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New Little iPhone May Sprout This Spring

By John P. Mello Jr.
Jan 26, 2016 12:48 PM PT

An iPhone with a 4-inch display and some features found in Apple's latest models will launch in March or April, 9to5Mac reported last week.

New Little iPhone May Sprout This Spring

The model reportedly will be called the "iPhone 5se" -- for "special edition" -- and will be offered at the same price point as the iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 5se will have design features similar to the 5s, which was released in 2013, but it will have internal, hardware and software features gleaned from more recent models, according to the report, which cited unnamed Apple sources. Those features include the following:

  • Curved glass edges like the iPhone 6 and 6s;
  • 8-megapixel rear and 1.2-MP front cameras;
  • Support for panorama photos and for autofocus in video mode;
  • A barometer to track elevation in the Health app;
  • An NFC chip for use with Apple Pay;
  • The iPhone 6's A8 and M8 processors;
  • Support for Bluetooth 4.2, VoLTE and 802.11ac WiFi, all found in the iPhone 6s;
  • Live Photos from the 6s;
  • A headphone jack; and
  • 6s color offerings in silver, space gray, gold and rose gold.

Can't Wrap Hands Around Phone

Release of the rumored iPhone 5se could be a winning strategy for Apple.

"It seems very likely that Apple has demand for a 4-inch iPhone, and that they will accommodate the market with one some time this year," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

"It's a very likely and viable product. It won't be their best-selling phone, but it will offer an option for folks who are interested in that size screen, said Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst with Technalysis Research.

Apple's newer models with larger screens are not pocketable, noted Ramon T. Llamas, a senior research analyst for mobile devices technology and trends at IDC.

"There are lots of Apple users out there who like Apple's products but can't wrap their hands around some of these larger phones, even if they're only 4.7 inches," he told TechNewsWorld. "The [iPhone 5se] is an acknowledgement of what some customers have been asking for some time now."

Balancing Price and Features

A number of Apple users are sticking with older iPhone models like the iPhone 5 and 5s because of the size issue, Llamas pointed out.

"On the other hand, people don't want to skimp out on every feature," he said. "They may not get 3D touch with the [iPhone 5se], but they're going to get Apple Pay, Siri and FaceTime."

"The 'se' stands for 'special edition,' but maybe they should call it the 'ge' for 'good enough,'" he noted.

"You're not getting all the latest, greatest features," Llamas continued, "but you're getting the features that most people can get by on."

A number of factors would be needed for the iPhone 5se to be successful, said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. They include a price tag lower than other iPhone models, features that drive user engagement and monetization for Apple, and enough differentiation that consumers who can afford to buy a more expensive model will do so.

"I feel that Apple has learned from the 5c, and if all the rumors about the [5se] are true, they would hit all my points," she told TechNewsWorld.

"What I feel people should not count on is a drastically cheaper iPhone, as this is still not Apple's business," Milanesi said.

Breaking Cadence

If Apple were to introduce an iPhone with a 4-inch display, it would expand the screen options for customers looking to upgrade their phones.

"Many people, especially with smaller hands, prefer the 4-inch models, while others like the 5-inch and 5.5-inch versions," Creative Strategies' Bajarin told TechNewsWorld.

"Apple would just be giving customers more options," he added.

The iPhone 5se also could open up a worthwhile revenue channel for Apple.

"If you're Apple and you see how much of your revenue is driven by the iPhone, you'll want to take a look at some adjacent markets where you can reap incremental revenues, while at the same time leverage what you already have in place," IDC's Llamas said.

Although a release of a new iPhone in the spring would break the cadence for phone introductions -- they're usually released in September -- Apple has been known to break cadence now and again.

"Every once in a while Apple will do something like that -- just slip a product out all of sudden," Technalysis' O'Donnell told TechNewsWorld. "It tends to be a modestly iterative version of a previous product. I think that's how they're going to treat this one."

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.

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