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Apple distracts from Mobile World Congress as 'iPhone nano' rumors continue

A third major publication reported on Monday that Apple is working on a new, smaller, cheaper iPhone set for release this year, as the handset maker continues to steal thunder from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona — a show it is not even attending.

The U.K.'s Daily Mail reported on Monday that Apple is working on a "smaller version of the iPhone 4" which will be released separately from the iPhone 5 this summer. The story, citing anonymous sources close to the company, follows similar reports last week from Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal.

The latest report restated much of what had been revealed in previous stories, including the fact that Apple apparently intends to sell the device at a low $200 price point without a contract or carrier subsidy. That would be a major discount from the current iPhone, which has an average selling price of $625.

"Phone users on tighter budgets have been shunning the pricey iPhones in favour of less expensive models which have Google's popular Android software," the report said. "Apple will now hope to lure away customers from the likes of Nokia."

As in previous filings, an anonymous tipster claims to have seen the prototype, said to be about a third smaller than the iPhone 4. The person reportedly said that the early version of the device had no "home" button, and cautioned that the device could be delayed or scrapped.

The publication also reaffirmed that Apple has also worked on new iPhone software and hardware that would let customers choose a network directly from their handset, bypassing the carriers even more.

The flood of information and rumors about Apple's next iPhone arrived just as the Mobile World Congress got underway in Barcelona, Spain. Though Apple is not participating in the annual mobile device event, the company has once again stolen the spotlight, as noted by The Wall Street Journal.

"The long shadow cast over Barcelona comes from the company not exhibiting there," Altimeter Group analyst Michael Gartenberg wrote on Twitter. "That's now become common."

In 2009, the iPhone dominated the talk of the Mobile World Congress as the iPhone continued to gain steam. And last year again, Apple was in the spotlight even as competitors attempted to hype their own would-be "iPhone killers."