Will the iPhone 4S be discontinued when the iPhone 6 launches? Macworld investigates.

It's extremely likely that Apple will launch a new iPhone this year, presumably dubbed iPhone 6, and no doubt smartphone-hungry Apple fans will be reaching deep into their pockets to pick up the new smartphone from Apple. But that doesn't mean the end for existing iPhones. Indeed, browse on over to the Apple Store's iPhone pages and you'll see that you're still able to buy the iPhone 4S, despite the arrival of the iPhone 5C, which now acts as a mid-range model. Buying the iPhone 4S from Apple today will get you a new-build handset, on a three-year old design.

As such, a new/old iPhone often makes a good deal. The iPhone 4S will set you back just £349, £200 cheaper than the iPhone 5s (though it's 8GB rather than the iPhone 5s's 16GB starting capacity), and £80 cheaper than the 8GB iPhone 5c. That's a significant saving but, while the iPhone 4S is still a good smartphone, we expect it won't be supported for much longer.

Which leads us to ask:

Will the iPhone 4S be discontinued when the iPhone 6 launches?

Almost certainly, and here's our reasoning. First of all, let's look at past iPhone lifecycles.

The first iPhone was unleashed in the UK in November 2007, and remained on sale only until the 3G iPhone came on track in 2008. But that made sense - the iPhone 3G replaced the original in order to take advantage of the burgeoning 3G data market, and telcos were unlikely to keep pushing a 2G phone.

A similar passing of the baton took place between the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS: there was a brief period of crossover in which the smallest capacity iPhone 3G remained onsale until the 8GB 3GS appeared, but in essence the latter replaced the former.

That changed, however, with the iPhone 4. The cheapest iPhone 3GS remained on sale for several months after the iPhone 4 launched. And the iPhone 4 remained in production three years after it launched, and nearly two years after its replacement the iPhone 4S hit the shelves. Now that the iPhone 4S is two generations old too, and is rivaled by the iPhone 5c, we expect the iPhone 4S to disappear when the iPhone 6 is launched.

Apple doesn't always stick to the same pattern. It came as a surprise when the iPhone 5 was dropped in September in favour of the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 4S line-up. Plus, the iPad 2 managed to outlive two of its successors before being dropped in March 2014.

However, the iPhone 4S is now the only iPhone with a 3.5in display. It's also the only iOS device with the old 30-pin connector, so we expect Apple will want to remove it from the line-up when it launches its next iPhone this year, particularly now that the iPhone 5c exists. We're expecting a line-up that consists of the iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s and a new iPhone 6, though there is some speculation that there will be two new iPhones this year with different sized screens, as well as some rumours that say the iPhone 5c will be ditched too.

This year is bound to be see departure from Apple's traditional iPhone launches, and speculation about what exactly is in store will continue to heighten as we near the expected iPhone 6 release date. But for now, it's safe to assume that the iPhone 4S has just months left of its shelf-life.