretty certain that Apple’s next smartphone isn’t too far off.

And a new report out this morning echoes that sentiment. Citing “people familiar with the device’s production,” The Wall Street Journal claims that Apple is ramping up production of its new iPhone this quarter ahead of a likely summer launch…

“Apple Inc. AAPL +0.27% plans to begin production of a new iPhone similar in size and shape to its current one in the second quarter of the year, according to people familiar with the device’s production, teeing up a possible summer launch for the next version of its flagship device.”

The Journal’s report jibes well with other timeframes we’ve been hearing. Last week, the oft-accurate Macotakara reported that the new iPhone would launch in June. And both DigiTimes and KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo corroborate the date.

Apple’s next handset is expected to be the iPhone 5S. Word is that it will look similar to its predecessor but feature a faster processor, improved camera system, and possibly a fingerprint scanner. It’s also believed that a budget model is coming.

The WSJ has something to say about that as well:

“At the same time, Apple continues to work with its manufacturing partners in Asia on a less expensive iPhone that could be launched as soon as the second half of this year, these people said. The 4-inch device will likely use a different casing from the higher-end iPhone. Apple has been working on different color shells for the phone but its plans remain unclear.”

The budget iPhone is rumored to be made of a metal and plastic mix, and come with a full retail price tag less than $300. Such a product is uncharacteristic for Apple, but it will help it make inroads into larger, difficult markets like India and China.