The upgrade cycle for Apple is clear with the launch of the iPhone SE.
Apple may bring back the 4-inch iPhone this week with the rumored (likely) announcement of the iPhone SE.
The iPhone SE (which stands for “enhanced” or “special edition” depending on the source) is expected to look and feel like an iPhone 5S, but with the hardware and software capabilities of an iPhone 6S. The announcement comes out-of-cycle for Apple, which usually announces the latest iPhones in September every year.
The iPhone has gradually grown throughout the years. The first several generations of the iPhone, from the original to the iPhone 4S, had 3.5-inch screens. The iPhone 5, iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S employed 4-inch screens. Starting with the iPhone 6, Apple released two different sizes per year—4.7-inches and 5.5-inches—that includes the latest iPhone 6S models.
Apple must figure that there is still an element of the population that wants a smaller—perhaps cheaper—iPhone instead of the behemoth “phablets” that nearly all popular flagship smartphones have become.
The question becomes: is there still a market for 4-inch iPhones in Apple’s portfolio next to the larger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S?
Boston-based analytics and mobile marketing firm Localytics looked at the data of all the iPhones in its network to determine the distribution of models in actual people’s hands.
The 4.7-inch iPhone 6, released in 2014, is the runaway winner with 32% of all iPhones in use. If we add the iPhone 6S, about 48% of iPhones are 4.7-inches. Another 15% of iPhones are 5.5-inches with the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6S Plus. About 8% of iPhones are years old 3.5-inch devices from the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S years.
The numbers leave a pretty sizable chunk of the iPhone-owning population using 4-inch devices. About 33% of all iPhone owners are toting an iPhone 5S (19%), iPhone 5 (8%) or iPhone 5C (6%).
Apple is likely cognizant of the fact that a third of its installed base are using phones that are more than two years old. Thus Apple is breaking cycle to target those people and perhaps boost its decelerating year-over-year sales and maintain its lead as the world’s most dominant computer maker.