New leaks and notes from an industry analyst continue to fuel rumors that Apple plans to launch a four-inch version of the iPhone later this year. The iPhone 5se, previously rumored to be called the iPhone 6c, could be launched as early as March and would likely feature either an A9 or M9 processor, according to reports.
A photo purporting to show the iPhone 5se surfaced on an Apple-focused blog 'One More Thing' (www.onemorething.nl) yesterday. The image allegedly shows the 4-inch iPhone next to an iPhone 5, with the two looking very similar. Since the image could not be independently verified, we have chosen not to show it here. (Pictured above are the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which debuted in 2014.)
The One More Thing blog post follows a separate report Friday from 9to5Mac about a new four-inch iPhone.
Some observers, though, are questioning these persistent rumors about an in-the-works, four-inch iPhone. Writing for ZDNet today, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes called the evidence for such a device "sketchy," while KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expressed low expectations for the phone in a note to investors yesterday.
Speculation about Apple's coming product releases has been picking up steam ahead of the company's planned announcement of first-quarter financial results for fiscal year 2016, scheduled for 5 p.m. EST tomorrow. After seeing record-breaking sales following the September 2014 release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple could see a slowdown in sales and revenues this year, some analysts have predicted.
iPhone 5se Likely Greeted with 'Meh'
According to Kuo's note to investors, reported yesterday by Apple Insider, the "mostly iterative" four-inch iPhone 5se is likely to be met with "tepid" demand by consumers. Kuo said the new device wouldn't likely offer many new hardware features outside of a 12-megapixel camera.
The iPhone 5se would likely include an A9 or M9 chip because a slower, earlier-generation processor would make the device less appealing with the expected fall release of the iPhone 7, which could sport an A10 processor, according to 9to5Mac. If the four-inch phone uses an M9 processor, it would enable always-on activation of Apple's Siri intelligent digital assistant.
While some observers are questioning the need for a four-inch iPhone, a survey by the investment and asset management firm Piper Jaffray last year found that 20 percent of U.S. consumers said they would prefer a smartphone with a screen of that size.
The Challenge: Repeating Success of iPhone 6
According to various analysts' predictions, Apple could be in for an uncharacteristic slowdown in sales in the early part of this year. Morgan Stanley, for example, last month lowered its expectations for 2016 iPhone sales by 12 percent, while Credit Suisse reported in December that Apple component orders were dropping in light of reduced demand for the iPhone 6s.
Others have pointed out that Apple's wildly successful launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in 2014 will be a hard act to follow. Last February, the research firm Canaccord Genuity reported that those two devices helped Apple achieve a 93-percent share of the global mobile phone market in the fourth quarter of 2014.
In addition to the rumored launch of the iPhone 5se in March, Apple is also reportedly planning to come out with the iPad Air 3 and new models of its Apple Watch sometime this year. The company is expected to release the next major generation of the iPhone -- most likely to be called the iPhone 7 -- in September.