Will Apple make another 4-inch iPhone (like the iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s), or will it only make larger iPhones (like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus) from now on? And if we are going to get a new 4-inch 'iPhone 6c', say, when will this device launch?
In this article, which we began compiling back in 2014, we've been bringing you all the latest iPhone 6c release date speculation, rumours about the new features the iPhone 6c could have and iPhone 6c leaked images and mockup illustrations from around the web.
There's already a lot of talk about the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 6s, but not so much about the iPhone 6c, which is what we're calling the 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.
Updated, 6th Jan, to include comments from a supply-chain source who claims that Apple is not working on another 4-inch iPhone.
Why Apple should launch an iPhone 6c
Is Apple ever going to launch a successor to the iPhone 5c, its entry level, slightly cheaper iPhone option? We certainly hope so, for a number of reasons:
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.
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.
Why Apple needs to discontinue the iPhone 5c
The iPhone 5c is 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.
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.
Read more about Apple Pay.
Will the iPhone 5s become the iPhone 6c?
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.
iPhone 6c release date
It is certainly possible that Apple will continue to offer a lower-cost iPhone as it did with the iPhone 5c. The significant thing about the iPhone 5c when it launched in 2013 was that although those in the know recognised it as a repackaged iPhone 5, to anyone else it looked like a whole new iPhone and that was a great reason to buy one.
Apple may decide that it is preferable to repackage the iPhone 5s as the iPhone 6c in 2015 to encourage sales.
If it does so, then the iPhone 6c could launch in September 2015 alongside a new 4.7in iPhone, and a new 5.6in iPhone. Read our iPhone 6s release date rumours and iPhone 7 release date rumours to find out what to expect.
Will Apple launch a new 4-inch iPhone at all?
There are rumours that a new 4in iPhone is in the works at Apple.
The claim comes from a Taiwanese parts manufacturer who says that Apple is working on an iPhone mini that will feature a 4in display and will launch in 2015. The source was initially credited in this article.
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.
But in early January, those of us who want 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? We can only hope that the source has got things wrong, or that plans are simply not sufficiently advanced for plans to have reached the supply chain.
iPhone 6c 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.
We'll update this article as soon as we find out more about the iPhone 6c, so check back regularly for the latest information.
iPhone 6c images
While there are no leaked images of the iPhone 6c, designers have created concepts of the device.
The fact that there are no leaked images of a new iPhone 6c is evidence in itself though. We've seen so many leaked iPhone 6 images that it's highly likely we would have seen an iPhone 6c leak by now if one was in the works alongside the new flagship.
The most recent iPhone 6c concept, and definitely the most appealing yet, is a new concept video by 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.
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, as shown at the top of this article.
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.
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 this year. Back in Mac, 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.
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.
Is the iPhone 5c too expensive?
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.