Starting the week off with a juicy iPhone rumor, Apple could break with tradition and offer up both an iPhone 5 and a less expensive iPhone 4S later this year, according to Deutsche Bank’s Chris Whitmore.

In a note to clients this morning, Whitmore said the time is right for Apple to jump into the mid-range smartphone arena with a cheaper and potentially unlocked iPhone 4S. Past rumors pointed to the phone being an iPhone 4 sped up with Apple’s faster dual-core A5 processor.

Whitmore said the iPhone 4S could be available unsubsidized for $350 and offered together with a prepaid plan, which would open Apple up to a market of 1.5 billion people across the world who rely on pre-paid plans.

While that price may seem high initially, it’s worth noting that Apple currently charges $649 for an unlocked iPhone 4 in the U.S.

Whitmore’s note raises an interesting idea, but I have a hard time believing him when he doesn’t cite any sources or evidence to support it. Analysts have long been talking about a pre-paid iPhone, but thus far the idea has always seemed interesting in theory, and not something Apple would actually follow through with given its focus on high-end smartphone customers.

Even if Apple opted for a cheaper pre-paid iPhone next year, why would the company release an improved iPhone 4S when it could just reduce the price of the existing iPhone 4? Apple has historically lowered the price of older iPhone models when a new one is released. In fact, the iPhone 3G S now retails for a bargain-bin price of $50 with a two-year contract.

In other iPhone rumors, Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Hubert said Apple will begin assembling iPhone 5 units in “mid to late August,” AppleInsider reports. That would put the phone on track for a September release, which is what current rumors are pointing to.

Via Fortune; iPhone 5 mockup via Boy Genius Report

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