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New photos of Apple’s much-rumored cheaper iPhone have surfaced online, and they’re better than any we’ve seen before.

All I can say is, the iPhone 5S better be very nice. Because this plastic-backed, less-expensive iPhone looks every inch a polished Apple product.

The provenance on these photos is not great — they were posted by Sonny Dickson, a native of Melbourne, Australia, with no word on how he obtained them. An e-mail and a tweet asking for more details was not immediately returned. But the extremely close resemblance to previous leaks, plus great quality and detail, makes them likely real.

Apple has of course not confirmed that it is releasing a new cheaper iPhone, and it both pooh-poohed the idea as well as hinting that it’s coming. But if the new, cheaper phone was still a secret last month, it was really leaked when China Labor Watch released a damning report on working conditions at Apple supplier Pegatron last month — and spilled the beans on Apple’s latest product.

Apple needs the new, cheaper iPhone badly.

It has slipped to seventh in smartphone market share in the biggest smartphone market in the world, and it has slipped to 13.2 percent global market share. This new product, IDC analysts hinted today, could help Apple regain lost ground.

“With a new iPhone and revamped iOS coming out later this year, Apple is well-positioned to re-capture market share,” the IDC’s Ramon Llamas said today.

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