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Apple launched a dramatic assault on Android tonight, with the launch a low-cost iPhone priced in line with mid-range smartphones running Google’s operating system.

Dubbed the iPhone 5C, the entry-level 16GB model is priced $99 over a two-year contract in the US. The 32GB edition is $199, also over a two-year contract term.

Both handsets come in a suite of iPod-style colour options, namely blue, white, red, yellow and green, each of which comes with colour-matched wallpapers. A black model is notable by its absence.

As widely predicted, the budget smartphone features a plastic, polycarbonate shell and recycles many parts from the iPhone 5, which it will replace in Apple’s product range.

Among these is the A6 processor, an eight-megapixel iSight camera and a four-inch Retina Display.

iphone 5c press call green

Powered by iOS 7, the handset also introduces a new 1.9-megapixel front-facing Facetime camera and, perhaps surprisingly for a smartphone pitched at the low-cost to mid-range market, offers support for 4G LTE networks.

A long-life battery is on board, which Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller said is higher capacity than any previous iPhone.

To protect the phone, Apple also showed a range of official cases, which are fashioned from polycarbonate but with a steel inner construction.

uSwitch Tech mobile expert Ernest Doku said: "The iPhone 5C has specs on par with the iPhone 5 as well as a choice of five eye-catching colours and a steel skeleton to make up for the plastic casing.

"Just as the iPad mini lowered the barrier to entry for wannabe tablet owners, the 5C should do the same for smartphone fans wanting a piece of Apple for less."

He added: "Apple is hoping the 5C will draw popularity away from older iterations of the premium iPhone – they've confirmed they won't lower the price for earlier gen models as usual – and with that price tag, they may well be right.

"Apple's never had an offering for the mid-range smartphone market, leaving Samsung – with a phone for every budget – to clean up. The 5C could well be the trump card needed to trounce Android's hand."

The launch also saw the unveiling of the new iPhone 5S.

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