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Apple may unveil cheaper iPhone

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Apple Inc will probably begin selling a lower-priced version of the iPhone in the first half of 2009, tapping a new chipmaker for a key component, according to Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co.

Qualcomm Inc will replace Infineon Technologies AG as the supplier of the baseband processor -- the chip that translates radio signals into voice and data -- in the new model, analyst Craig Berger said in a report. The phone might debut in the second quarter, he said, citing unidentified industry sources.

Apple may be turning to lower-cost products to fuel sales in developing countries as the US economy shrinks. The company is planning a smaller version of its Shuffle music player and a cheaper MacBook laptop, Berger said. None of the devices is likely to be ready to be unveiled at next week’s Macworld conference, where Apple typically makes product announcements.

“Mobile phone sales figures will continue to grow worldwide in 2009 and most of that growth will come from developing countries,” said Hakim Kriout, a portfolio manager at Grigsby & Associates, a New York-based securities trading firm that owns Apple shares.

“Turning the iPhone into a product line by adding another device for the lower end of the market is the next logical phase.”

Jennifer Bowcock, Apple’s spokeswoman for the iPhone, didn’t immediately return a call or email seeking comment. San Diego-based Qualcomm’s Bertha Agia also didn’t immediately return a phone call.

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