As rumors intensify that Apple will be releasing a smaller iPhone, it is still not clear whether it will be named the iPhone 6c or iPhone 7c. Both options are still open to Apple, and the ultimate decision will depend on several factors.

Will Apple Opt For iPhone 6C Or iPhone 7C?

iPhone 6c / iPhone 7c release date conundrum

The first thing to take into consideration with regard to the iPhone 6c / iPhone 7c conundrum is precisely when Apple will release the device. Of course, the consumer electronics giant has yet to confirm whether or not it will even release this 4-inch handset, so we are left guessing in this department to a certain extent.

But an analyst with sources inside Apple has suggested this week that the corporation could be tempted to release this more affordable version of the iPhone 7 ahead of the two normal smartphone and phablet options. Since introducing the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple has produced two separate iPhone units. It is suggested by KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that rather than extend this release schedule to three devices, Apple may release the 4-inch iPhone earlier in the year instead.

This would perhaps make sense from a production perspective, as it would enable the consumer electronics behemoth to ramp up production of the premium versions of the iPhone later in the year, while satisfying orders for the 4-inch device earlier in 2016. Should this apparently logical strategy be carried out, then the iPhone 6c would seem to be a natural name for the device. It seems unlikely that Apple would utilize the iPhone 7c moniker should the handset be released before the mainstream iPhone 7 units.

When speaking about the smaller iPhone, Kuo suggested that Apple has done significant market research and come to the conclusion that there is a satisfactory demand for such a unit. It is particularly expected that the iPhone 6c could sell well in East Asia, where Apple has already built up a significant following. Indeed, it has been reported recently that Apple is now shifting more iPhone units in China than even the United States. And an iPhone 6c release in the world’s most populous nation could prove to be extremely successful.

Q2 2016 production

Kuo believes that mass production of this smaller iPhone will begin in the first half of 2016, and that  Apple pretty much has the design and specifics of this device already finalized. On the other hand, the KGI analyst didn’t specifically name a release date for the smaller iPhone model, so it is possible that Apple could place it alongside the iPhone 7 later in the year.

This would carry its own logic, as reports have suggested in recent weeks that Samsung will launch three smartphones simultaneously when the Galaxy S7 hits the stores. The Korean electronics manufacturer has been searching for a suitable device schedule for its major units for some time, and it now seems to have settled on the idea that a triple release of the Galaxy S7 would make sense for the corporation.

In terms of the design of the iPhone 6c / iPhone 7c, Kuo believes that Apple will opt for a primarily metallic construction. This would very much fit in with the trends in the industry, even if it would be something of a departure from previous Apple releases in this area. The iPhone 5c had a much more plasticky feel, and this has proved to be rather less popular in Samsung Galaxy releases such as the Galaxy S5. It seems that Apple will be responding to market pressures and releasing a device that fits in far more with what consumers expect from a mobile device today, even if this is a more affordable unit than other iPhone releases.

Having said that, it is worth pointing out that the iPhone 5c was not particularly affordable when it was officially launched. This smartphone turned out to be significantly more highly priced than was anticipated at the time, even though it was relatively affordable compared to other iPhone releases. This could be a clue regarding the pricing of the iPhone 6c / iPhone 7c, with Apple perhaps likely to position the device as a mid-range unit rather than the budget smartphone it could be characterised as.

Fitting into the Apple range

When considering the price points for the iPhone 6c / iPhone 7c, Apple must consider its existing product range. When announcing new devices, Apple is now clearly considering very precise consumer demographics, and cogitating exactly how new products can be marketed to new customer niches.

In the case of the 4-inch iPhone, Apple must consider the impact on the Apple Watch. If this smaller iPhone is launched with pretty meager specs and the price at an extremely affordable level, then this could impact upon sales of the Apple Watch smartwatch. The first smartwatch from Apple enjoyed little more than a lukewarm response in 2015, and Apple is hoping to expand on the concept next year.

Nonetheless, despite the mediocre sales of the smartwatch, Apple has already established the Apple Watch as easily the dominant product in the marketplace. So the last thing that the corporation would wish to do is release a smartphone that would detract from Apple Watch sales. This would mean that it is sensible for Apple to brand the iPhone 6c / iPhone 7c as a mid-priced device with decent specifications, ensuring that people looking for an extremely affordable variant of the iPhone can instead opt for the Apple Watch. Making the 4-inch iPhone too close to the Apple Watch in terms of capabilities would not make commercial sense for the company.

This would be another reason to delay the release of the 4-inch iPhone, with the Apple Watch expected early in Q2. With production and release conflicts possible, this could encourage Apple to push back the release of the smaller iPhone, which would naturally lead to the device almost certainly being labelled the iPhone 7c. This would seem to make logical sense for Apple in a year that will be important for the success of the Apple Watch, and this points toward the suggestion that we will ultimately see this small iPhone named the iPhone 7c.