Apple said to begin iPhone 5S production in March ahead of summer launch

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With so much talk about the current-gen iPhone seeing weaker-than-expected demand swirling about, analysts and industry watchers have already begun to look forward to Apple’s next-generation handset, believed to be the ‘iPhone 5S.’

The company is widely expected to break its handset’s traditional, annual release cycle this year, releasing the new iPhone well before fall. And a new report today supports that theory, saying Apple’s next smartphone will land in June…

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek (via AppleInsider) said in a note to investors this morning that two next-gen iPhone prototypes are currently in testing. One is said to be the so-called ‘iPhone 5S,’ while the other could be the rumored budget model.

The analyst’s report actually matches up with scoops from both DigiTimes and The Wall Street Journal, who have both said that prototypes for Apple’s next-gen handset are floating around its supply chain. The release dates, however, don’t.

Misek says that Apple will begin preliminary builds of the ‘iPhone 5S’ in March, setting up for a debut in June or July. That contradicts a previous report though, which said the handset went into production in December for a Q1 2013 launch.

Additionally, Misek says that the budget iPhone has already been green-lit. “Similar to the iPad mini, we expect a concentrated low-cost iPhone rather than a ‘cheap’ one.” He says it will have a polycarbonate case, a 4-inch display and no LTE.

Even if you consider the fact that analysts aren’t always the most accurate when it comes to Apple rumors, you have to admit, there’s a lot of different analysts saying the same thing right now: the next iPhone will land sooner than expected, and Apple has a low-cost iPhone in the works. And that suggests that Apple is making some major strategic changes this year, which in and of itself is cause for excitement.