The world's leading Apple analyst, KGI Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo, has published his latest forecast, in which he corroborates rumors that Cupertino will be releasing a new 4-inch iPhone in early 2016.

The analyst, who been called "the most accurate Apple analyst in the world" by Business Insider, expects the new handset to replace the 5s as Apple's entry-level smartphone, carrying a price tag of between $400 and $500 that will give consumers a more affordable alternative to large, feature-rich iPhone 6 and 6s series.

Despite its position at the lower-end of the iPhone lineup, Kuo expects the 6c to be powered by Apple's A9 processor, the same chip it uses in its 6s and 6s Plus smartphones. According to Apple, the A9 processor runs up to 70 percent faster than the A8 chip found in the iPhone 6. The analyst also predicts the new handset will include an NFC transmitter, meaning it will support Apple Pay.

As for its external design, Kuo predicts that while the phone will be approximately the same size as the iPhone 5s, its glass will be slightly curved on the edges, adhering closer to the design of Apple's newest smartphones. While the previous "c" model, the iPhone 5c, was housed in a plastic body, the 6c will likely be built with a metal casing, which will come in several color options. Despite these apparent improvements, the camera on the new iPhone is expected to have identical specs to that of the 5s, 8 megapixels facing the rear and 1.2 MP in the front camera.

While Kuo only expects the new handheld to account for eight to nine percent of total iPhone sales, he says its position in the market would nonetheless benefit Apple. At a price point $149 to $249 lower than the 16GB iPhone 6s, the smaller smartphone would help Apple better reach emerging markets and consumers on smaller budgets. Plus, with a new segment of the market equipped with NFC-enabled devices, Kuo says Apple Pay adoption will likely increase as well.

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