One of the interesting rumors related to the iPhone series recently has been the existence of a 4-inch device, but it is not yet know whether this will be part of the iPhone 7 range, or marketed as an entirely separate iPhone 6c. Additionally, the release date for this particular device is also cloudy, as Apple carefully considers its smartphone strategy for the next two years.

iPhone 7 to be delayed until 2016

It looks increasingly likely that the iPhone 7 could be delayed until 2016, with persistent reports indicating that Apple will release an upgrade to the commercially successful iPhone 6 during 2015. This would then be likely dubbed the iPhone 6s, but this wouldn’t necessarily impact upon the release or naming of this smaller iPhone device.

Will 4-Inch iPhone Be Branded iPhone 7 Or 6c?

Apple has the option of releasing the 4-inch iPhone smartphone as a companion to the iPhone 6s, which is expected to be released this year, instead of waiting until 2016 and branding it as an iPhone 7 device. Both of these strategies have merits, so will be a difficult conundrum for Apple to consider in the coming months.

Apple definitely views iPhone 7 as a next generation device which will bring truly revolutionary features to the smartphone table. There have been a raft of exciting features linked with this mobile release, and Apple fans are no doubt already licking their lips in anticipation of the release of the iPhone 7.

In this sense, the smaller version of the iPhone which is on the cards may not entirely fit the iPhone 7 portfolio. One would not reasonably assume that the 4-inch iPhone will be an affordable device, perhaps particularly aimed at selling large numbers of units in the East Asian marketplace. Thus, Apple will not necessarily arm this smaller iPhone with the most advanced specifications should this assumption be correct. This would simply inflate production costs and make the notion of releasing it as an affordable device logistically impossible.

iPhone 6c to target developing economies

With Apple increasingly targeting developing economies, and recent figures suggesting that it has been successful, the 4-inch iPhone looks extremely likely to be aimed at such marketplaces. Recent reports from the technology analysis organisation Gartner suggested that Apple has now overtaken Samsung as the largest seller of mobile devices in pure volume on the entire planet. This has been achieved thanks to stellar performances in developing economies, most notably in China, where Apple and the iPhone have become hugely popular.

It would seem that a smaller iPhone would be perfect for these territories, and this would suggest that the 4-inch iPhone could be branded as an iPhone 6c and released with outstanding market penetration in these regions in mind.

However, there are other possibilities for Apple as well. The iPhone 7 series is intended to be one that is truly revolutionary, and so the idea of producing a more diverse product range could appeal to the consumer electronics giant. If Apple could mark out the iPhone 7 by stating that it featured an entirely new mobile, much as the iPhone 6 range features its first ever phablet with the iPhone 6 Plus, then this could help convince consumers that the range was delivering something truly unique and new.

And there is no reason to suggest that this smaller iPhone should be considered a device which Apple wants to treat in desultory fashion. It has been suggested that the main motivation for producing this 4-inch handset has been the fact that the sadly late founder and CEO of the company, Steve Jobs, was said to favor more compact smartphone sizes. The release of this 4-inch iPhone is thus intended to satisfy Job’s vision of a compact smartphone achieving success in the contemporary mobile marketplace.

This could therefore indicate that Apple will push this smaller version of the iPhone very strongly, and not treated as something of a poor relation to the more premium iPhone handsets. It is even possible that it could feature extremely similar functionality and specifications to its larger cousins, and if this is the case then the smaller iPhone could easily be branded an iPhone 7.

Apple eyes new revenue streams

But there is another consideration for Apple which could negate this prospect. Apple has been attempting to create new products niches and revenue streams over the last year, since the city was far from impressed with the commercial performance of Apple in the first quarter of 2014. This Worry would seem to have been eradicated completely since then, as Apple had a phenomenally successful 2015. But the company is still trying to convince both investors and analysts that it can expand further in the future, and a 4-inch version of the iPhone can play a significant role in this.

Will 4-Inch iPhone Be Branded iPhone 7 Or 6c?

If Apple were to brand this device as an iPhone 6c, it could then legitimately point to the idea that it is an entirely new revenue stream. This would particularly be the case if the device was affordable for lower-end smartphone users, which would probably necessitate Apple cutting corners to a certain extent on the functionality of the smartphone.

Should Apple decide to do this, and produce a smaller version of the iPhone with reduced features and functionality, it is almost inevitable that it would be branded an iPhone 6c. This is a label which Apple has attached to more affordable versions of the smartphone in the past, and it certainly wouldn’t want the next generation iPhone 7 label to be associated with such a device.

As rumors have recently indicated that this 4-inch iPhone device will be produced by Foxconn, it has also been suggested by KGI Securities’ Analyst Kuo Ming-chi that the handset will launch in 2016. This would imply that it will be part of the iPhone 7 range, however one should not necessarily draw this conclusion. Apple could push the release of the iPhone 7 back until October, and use this smaller version of the flagship handset to provide a stop gap between the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7.

It seems more likely that this compact smartphone will be branded an iPhone 6c, but don’t rule out Apple surprising us in 2016.