The number of voices talking about a return to smaller iPhones has become so large now that the idea is starting to sound “truthy.”
Two equities analysts (from Zacks and Cowen and Company) have now claimed knowledge that Apple will release a new iPhone or iPhones this year with something closer to the 4-inch screen sizes we saw in the iPhone 4 and 5 series. A number of media outlets have also cited Asian component supplier sources saying that a smaller phone is in the works.
I dismissed the idea of an “iPhone 6 mini” at first, but have heard more than a few consumers say they would welcome the return to the 4-inch phone. A new set of 4-inch phones — possibly an aluminum phone and a plastic-backed one — could replace the iPhone 5C and 5S series and continue the “small phone” paradigm at Apple.
Prior to the iPhone 6 Apple claimed a smaller phone was preferable because users could reach the whole screen during one-handed use. And the company has never really said anything to contradict that. It was answering a clear market demand with the larger screens on the iPhone 6s, but that doesn’t mean it has to abandon its belief in the usability of smaller phones.
A smaller version of the longish 4.7-inch-screen iPhone 6 isn’t hard to imagine. It might have a slightly smaller width, and a significantly smaller length. Same rounded edges and everything else, but shorter and more easily manageable with one hand.
The analysts also believe that a new, smaller iPhone 6 would be considerably less expensive than the current 6 and 6 Plus, but not so inexpensive that they would compete with the slew of downmarket Android phones that have hit the market in the past few years. An iPhone “mini” would very likely contain the same radios and RFC chips (for mobile payments) inside, but may have to sacrifice niceties like a sapphire screen — widely expected to ship with future iPhones — to hit a lower price point.
Apple has also been rumored to be preparing two separate phone launches this year — one this spring and the other at its usual release time in the fall. It could announce a smaller phone first, then wait until fall to announce the normal upgrades to the existing iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.