Veteran Macworld editor Jason Snell thought he saw a glimmer of hope with the release this week of a new iPod touch with a 4-inch display.
“It makes me wonder,” he wrote, “if maybe, just maybe, it’s the first hint that we’ll be seeing an updated 4-inch iPhone—let’s call it the 6c—this fall.”
That’s not the word from Apple’s supply chain. In mid-May KGI Research’s Ming-Chi Kuo reported that Apple was building new 4.7- and 5-inch iPhones this fall (corresponding to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus), but no new 4-inch model.
That would be a setback. Some of us liked the 4-inch form factor. We liked being able to fit the phone in a pocket, liked being able to reach the top row of icons with a thumb. Wished there were a 4-inch phone with all the trimmings—NFC, Apple Pay, Force Touch.
I can see why Apple likes the iPhone 6/6+ display sizes. They broke the jumbo phone market wide open and cut Samsung off at the knees. “We model every thickness, every size, every weight and try to figure out what the tradeoffs are, ” Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller told Daring Fireballl’s John Gruber last month. “I think we‘ve made great choices there.”
Is there a big enough market for 4-inch iPhones to whet Schiller’s interest? I put the question to Michael Levin, co-founder of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
“That’s hard to say,” he replied by e-mail, “because Apple designs phones around price points, not features. They figure out what features they can include, profitably, in a $450, $550, $650, etc. phone, and sell phones at those price points with those features.”
“Sure, a percentage of users might prefer smaller phones loaded with features. That’s why they continue to sell the iPhone 5C and 5S, and I predict when they launch new phones in the autumn, will continue to sell an entry-level phone, probably not the current 6, more likely the 5S. Perhaps 10% of the customers will buy it, based on past data—but, they’ll do so mostly because it’s the cheapest phone, not because it has a smaller screen.”
That’s not me. I’m willing to pay top dollar for a fully-equipped iPhone I can operate with one hand.