Apple is preparing to release a smaller version of its iPhone 5c, the least expensive iPhone currently offered by the Cupertino-based company. The iPhone 5c was released in September alongside the iPhone 5s, but didn’t have the higher-end capabilities that the 5s possessed, like a fingerprint scanner, slow-motion camera or faster processor. Instead, it was marketed to individuals who wanted to purchase their first iPhone, but couldn’t bear the cost of the higher-end iPhone 5s. The iPhone 5c was released with a 16GB and a 32GB version. A new 8GB version will allow Apple to reduce the price even further, opening up a previously ignored market for the tech company.

The release was leaked via a note to retailers from Vodafone’s O2 unit in Germany, reported MacRumors. While the note could not be confirmed, retailers are reporting that shipments of 8GB iPhone 5cs have been delivered. Hours after the story was leaked, Engadget received a photo of the barcode for a blue 8GB iPhone 5c, all but confirming the release tomorrow.

iphone_5c_8gb_label The barcode of a Blue 8GB iPhone 5c Photo: Courtesy Engadget

What hasn’t been discussed is the pricing for the new version of the colored iPhone. Considering that the 16GB iPhone 5c is $100 less expensive than the 32GB version subsidized with a two year contract, it stands to reason that the 8GB might be offered for free with the same subsidy. A free iPhone offered by Apple would be a first, but isn’t hard to believe. Some reports suggest that the iPhone 5c has not performed the way the company expected. The release of an 8GB iPhone 5c could be a way to increase sales for an iPhone that has underperformed. However, Apple could simply reduce the price, but not offer the 8GB iPhone 5c for free, instead suggesting a $49.99 price point for the newish device.

This release could also be due to the lackluster holiday sales that Apple experienced in December. Apple CEO Tim Cook commented in late January that the iPhone 5c was expected to take a larger share of holiday iPhone sales. However, customers wanted the iPhone 5s, which created a shortage of the higher-end phone and a surplus of the plastic, colored phone. The debut of an 8GB iPhone 5c could be to blow through that surplus. Fortunately for Apple, consumers tend to want the more expensive version.