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Apple is weighing a cheaper iPhone

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple has been exploring ways to broaden the appeal of the iPhone by making the popular device less expensive and allowing users to control it with voice commands.

But contrary to published reports, Apple is not developing a smaller iPhone, according to people briefed on Apple’s plans who requested anonymity because the plans are confidential.

Apple’s engineers are focused on finishing the next version of the iPhone, which is likely to be similar in size to the current iPhone 4, said one of the people. The person said Apple was not planning to introduce a smaller iPhone any time soon. Analysts expect the new iPhone to be ready this summer.

Another person who is in direct contact with Apple also said that the company would not make a smaller iPhone at this time, in part because a smaller device would not necessarily be much cheaper to manufacture and because it would be more difficult to operate.

More important, a phone with a smaller screen would force many developers to rewrite their apps, which Apple wants to avoid, the person said.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, appeared to reinforce that point recently when he praised the iPhone’s uniformity, contrasting it with phones based on Google’s Android software, which come in many formats.

“We think Android is very, very fragmented and getting more fragmented by the day,” Jobs told financial analysts in October. “We think this is a huge strength of our approach compared to Google’s.”

Another senior Apple executive said during a private meeting recently that it did not make sense for the company to make multiple iPhone models, noting that Apple would stick with its practice of dropping the price of older models when it introduced a new one.

Popular rage encounters state violence in the Mideast

Thousands of Libyan protesters defied threats of violence and arrest in several cities Thursday, mounting one of the sharpest challenges to Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s 40-year rule in a “day of rage” modeled on the uprisings coursing through neighboring countries.

The accounts were muted by Libya’s strict media controls, but human rights groups said at least four people had been killed in clashes involving marchers, pro-government demonstrators and security forces. Other unconfirmed reports put the death toll as high as 20 and said dozens more had been wounded.

A fog of smoke, tear gas and fresh unease descended over cities throughout the region, with demonstrations and rolling street battles lurching in violent new directions as governments fought to blunt their momentum and reassert control of the streets. States imposed curfews and ordered people to stay home, and those who defied the orders risked gunfire or beatings at the hands of security forces, private guards or pro-government crowds.

In Bahrain, five people were killed and hundreds wounded in a harsh crackdown.

Yemen was shaken by a seventh day of demonstrations demanding the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Protesters chanted “There is no state!” and lobbed rocks back and forth with pro-government marchers.

In Iran, a leading opposition figure, Mir Hussein Moussavi, was reported missing, raising fears that he had been detained in connection with this week’s anti-government rallies. The marches, the largest since the 2009 disputed elections, were put down by Iranian security and paramilitary forces.