While there’s little question that Apple will release an iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus next month, analysts and supply chain rumors have been all over the map as to when Apple will introduce a so-called iPhone 6C. Prominent leaker Evan Blass chimed in today with a tweet countering the general consensus, writing: “Sounds like iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and 6c will all arrive concurrently.” Given Blass’s track record of accurately revealing details of unreleased smartphones under the @evleaks Twitter account, it’s worth considering that Apple could indeed release a new iPhone 6C alongside the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus at next month’s expected event.
Few people doubt that an updated iPhone 5c will eventually appear under the iPhone 6C moniker. The question has mostly been timing, namely when Apple would update the 4-inch form factor given its desire to sell 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch phones. Many predictions have pointed toward sometime next year.
This cycle could make sense, though. The plastic, colorful iPhone 5c is based on the hardware of the 2012 iPhone 5. In the United States and most major markets, Apple dropped the iPhone 4S with the iPhone 6 cycle. It would presumably be the iPhone 5’s turn to retire if it was still in the lineup this year, and the iPhone 5c is essentially the same phone.
But what would an iPhone 6C have to offer? When the iPhone 5s was introduced in 2013, the iPhone 5c was in part a way to physically differentiate the similar-looking iPhone 5 from the more powerful iPhone 5s while keeping the same specs in the lineup.
That’s not exactly a problem with the iPhone 5s and any iPhone 6-class phone, as their screen sizes and form factors are very different. However, the iPhone 6C could certainly be an opportunity to pair Touch ID, Apple Pay, and iPod touch 6th-gen-level hardware (the same A8 chip found in the iPhone 6) with a 4-inch screen. It would also let Apple continue to offer a wider range of colors in its entry-level model, which could be lost to gray, silver, and gold if the iPhone 5s was left untouched. Whether Apple chooses another plastic enclosure or an iPod touch-like metal, it wouldn’t be surprising to see an inexpensive iPhone show up in the same tones of pink and blue introduced with the new iPods.
The mix of analyst predictions and supply chain leaks have pointed toward an iPhone 6C materializing at some point, whether it’s this year with the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus or next year in an off-cycle refresh. Rumors of Apple releasing an iPhone model off-cycle from another major model have existed in the past — including reports that the iPhone 6 Plus was expected to come after the iPhone 6 — but so far Apple has only launched refreshed iPhone hardware at a single event each year. Perhaps that pattern will continue and we will see a new iPhone 6C next month after all.