Cheaper Apple iPhones are on the way -

Reports said that Apple is preparing a range of iPhones that cost less than the current model, suggesting that the company is girding its loins for an onslaught of clever smartphones from competitors.

According to reports in both the Wall Street Journal and on the Bloomberg wires, Apple will sell iPhones as much as half the price of its flagship machines.  We won’t see cheaper than chips iPhones until the middle of this year, the WSJ report claimed – with the range having the exciting code name the N97.

Apple is facing a serious challenge from phones that use the Google Android operating system – with manufacturers opting for the OS in their droves. In addition, Apple will also see increased competition on the tablet front from Android based tablets. But there’s no indication that Apple is going to slash prices on its iPads, at least not in the short term.

The company, which doesn’t bother attending major events such as the Mobile World Congress (MWC), held in swinging Barcelona this week, has had a runaway success with the iPad but that’s likely to be eroded as a swathe of manufacturers try their hand with tablets of their own. No doubt someone senior at Apple has decided to leak this information to queer competitors' pitches at the MWC.

A cheap iPhone would mean, Apple hopes, that it could fight its competitors at every level in the marketplace. Although the iPhone has been enormously successful, its sales still remain a fraction of overall mobile phone sales.

Separately, Taiwanese wire Digitimes reported that manufacturer Asustek is going for the tablet market like there's no tomorrow - forecasting it will ship as many as two million tablets this year. No one yet knows how this is all going to work out.