iPhone 5C
The plastic iPhone 5C will be available in a range of colours. (iApps.im)

Apple is widely expected to announce two new smartphones - the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S - at a media event in California on 10 September. Although the flagship iPhone 5S will be scripted as the event's highlight, it could well be the cheaper iPhone 5C which gets the most attention, as Apple looks to drop its premium roots and give chase to Android and the midrange of the smartphone market - but questions remain about where the cheaper model will be sold.

iPhone 5C: Look and feel

Like the iPhone 3G and 3GS, Apple is going back to plastic with the iPhone 5C and, tallying with the event's invitation promising to "brighten everyone's day", the phone will be available in a range of colours.

Fromt eh multitude of images and videos leaked ahead of launch the new phone will be available in white, yellow, green, blue, red and black.

The iPhone 5C will be the same size as the iPhone 5 with the front panel having the same black glass frame around a 4in screen. But its edges will be a little more curved compared to the sharp, chamfered right angles of the iPhone 5.

The bottom edge will feature a Lightning port for charging and a headphone jack as before, but the speaker grilles will look slightly different, with a line of four holes on the left and one on the right.

Those colourful back panels llok to have a gloss finish to them just like the black and white iPhone 3GS of 2009, and feature a black Apple logo. Although the screen bezel remains black on all models, the wallpaper of Apple's new iOS 7 is set to match the colour as the phone by default.

Judging by photographs leaked from one of Apple's Chinese factories, the iPhone 5C will be packaged just like the iPod touch, in a simple plastic box with transparent front panel.

iPhone 5C
Invitations to the event say Apple plans to \"brighten everyone\'s day\" (iCrackUriDevice)

iPhone 5C: Hardware and Performance

While the iPhone 5C's colour design has been widely leaked from a number of sources, the phone's performance stats remain less clear. The general consensus suggests a dual-core processor - probably the A5 chip as used by the iPhone 4S, which Apple is believed to be increasing its production of - along with 1GB of RAM and storage options of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB.

The iPhone 5C is thought to get either the 5-megapixel camera from the iPhone 4S, or the 8-megapixel model from the year-old iPhone 5, plus a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera for HD FaceTime calls.

As with the current iPhone 5, the iPhone 5C will get have a 4in Retina screen - this means a resolution of 640 x 1,136 and a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch.

iPhone 5C
iPhone 5C packaging is similar to that of the iPod touch range. (iApps.im)

iPhone 5C: Price and availability

It goes without saying that the iPhone 5C will be cheaper than the iPhone 5S, but questions are now being asked about where the plastic phone will go on sale, and if it will even reach the US and Europe.

BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis told the New York Post that it's a "highly reasonable strategy" for Apple to sell the iPhone 5C exclusively in China and offer only the iPhone 5S in the US.

"Why would Apple want to hurt its average selling price in the US," Gillis asks.

Just three days before the California press event, the Wall Street Journal revealed Apple is "close to a deal" with China Mobile, whereby the iPhone maker would sell its products through the world's largest mobile network, with some 740 million customers. Amid cheap competition from local rivals, the 5C would help Apple gain ground in a country largely untapped by the company.

As for a budget iPhone in the US and Europe, Apple has traditionally reduced the price of its one- and two-year old models when each new version arrives; sticking to this method, next week would see the flagship iPhone 5S followed by a discounted iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S.

Barclay's analysts agree with Gillis, saying: "China is arguably the most important market for Apple right now as the company tries to regain share it has lost to low-cost manufacturers. Positioning the iPhone 5C as a low-cost phone will enable Apple to capture additional sales for the most price conscious consumers in developing economies."

Add this to the fact that Apple is, for the first time, hosting a media event in China on 11 September, broadcasting to Beijing journalists what was said in California hours earlier, and it seems likely that China will be the key market for the 5C.

If the iPhone 5C is to be sold in the UK we would expect it to cost between £350 and £450 SIM-free, given the three-year-old iPhone 4 costs £320 and the iPhone 4S costs £450. The iPhone 5C could be free on contracts of around £25 a month.

All will be revealed when Apple takes to the stage at 6pm UK time on 10 September.

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