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Apple launches cheaper 8GB iPhone 5C, but not in the US

Apple launches cheaper 8GB iPhone 5C, but not in the US

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Apple is adding a cheaper 8GB iPhone 5C to its smartphone lineup. The new model first appeared on UK carrier O2's site, but has since been added to a number of international Apple Stores including the UK, Australia, and China. In the UK, it's priced at £429, £40 ($66 including sales tax) less than the 16GB model. At the moment, it hasn't been announced in the US where the price would likely fall somewhere around $499.

Aside from a reduced amount of storage, the latest iPhone 5C is identical in every way to the hardware that launched back in September. It features a 4-inch Retina display, Apple's A6 processor, and an 8-megapixel camera. Reports of an 8GB model began surfacing on German Apple rumor sites Monday, with a photo of the device's packaging later appearing at Engadget. It was rumored that the 8GB model could replace the iPhone 4S, but for now Apple is still selling that phone alongside the low-price 5C.

It's not unprecedented for Apple to switch up storage options in the middle of an iOS product's lifecycle, but the company usually adds more room for photos, music, and apps rather than take it away. The introduction of a cheaper iPhone 5C may serve as the best evidence yet that Apple's mid-level smartphone is falling short of expectations. Apple's executives have never expressed disappointment with the iPhone 5C, and calling the handset a dud is by no means fair. So far, it's selling better than the 4S did when it occupied the middle slot in the iPhone portfolio last year.

But every indication is that consumers are choosing the flagship iPhone 5S more often than not. CEO Tim Cook admitted that the ratio didn't match what the company had planned for during Apple's last financial earnings call. "The mix was stronger to the 5S, and it took us some amount of time to build the mix that customers were demanding," he said. Even then, Cook hinted that a cheaper 5C wasn't out of the question. Discussing his company's approach to iPhone pricing, he said, "If we think it's in our best interest to make a change, then we'll make one." Today's announcement would suggest that Apple thinks now is the right time for change.

Aaron Souppouris contributed to this article.