In the run up to the September Apple event at which we saw the launch of the iPhone 6s Plus and the iPhone 6s there were a lot of rumours about those phones, but not so much about the iPhone 6c, which is what we're calling the 4-inch successor to Apple's iPhone 5c, the iPhone 5s's (marginally) cheaper and (massively) more colourful sibling. This article is all about Apple's next 4-inch iPhone - although whether the company will make a new 4-inch iPhone at all, after the great success of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, remains to be seen.
Will Apple release an iPhone 6c?
While there was no new 4in iPhone announced at the 9 September event this doesn't mean that a new 4in iPhone isn't in the works. Rumours have claimed for some time that that model will not appear until later this year, or perhaps even 2016, but the suggestion is that Apple will not completely abandon the popular 4in form factor.
There are rumours that the iPhone is about to go into production with a November on sale date likely. Foxconn is apparently ramping up its assembly lines to build the iPhone 6c which a view to the new, smaller iPhone handset going on sale in November.
This rumour suggests that Apple will get the handset out just in time for Christmas, but it would be the first time the company had released a phone independently of the other handsets.
The rumour that Apple would launch the iPhone 6c at the iPhone event in September came from Evan Blass, who is well known for reliable leaks. He sent a Tweet on Tuesday 11 August claiming that Apple will release three new iPhones at the annual iPhone event in September, reported Business Insider.
Despite Blass's certainty, prior to the Sepember event, a mobile app marketing firm said that is has seen two new iPhone device identifiers in its dataset for July, indicating, it says, that there were only two new iPhones in the pipeline: the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.
The firm, Fiksu, claims it is seeing "iphone8,1" and "iphone8,2" identifiers, which are likely to relate to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus because the iPhone 6 would have been identified as iPhone7,1. According to an Apple Insider report, the iPhone 6c would likely carry the "iphone7,3" or "iphone7,4" designation since it will be based on the earlier specs.
This backs up earlier claims that the iPhone 6c won't launch until 2016. In fact, according to DigiTimes sources the device will launch in the second-quarter of 2016.
Blass wasn't the first to say so. On 25 March 2015, rumours from Asia claimed that Apple plans to launch three new iPhones in September, one of which will feature a 4in display that could be called the iPhone 6C.
That rumour originally came from DigiTimes, who claimed we'll be getting an iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone 6C later this year. However a later report in DigiTimes suggests the second quarter of 2016 is when the new cheaper iPhone will arrive.
The original report claims that the iPhone 6c will have an A8 chip like the one found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, NFC and Touch ID.
Even that was not the first time we'd heard rumours that a new 4in iPhone is in the works at Apple. A Taiwanese parts manufacturer had said that an 'iPhone mini' is expected to launch in 2015 with a 4in display.
In late December analyst Timothy Arcuri of Cowen and Company backed up the report, claiming that his sources have suggested that it is "possible" that Apple will launch three new iPhones in 2015, with one of those new iPhones sporting a 4in display. Arcuri dubs the smaller iPhone the iPhone 6S mini.
iPhone 6c release date: New 4in iPhone 6c coming in 2016
However, other reports are suggesting that the iPhone 6c may not arrive in September alongside the iPhone 7 or iPhone 6s, instead it may not arrive until next year.
A source claims that AU Optronics will apparently be producing the 4-inch screens, but that this will be for a 2016 model rather than one that will appear this year, according to GforGames.
Analyst Shaw Wu also claims that the new iPhone 6c with a metal case won’t arrive until the first half of 2016.
As does KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who thinks that the new 4in iPhone won’t arrive until 2016.
According to DigiTimes sources (in a later report than the one that claimed the launch would happen in 2015) the iPhone 6c will launch in the second-quarter of 2016. According to the semiconductor industry sources, the iPhone 6c will use 14/16nm FinFET chips manufactured by TSMC and Samsung.
If the 4in iPhone doesn’t arrive until 2016 it may be called the iPhone 7c, rather than the iPhone 6c.
Has Apple has ditched 4in iPhone 6c?
On the other hand, Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri is claiming that Apple has canned ideas for an iPhone 6c. He claims that Apple wants to avoid cannibalization of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus by the cheaper device. He told Business Insider: “I think one of the reasons is because the iPhone 6 has sold so well and they said, ‘Look, why would we want to cannibalize? If we came out with an iPhone 6C, we could essentially cannibalize a price-reduced iPhone 6.’”
Arcuri says he has been monitoring evidence of the smaller iPhone since the beginning of the year, and had been able to gather some evidence from the supply chain, but says that now those leads have dried up, suggesting Apple has abandoned the project.
But it’s not just about cannibalization, some people don’t want a bigger phone. Why would Apple write them off?
Arcuri isn't the only person to turn his back on the dream of the iPhone 6c. In early January, those of us who wanted Apple to refresh its 4-inch iPhone range were disappointed to hear new predictions. A Chinese-language website called feng.com (the same site that reported the claims above, in fact) cites sources within Apple's supply chain who say that no such device exists at present; and that Apple has not made "any new production tasks" related to a 4-inch device.
Here's what the site says in more depth (converted from Chinese using Google Translate, so please forgive the clumsy phrasing):
"Supply chain sources said that Apple has not made any new production tasks iPhone 4 inches to parts of the supply chain, and therefore will be launched on 4-inch screen Apple iPhone 6s argument is not true - at least so far. Sources believe that after using the 4.7 inches of the iPhone 6 listing has been refreshed Apple smartphone sales record, and therefore the re-launch of the new Apple iPhone 4-inch screen is likely to suffer the same embarrassment like iPhone 5c market reaction."
Doesn't sound good, does it? But we've since heard the rumours from DigiTimes that suggest we might see an iPhone 6c after all, we can only hope that the Feng.com source has got things wrong, or that plans are simply not sufficiently advanced for plans to have reached the supply chain.
iPhone 6c design: New iPhone 6c to have metal case
Apparently the new iPhone 6c will have a metal casing, rather than the plastic case of the current ‘c’ model. This is according to Jefferies analyst Ange Wu, who claims that Foxconn and Hon Hai will benefit from this metal casing business, causing shares of Foxconn to surge.
Wu thinks that the metal case is likely because it represents Apple’s “style” and helps differentiate iPhones from other smartphones, notes a Barrons Asia report.
(Interestingly there is a rumour that the new iPhone 6s will come in rose gold, but we don’t expect that the iPhone 6c will get a rose gold finish, even if it does get a metalic coat).
iPhone 6c design: What colours will the iPhone 6c come in?
Apple has updated the iPod touch with a new range of colours – can we expect to see the iPhone 6c share the same colour palette? The specs of the previous iPod touch model were iPhone 4S-era, now that the iPod touch sports the A8 and M8 processors it’s more akin to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus – apart from the fact that it’s got a 4in display.
There is quite a price difference between the iPhone 5c and the iPod touch with the touch costing exactly half the price of the iPhone, despite having twice the storage (as well as a faster processor now):
- 8GB iPhone 5c, £319
- 16GB iPod touch, £159
Of course, the iPhone 5c can be used with 3G or 4G, while the iPod touch relies on WiFi for web access. Perhaps Apple could launch an iPod touch capable of cellular connectivity, kind of like the iPod mini. If it did that it would practically be an iPhone 6c.
Alternatively, the iPhone 6c could come in a colour scheme to match the Apple Watch Sport straps - as you can see below, the current colour scheme isn't that different to the Watch...
The iPhone 5c is currently available in the following colours: yellow, blue, pink, green and white. Apparently the yellow version is the least popular with pink being the most popular and blue the second most popular (apparently around half of all iPhone 5c sales are the pink model.)
The Apple Watch Sport straps come in blue, pink, green and white colours, which as you can see from the image below, match the iPhone 5c. You’ll notice that Apple hasn’t made a yellow watch strap – probably because that colour is so unpopular. This suggests that we will not be seeing a yellow iPhone 6c.
There is also a black sports strap available for the Watch – suggesting to us that Apple may launch an iPhone 6c in black. We think that a black iPhone 6c will be very popular.
In July Apple updated the iPod touch with a new range of colours – can we expect to see the iPhone 6c share the same colour palette?
An iPhone to go with the Apple Watch
Does Apple need a cheaper iPhone to sell alongside the Watch to offer a low-cost of entry way into the world of wearables?
iPhone 6c price
Prior to the launch of the iPhone 5c much of the talk was about Apple launching a cheaper iPhone, although in the end it turned out not to be quite a cheap as people had hoped.
We think that the iPhone 5c is now a good price, but we'd prefer it if it was 16GB rather than 8GB.
As for the iPhone 6c price, there are suggestions that if Apple launches an iPhone 6c it will be cheaper than the iPhone 5c was at launch, addressing the demand for a lower entry-point iPhone.
However, with the iPhone 6c being a new phone, will the current iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus still be sold at a reduced price, and if they are will they be cheaper than this new phone? Probably not if the new iPhone 6c is a repackaged iPhone 5s.
We can imagine Apple launching the new iPhone 6c at an entry level phone, with 2014s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus remaining at a lower price, and a new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus (or iPhone 7) at the high end.
An 8GB iPhone 5c currently costs £319 new from Apple (cheaper on a contract). We'd like the new iPhone 6c to come in at £299, the same price as the Apple Watch.
iPhone 6c rumous: New features
What's the next step for Apple's 'c' series iPhones? Will Apple bring new colours for the iPhone 6c? Will it get new features such as a camera upgrade, a processor boost or a design tweak?
We think that Apple wants to move all its products over to Touch ID so we surmise that the company could decide to repackage the iPhone 5s in a similar polycarbonate case to the iPhone 5c and sell it at a lower price. Customers would get all the features of the iPhone 5s, but Apple would be able to produce it for less, enabling the company to lower the price.
According to the semiconductor industry sources, the device will use 14/16nm FinFET chips manufactured by TSMC and Samsung. This is a change to the original plan to use 20nm chips. Apparently the smaller chips will enable a specs upgrade and lower power consumption.
iPhone 6c rumours: Camera
We had expected that the iPhone 6c would be a repackaged iPhone 5s, with the same camera as that phone, however, a report from GSM Dome suggests that Apple has placed an order for camera parts for a 4in iPhone – presumably the rumoured iPhone 6c.
The order is said to be with Sony and is for a significant number of camera sensors destined for the iPhone 6c.
According to the report, two Chinese analysts (one of whom is chief analyst at Electronic System Design China) claim that Sony can only meet 50% of demand for camera sensors because so many have been bought up by Apple for the new phone.
It’s not clear why these camera sensors are destined for the 4in iPhone 6c and not another new iPhone, but it would appear that the analysts believe the camera is destined for the plastic iPhone.
Another indication that the iPhone 6c may get a new camera can be seen on the back of what are said to be leaked images of the iPhone 6c. The new flash on the back of the leaked iPhone 6c models, as seen in the photograph below, suggests that Apple will be tweeking this phone.
Apple has also been issued patent for a “digital camera with light splitter”. Apple’s system would split up red, green and blue light and send each to a dedicated sensor. This should mean images are clearer and sharper, however, this new camera is likely to only appear in the newer iPhones
iPhone 6c rumours: Processor
The iPhone 6c is said to have an A8 processor, according to DigiTimes. That's the same processor as is found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, while the iPhone 5s uses the A7 processor.
According to DigiTimes semiconductor industry sources, the device will use 14/16nm FinFET chips manufactured by TSMC and Samsung. This is a change to the original plan to use 20nm chips. Apparently the smaller chips will enable a specs upgrade and lower power consumption.
iPhone 6c rumours: NFC & Touch ID
Now that Apple has launched Apple Pay in the UK, it seems likely that Apple's strategy moving forward will be to offer Apple Pay to more and more customers, and doing that is likely to include making sure that all current iPhones have the ability to be used for Apple Pay - as a result we expect that the entire line up of iPhones in September are likely to offer Touch ID and NFC, so it will make sense for Apple to rebadge and repackage its entry-level iPhone.
Earlier this year claims were made that the iPhone 6c would gain NFC and Touch ID, according to a DigiTimes report.
iPhone 6c rumours: Gorilla or Sapphire Glass
According to DigiTimes the new iPhone 6c will use Gorilla Glass.
iPhone 6c rumours: Battery
Apple is hiring experts to work in its battery division. According to a report on Apple Insider, Apple has advertised nine positions within the last month, some of which are explicitly oriented towards iOS devices, according to the site. However, any new battery technology is unlikely to make it in to the iPhone 6c, instead we expect that this phone will offer the same battery life as the iPhone 5s does currently.
A leaked image of the battery that will apparently features inside the iPhone 6c has appeared on French website, NoWhereElse.
It’s a 1715mAh battery, which is better than the 1510mAh battery in the iPhone 5c, but smaller than the iPhone 6 1810mAh.
iPhone 6c leaked & concept images
Martin Hajek, famous for concept designs of new Apple products, has come up with some images of what he thinks the new iPhone 6c will look like.
His designs are metal - not plastic like the iPhone 5c.
No iPhone 6c was unveiled at the September event, but that doesn't mean Apple won't launch a 4in model eventually.
On 21 May the iPhone 6c was spotted online, and it's on Apple's own website of all places. Take this with a pinch of salt because it could just be a Photoshop error, but there's no mistaking that this photo of Apple's new iPhone charging dock with Lightning connector appears to have an iPhone 5c with a Touch ID resting in it.
And if you know the iPhone 5c, you'll know that it doesn't have Touch ID, Apple's fingerprint sensor that sits beneath the home button on the iPhone 5s and later.
Rumours have claimed that the iPhone 6c might be a repackaged iPhone 5S with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, so it could indeed be the first glimpse of the iPhone 5c 's replacement.
We'll be following this story closely to see if Apple changes the image or reponds to requests for comment.
Apple website 'leak' aside (let's face it, it's probably a rendering mistake) there are very few leaked images of the iPhone 6c, but there have been other sightings, for example, on 30 March, photos (apparently) leaked that appear to show a new iPhone with a colourful plastic chassis, similar to the iPhone 5c, in the smaller size that many are hoping for.
The images suggest that this is a new iPhone because the camera flash has a different shape to currently – oval rather than round - and there are more holes for the speaker at the bottom of the leaked iPhone shots, which were shared by FutureSupplier, a wholesaler of cell phone spare parts based in China.
This picture shows the camera flash on the new iPhone 6c
Here is another apparently, leaked images of the iPhone 6c:
The iPhone 6c speakers, shared by FutureSupplier.
Not content with waiting for leaked images, designers have created concepts of the device. (See also: The 10 weirdest Apple concept art designs.)
There are also plenty of artistic renders of what the new iPhone 6c might look like. For example, 3D Future has come up with the following renders of how a successor to the iPhone 5c might look:
Front and back
The back of the iPhone 6c as imagined by 3DFuture
Image: 3D Future
We quite like iPhonesoft.fr's iPhone 6c concept, which is slimmer and has an edge-to-edge display.
Designer Martin Hajek has also created a similar concept image:
iPhone 6c videos
To get even more of an idea of that the iPhone 6c might be like, here are some imaginative videos.
One iPhone 6c concept - this time a video - comes from designer Joseph Farahi (below). He's imagined a 4.7in iPhone 6c with colourful plastic chassis just like the iPhone 5c.
SET Solution thinks that the 'c' in iPhone 6c could stand for Curve, so has created a video to show what a curved iPhone 6c could look like.
Other iPhone 6c rumours
It's easy to imagine the changes Apple may decide to make to the iPhone 5c should it decide to continue the product line:
The iPhone 6c could have additional, or different, colours. The five colours used for the iPhone 5c are on-trend for the year 2014, but will they still be fashionable in 2014-2015? If not, Apple may decide to update the colours to suit new fashion trends.
It's also likely that a new iPhone 6c would have an improved camera and processor, and would possibly also be thinner and lighter than the current model. As it stands, the iPhone 5c is slightly thicker and heavier than the iPhone 5s, at 8.97mm and 132 grams compared to the iPhone 5s's 7.6mm and 112 grams.
We also think that if Apple follows this strategy the iPhone 6c will get a Touch ID button for security purposes.
Do you think Apple will release an iPhone 6c? Do you think it should? What new features would you like to see in a future iPhone 6c? We'd love to know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Will the iPhone 6c be a repackaged iPhone 5s?
Should Apple follow the format that it did when it introduced the iPhone 5c – repackaging the iPhone 5 in a polycarbonate case – we could expect the iPhone 6c to be a repackaging of either the iPhone 5s.
Rather than introduce an iPhone 6c, a discounted iPhone 5s may become the entry-level iPhone in 2015. The 16GB version of the iPhone 5s may replace the iPhone 5c, but we think that Apple would be wise to repackage in plastic and rebadge the iPhone 5s as the iPhone 6c, perhaps adding an NFC chip while they are at it.
Why Apple should launch an iPhone 6c
Here's why we think Apple should launch an iPhone 6c this year.
1) We think that Apple needs to continue to offer a 4in iPhone. For some people even the 4.7in iPhone 6 is too big.
2) While Apple and Apple Shareholders care more for profit and good margins than marketshare, having a lower-cost phone to offer people who haven't yet owned an iPhone is a great way to get them into the ecosystem. It's also necessary for breaking into the huge markets of China, India and Africa.
3) Apple has for a number of years offered a previous year's flagship model as a low-cost entry-level phone and it's a strategy that has served it well. The iPhone 5c was a slight departure from this practice, but was essentially a repackaging of the iPhone 5 a year after that model launched. Since the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in September 2014 there have been four phones on sale. We expect Apple to continue this practice, but we don’t expect to see the iPhone 6 repackaged as the entry level just yet. The iPhone 5s is a more likely contender for this rebadged entry-level role, we think.
4) The iPhone 5c has been a great success, despite complaints that it wasn’t as cheap as expected. Described inaccurately as a flop, Apple was estimated to have sold 24 million iPhone 5c models by June 2014. By October 2014 it had topped the UK smartphone sales charts. According to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech: "The iPhone 5c was the best selling phone in Britain in August with 8.9% share, outselling the flagship iPhone 5s with 7.6% and the Samsung Galaxy S5 with 6.0%."
5) Reports are suggesting that the iPhone 5s is continuing to sell well, as well as the iPhone 6, in fact, and better than the iPhone 6 Plus. The reason for this is likely to be due to some people preferring a handset that is 4-inches, rather than 4.7- or 5.5-inches. The Kantar Worldpanel’s research indicates that during the three months ending in October the iPhone 5s was the second best selling iPhone in the US, behind the iPhone 6. It accounted for 26% of the devices sold in that period. There are a few other reasons why the iPhone 5s may have outsold the iPhone 6 Plus, one is that supply of the biggest iPhone has been constrained. Another reason is that the three months that ended in October also included almost two months of sales prior to the new iPhones going on sale. Whatever the reason though, it does suggest that there is a lot of interest still in the 4in iPhone model.
Read more about the iPhone 5c.
How successful was the iPhone 5c?
In Apple's 27 January 2014 financial call, Apple CEO Tim Cook effectively acknowledged that the sales of the iPhone 5c were not as high as expected. "It was the first time we'd ever run that particular play before, and demand percentage turned out to be different than we thought. We sold more 5S than we expected," Cook said, tacitly admitting that the iPhone 5c under-performed.
At the time Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said: "Demand has not been good. [Apple] will discount it and use that as a lever to improve unit growth. I don't think they will get rid of it completely."
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek was even more harsh, he thought the iPhone 5c had a short life-span ahead of it. "I would expect them to cancel the product after the iPhone 6," he said. "Price cuts are not what Apple does. They build products that they are passionate about and then charge accordingly."
However, the iPhone 5c has not been as unpopular as some have presented it to be. The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c both outsold Samsung's leading smartphones in 2014. Back in May 2014, according to research from Counterpoint, the iPhone 5s was the best selling phone in the UK. During that month sales of the iPhone 5s accounted for 11.1% of the market while the iPhone 5c sales were 11% - in the same period the just-launched Samsung Galaxy S5 saw just 9%. See: iPhone marketshare.
Looking at Counterpoint's worldwide data, the iPhone 5s is still out in front, although the Samsung Galaxy S5 moves into second place above the iPhone 5c. See: Is the iPhone 5c really a flop?
Furthermore, Apple was estimated to have sold 24 million iPhone 5c models by June 2014. And by October 2014 it had topped the UK smartphone sales charts, becoming: “The iPhone 5c was the best selling phone in Britain in August with 8.9% share, outselling the flagship iPhone 5s with 7.6% and the Samsung Galaxy S5 with 6.0%,” according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.
The iPhone 5c might not have been the budget iPhone analysts were clamouring for, but was to become one of the most popular iPhones ever sold. In fact in August 2014 it was the best selling smartphone in the UK, just ahead of the iPhone 5s, according to Kantar Worldpanel. This was despite the fact that the iPhone 6 was due to arrive a month later. Probably because the less tech savvy iPhone 5c buyer wouldn’t have necessarily been aware of, or been in the market for, the immanent iPhone 6.
That said, Apple CEO Tim Cook did reveal back in January 2014 that the iPhone 5c market share was lower than expected, and in the UK the company did end up introducing an even cheaper 8GB model, which may have been the move that made the iPhone 5c as popular as it is.
We think that despite suggestions that the iPhone 5c has been a "flop" it has proven to be a popular alternative to the iPhone 5s and before that, the iPhone 4s.
What makes the iPhone 5c popular?
First things first, there has been a perception that the iPhone 5c wasn’t a popular phone, this isn’t true.
It’s popular because it’s the most affordable iPhone at £319 for the handset if you were to buy it outright. You can also find good deals on contract, getting the phone for free on a contract a little over £20 a month.
It runs the same OS as the other iPhones - and it will work with iOS 9. The main things it lacks in comparison with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is the larger screen and Touch ID, and a slightly better camera. Sure the processor is smaller, but for most people this isn’t as important as price.
And while the screen is smaller than that of the iPhone 6, but it’s still bigger than some of the budget phones out there. Plus we like the 4in size as we find it sits comfortably in our hand when we are using it.
Does Apple need to be in the budget handset market?
Selling a budget iPhone has never really been Apple’s strategy. The ‘budget’ handset has always been last year’s model, or the year previous to that, the iPhone 5c was the first time Apple didn’t just continue to sell the previous year’s model, although essentially that is what it did, it just repackaged the iPhone 5.
Apple cares more for high margins than marketshare but it has found a way to sell a phone that is attractive to those with less cash to spend, without making a loss as many of the other smartphone manufacturers do.
Will Apple discontinue the iPhone 5c?
Rumour has it that Apple is going to discontinue the iPhone 5c before the end of 2015.
There is some credibility to the claim as KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes it to be true, and he is generally quite a credible analyst. Kou claims that iPhone 5c and iPhone 4s production will end in 2015. The 4s is still sold in emerging markets.
When Apple announces the successor to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus we think it is likely to discontinue the iPhone 5c, with another iPhone taking its place as the entry level model.
So expect the iPhone 5c to disappear in September 2015, or maybe even before then.
There are several reasons why we think it's a good idea for the iPhone 5C to be discontinued. The iPhone 5c is now only available with a paltry 8GB of storage. Given that installing iOS 8 took up 5.6GB of storage for some, many iPhone 5c users will struggle with future updates unless they use iTunes to update the iPhone – the only way to update to iOS 8 without deleting anything.
You might also like: Why 16GB isn't enough for iPads and iPhones
The iPhone 5c doesn’t include a finger print scanner and therefore will not be able to support Apple Pay. Despite the fact that it has a fingerprint scanner, even the iPhone 5s cannot support Apple Pay instore as it doesn't have an NFC chip.
[Find out about the Apple Watch: Complete Guide to Apple Watch: release date, UK price, specs, size & weight]