The problem with the rumored 4-inch iPhone

Mark Gurman, writing for 9to5Mac about the rumored 4-inch iPhone Apple may release in 2016:

Some Apple users have explained that they prefer the smaller size to the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s and 5.5 [inch] iPhone 6s Plus displays as it is easier to use with one hand. The device’s technical specifications will fall somewhere between the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6s.

Count me among the “some Apple users” who prefer a smaller phone. After nearly 18 months of use, my iPhone 6 still feels awkward. When I’m holding the handset with one hand, I can’t reach software buttons placed in the screen’s upper corners. My wife (who has smaller hands) finds the 6 even more frustrating. Not only can’t she navigate one-handed, but the phone won’t fit into the miniature pockets sewn into most women’s clothing. We both pine for a more pocketable, more “thumbable” phone.

So I’m glad Apple plans to release an updated 4-inch unit. But I’m disappointed that this “iPhone 6c” won’t match the “big boy” phones, spec for spec. The feature differences put small-phone aficionados in a difficult place: caught between performance and pocketability.[1]

In my ideal world, the three phones would cycle in lockstep. Every year, Apple would release three iPhone models: the 4-inch, the 4.7inch, and the 5.5 inch. All three phones would boast identical specifications (other than screen size). You can’t call the smallest phone the “Minus” (that sounds pejorative), so maybe you’d brand it the “iPhone Mini.”

Alas, this dream scenario won’t come to pass. Based on the rumors, the 4-inch phone in Apple’s pipeline will lag behind its bigger brethren. And, considered practically, this makes sense. A larger phone chassis provides extra volume. Extra volume means a larger battery. A larger battery can run more power-hungry hardware—things like extra RAM and faster-clocked processors.

  1. Customers face a similar conundrum when choosing between the standard iPhone size and the “Plus” size. If the iPhone 7 Plus retains its hardware advantages over the standard 7 (i.e. hardware OIS, battery life, and/or the rumored RAM bump), it’ll be impossible to pick a phone based on size preference alone.  ↩