The Wall Street Journal is reporting that, according to their inside sources, Apple is working on a cheaper version of the iPhone. There's no reason for excitement just yet, as Gizmodo points out, this is the second time that WSJ is reporting this rumor. The first time the rumor came around was in February 2011, when the Journal detailed the N97—a phone built out of polycarbonate plastic that was supposed to be half the size and cost of the iPhone 4.
This time, the rumor's not much different: "While Apple has explored such a device for years," wrote the Journal. "The plan is progressing and a less expensive version of its flagship device could launch later this year…"
The journal points to myriad ways that Apple could cut costs on this cheaper alternative, including the use of polycarbonate plastic (as mentioned in the previous rumor) or by recycling parts from older models.
With rising competition from Android phones—which offer much cheaper alternatives than the iPhone, no less—it makes sense that Apple needs a cheaper alternative. However, Gizmodo raises the very valid point that Apple's older models, which are still readily available and aren't a bad alternative, can be considered the cheaper iPhone 5.
Still, Apple launched the iPad mini to compete with the 7-inch tablet market, so it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that it may offer a more affordable version of the iPhone to wage war with Android.