Apple tests new phone amid talk of early launch

APPLE is testing a new version of its iPhone, as well as new iOS software for the device, heightening speculation that it will release its next handset earlier than expected.

App developers have noticed that usage logs – records to track what devices are using their apps – include references to an “iPhone 6.1” identifier. The identifiers, seen by technology website The Next Web, appear to have originated from Apple’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

The news that Apple is testing the new device and software, just a few months after the release of the iPhone 5 and iOS6, follows speculation that the next iPhone will be released in the summer, breaking the cycle of autumn launches Apple has followed in recent years.

The iPhone 5 has seen record sales figures since its September launch.

A summer release of the next iPhone would cut the time between its release and the launch of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S phones, which go on sale earlier in the year. Samsung, which became the world’s bestselling phone company last year, has proved Apple’s stiffest competition in recent months. Its next flagship model, the Galaxy S4, is slated for release in April.

Apple did not comment.