The 4-inch iPhone. It’s a topic that rises and falls, that evaporates, then returns. Apple once had a 4-inch iPhone, called the iPhone 5, but the company turned to a 4.7-inch screen in the iPhone 6 and now iPhone 6s. As a result of Apple’s desire to cater to those who love large displays, some believed that Apple had forgotten about those who prefer smaller screens. The company hasn’t. The latest news says that Apple is still looking to bring a new 4-inch iPhone to market in the first half of 2016.
The news comes from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a rather reliable and accurate (though not always) track record with Apple news. According to Kuo, the 4-inch iPhone will be an “upgraded iPhone 5s” and will likely lack Apple’s revolutionary 3D Touch feature that lets you preview documents, photos, and app settings on the home screen. According to Kuo,
As there is still demand for a 4-inch iPhone, we believe Apple will upgrade this product line. Because the iPhone 5s is more popular than the iPhone 5c, we think Apple is likely to launch an upgraded iPhone 5s. We predict Apple will mass-produce this new 4-inch iPhone in 1H16 with metal casings. In order to make the current iOS 9 or next-generation iOS 10 run smoothly, Apple may adopt an A9 chip for this new phone.
This tells us a few things: 1) the iPhone 5c, even selling over 30 million copies, wasn’t a success in Apple’s eyes. 2) Apple would go with an iPhone 5s-like setup instead of an iPhone 5c, solidifying the idea of metal casing over the polycarbonate plastic shell of the iPhone 5c. Lastly, the 4-inch iPhone would feature an A9 chip in order to optimize iOS 9 and soon, iOS 10.
Kuo’s statements here seem reasonable, but Kuo wasn’t right when he predicted that the iPhone 5c would be Apple’s budget-friendly iPhone that would run at about $300-$400. The iPhone 5c, instead, came in at a whopping $549, placing it at the same price tag as that of the iPhone 5 a year after its unveiling. While the iPhone 5c was more budget-friendly than the iPhone 5s ($549 vs. $649), $100 difference isn’t that dramatic to make it seem like a true deal.
This 4-inch iPhone could be the iPhone 6c that we keep seeing, but the nomenclature no longer suffices as Apple is now on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus and is unlikely to turn back. At the same time, however, Apple could very well utilize an A8 chip from last year and leave the A9 chip to its current flagships. As with 3D Touch, Apple wouldn’t want to give the best of what it has to a more budget-friendly flagship, instead making customers pay for the very best of what it offers. With the iPhone 5c for example, Apple placed a year-old processor in the device to match that of the iPhone 5 – while the iPhone 5s offered the new processor.
Finally, this device may be the 4-inch iPhone 6s “mini” that so many have clamored for in the last year or so. Apple’s decision to offer wider screens hasn’t set well with some customers, and Apple may create a “mini” device to appeal to this subset of the population that still believes smaller is better.