You can read about new rumors and reports about what Apple is planning all year long. But based on the timelines that Cupertino has established over the past half-decade, you can count on the exciting stuff — a new iPhone launch — happening only once per year, most likely mid-September. But a new series of reports about Apple’s iPhone plans for 2016 seem to indicate that you’ll have two iPhone launches to look forward to this year. And one could be just a couple of short months away.
Mark Gurman reports for 9to5Mac that Apple is preparing a new 4-inch iPhone for a release in March or April. Gurman reports that the iPhone 6c we’ve been hearing about for months is fake, according to sources who have actually used Apple’s new 4-inch iPhone. Gurman reports that instead of releasing a smaller version of the iPhone 6s, Apple is upgrading the existing iPhone 5s to create a new iPhone 5se, a pretty terrible name that Gurman reports would indicate that it’s either a “special edition” variation of the 2013 iPhone or an “enhanced” version of the iPhone 5s.
He reports that the iPhone 5se will combine the old design with new technologies, including the same 8MP rear camera and 1.2MP front camera used in the iPhone 6, an NFC chip for Apple Pay, the A8 and M8 chips from the iPhone 6, the Live Photos feature introduced with the iPhone 6s, a barometer for tracking elevation in the Health app, and both the curved glass used in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s plus the same silver, space gray, gold, and rose gold color choices as the iPhone 6s line.
Strangely enough, Gurman reports that even though Live Photos leverages the 3D Touch screen that Apple developed for the iPhone 6s, the screen of the iPhone 5se will be identical to that of the 2013 model, and won’t be pressure-sensitive. As Jacob Kastrenakes reports for The Verge, it’s easy to imagine how Apple would make Live Photos work without 3D Touch, since all you’d have to do is use a long press. But that also speaks to the shortcomings of 3D Touch: namely, that “it often feels like a long press could accomplish all the same things.”
Gurman reports that Apple will introduce the iPhone 5se to have a smaller iPhone that’s updated with modern technology, and can support future iOS upgrades, without competing with the design of the larger iPhone 6s line. The model could get iPhone users who are currently using an iPhone 5 or an earlier model to upgrade to a new iPhone. The current iPhone 5s is likely to be discontinued, and the iPhone 5se will be offered at its price point. That would enable customers opting for Apple’s cheapest option to get updated hardware instead of an outdated model.
Gurman’s report that the phone is currently in production and will be introduced in March squares with earlier reports that Apple will introduce a smaller iPhone at a press event in March. Karissa Bell reports for Mashable that Gurman’s report follows a series of rumors that Apple is working on a newer, smaller iPhone, a rumor that’s held the attention of many users who want a new iPhone, but don’t want to upgrade to the larger iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s (much less the even-bigger iPhone 6 Plus or iPhone 6s Plus).
While the success of the larger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus helped Apple to achieve its “best year ever,” there seems to still be significant demand for a smaller iPhone. And if Apple is able to sell such an iPhone, that could assuage the fears of investors and analysts who think that demand for the iPhone is slowing too much, since refreshing the smaller iPhone could encourage iPhone fans who haven’t upgraded in a few years to purchase a new iPhone.
The smaller iPhone — whether it’s named the iPhone 5se, the iPhone 6c, or something else altogether — is expected to be a completely separate product from the iPhone 7, which should appear in September, perhaps sporting a significantly upgraded camera system, introducing an updated version of the 3D Touch system, and even ditching the headphone jack.
As with all pieces of speculation about Apple’s plans for the next iPhone, it bears keeping in mind that we don’t actually know anything official about the hardware. Some rumors originate from fairly reliable sources, like Gurman, while others are more far-fetched and come from sources with hit-or-miss records. But the long-standing series of talk about the smaller iPhone has reached a point where the rumors and their details feel legitimate, and point to moves that would actually make sense for Cupertino.