iPhone 6 release date: What to expect from latest iPhone, could hit market over summer

Let the iPhone 6 speculation begin.

Apple is kicking off production on a new iPhone in the coming months and could announce the device this summer, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal . The phone would have the same size and shape as the iPhone 5, and Apple might also be working on a cheaper model to sell in developing countries, the report said.

The Journal story contained no details about what features the next iPhone might contain, although each new iPhone model has historically boasted a more powerful processor and an upgraded camera.

It wouldn't be shocking for Apple to release an iPhone in the summer. The company has released a new iPhone model every year since the device debuted in 2007, and the release dates have all been in the summer or fall. The iPhone 5 came out in September 2012, the iPhone 4S in October 2011, and the three versions before that in the summer months.

One possible launchpad for the as-yet-unnamed new device could be Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, typically held each June in San Francisco. Exact dates for WWDC 2013 have not been announced.

The Journal report's more interesting nuggets are about the cheaper, more colorful iPhone version. The report says Apple has been "working on different color shells" for the less expensive model.

There have been rumblings about a cheaper iPhone for a while now. The company has often put quality above affordability, but to be competitive in the booming Asia and South America markets, it will need to drop the price of its lower-end phones. Older, less expensive iPhone versions continue to sell well but are still pricey when compared with the array of cheap Android handsets.

The Wall Street Journal cites people "familiar with the device's production" as sources for its report.

These periodic crumbs of leaked information about Apple launches may help the company, which presents itself as extremely secretive about future products. Such occasional Apple rumor stories keep the iPhone in the minds of smartphone buyers and could influence their decisions about what phone to buy next.

It's been six months since Apple released a major new product, and as Fortune recently noted, its fans may be growing restless. Apple may also feel pressure to release a new iPhone soon to compete with archrival Samsung, whose popular Samsung Galaxy S line has emerged as a credible competitor. Reports of new products also would probably look good to Apple investors.

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