It’s no secret that HP is eyeballing a return to the smartphone market. CEO Meg Whitman pointed out last year that the company ultimately had to offer a smartphone for global consumers and if the latest rumor pans out, we could see some new HP handsets hitting the market sooner (much sooner) rather than later.

Sources recently told The Information that HP is planning to launch new 6- and 7-inch smartphones by the end of this year. The budget-minded phones would be sold in emerging markets like China, India and the Philippines for between $200 and $250, we’re told, and will run Android. Given the low price, I wouldn’t expect any serious hardware under the hood and as such, they may ultimately never find their way to the US or other competitive markets.

HP is no stranger to the mobile market. In 2000, Compaq (later acquired by HP) unveiled the iPAQ, a pocket PC / PDA powered by Windows Mobile. It was followed up by several revisions over the years but was eventually phased out.

Years later, HP released multiple products powered by webOS. Unfortunately, the handsets and operating system were unable to compete with the dominant force that is Apple and Samsung, much less smaller manufacturers like HTC, LG and Sony. The whole operation was ultimately discontinued in August 2011.

Considering there is less than a week until we turn the page on the New Year, time is ticking on this rumor.