Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) may launch a smaller version of its popular iPhone in the near future. This speculation comes from Neil Mawston, an analyst for Strategy Analytics.

iPhone mini

Mawston predicts the gap between Apple and Samsung will widen further this year. He told CNET that he expects Samsung to take about 33 percent of this year’s smartphone market (from 31 percent in 2012), and Apple will take 21 percent (up from 20 percent in 2012). Overall he predicts that Samsung will sell close to 290 million smartphones, and Apple to sell about 180 million iPhones.

The reason Mawston thinks Samsung has the lead over Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)?  Because it “plays in more segments” and it “capture more volume than Apple”.  This is why he predicts Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will widen their market a bit with a smaller (and cheaper version) of the perennial iPhone. Unfortunately, he doesn’t think we can expect this phone in 2013.

Another analyst from Jefferies, Peter Misek, agrees that Apple may release a budget iPhone, but he thinks it could be introduced as early as summer, with a target price of $200 to $250.  Misek stresses that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has yet to accept the idea of a cheaper iPhone because they fear it might cut into gross margins.

It looks like 2013 will be another big year for both companies. Samsung is expected to launch the fourth generation Galaxy S, while Apple is predicted to introduce the iPhone 5S.

Yesterday, we shared a report that the next generation of Apple smartphones may come in a variety of colors and sizes including pink, blue, yellow, black/slate, and white/silver. This report is yet to be confirmed.

A cheaper iPhone just might be what Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) needs to regain their stance in the market. For now, Apple fans will have to wait until the Cupertino-based company introduces their next iPhone, which most likely will happen next fall, but could happen as earlier as this summer.