So after three years, we've finally got a new iPod touch. After kicking around with iPhone 4S-era speed, the iPod touch has leaped right over the iPhone 5 and now sports the A8 processor and M8 motion coprocessor of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. And at $199 for a 16GB model, it grants access to demanding apps and games for a very good price.
The new iPod touch, for all its advancements, still sports the same 4-inch Retina display as the iPhone 5, 5s, and 5c. And it makes me wonder 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.
The case for a smaller iPhone
When Apple released the large-screened iPhone 6 and even-larger-screened iPhone 6 Plus last fall, a whole lot of people made a whole lot of assumptions that it was the end of the line for the 4-inch iPhone. Sure, the 5s and 5c were still in the product line, but they were destined to drop in price before fading into oblivion as all older Apple products seem to do these days.
That might be the case, but I can't help thinking that the release of the iPhone 6 wasn't a declaration by Apple that it no longer endorsed the 4-inch display. Instead, perhaps Apple felt that the iPhone 5s didn't need an upgrade (it's even got Touch ID and works with the Apple Watch) at a time when Apple was launching two entirely new iPhone models for the first time ever. Maybe Apple was just taking a year off from the 4-inch display iPhone.
Perhaps Apple views the 4-inch iPhone like it views the iPad mini, as a product that's good to keep around but that doesn't need to be on the cutting edge of its product family. The iPad mini 3, released last fall, doesn't hold a candle to the iPad Air 2. It's got Touch ID, but otherwise uses the same technology that was found in the previous year's iPad mini 2. Essentially, Apple is content with the iPad mini being a year out of sync with the iPad Air. The same could easily be true of the 4-inch iPhone.
I've read speculation that a new 4-inch iPhone could be useful for Apple in markets where many potential buyers can't afford the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. I'm not sure I entirely buy that speculation, but it certainly benefits Apple to have a range of iPhones available at different prices, in different sizes, and yet supporting Apple's most important technologies. A refreshed 4-inch iPhone with Apple Pay support and an A8 processor--in parity with last year's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but not this year's models--might make sense.
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