Since releasing its larger Apple iPhone range in 2014, the tech giant’s devices have consistently topped the sales charts, but many have lamented the demise of its 4-inch handsets.
Rumours that Apple will return to manufacturing these smaller ‘iPhone minis’ have been circling for months, but a Chinese network operator may have just given the best indication yet.
In a presentation outlining its 2016 roadmap, China Mobile showed a slide that revealed an iPhone 7c will launch in March.
This is the first time this name has been used for the upcoming, smaller device. It has previously been referred to as the iPhone 6c.
Apple is reportedly planning a March event for the Apple Watch 2, and it is believed the new handset will be unveiled at the same time.
The firm will then save the launch of its rumoured iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus until its traditional September event.
Given the fact that the iPhone 7c could be released before the official iPhone 7, it is more likely the phone will be called iPhone 6c.
The leaked information follows on from claims by a leading analyst that Apple will release an ‘iPhone mini’ with a 4-inch screen early next year.
If the analyst’s claims are true, Apple’s next-generation handset would be on a par with the 6.1mm iPod touch (pictured left with measurements pictured right). The iPod touch’s screen is smaller than the iPhones, at 4-inches, and doesn’t take a SIM card meaning it can be thinner because it needs fewer internal components
CHINA MOBILE ALSO LEAKS SAMSUNG GALAXY S7 LAUNCH
During the same presentation in which China Mobile leaked details about Apple’s iPhone 7c, the operator also revealed Samsung’s Galaxy S7 will launch in March.
The slide confirmed rumours that the next-generation handset will hit the shelves in March 2016 and that prices in China will start at 3,000 CNY.
This converts to £310 in the UK and $465 in the US – although prices are unlikely to be like-for-like across the different regions.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said: ‘While new model may not generate huge sales, Apple still has good reasons to launch.
‘We estimate 15 to 17 million 4-inch iPhones will be shipped in 2015.
‘We estimate the new 4-inch model will account for 8-9 per cent of total iPhone shipments in 2016, have an expected price of US$400-500, with the aim of penetrating emerging markets and consumers on smaller budgets.’
Elsewhere, the 4-inch iPhone is expected to have an A9 chip manufactured by both TSMC and Samsung, and glass with curved edges like the iPhone 6s.
It will come with Apple Pay, two to three colour options, and the same camera specs as the 5s – an 8MP rear-facing camera and 1.2-MP front shooter.
Earlier this year Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster told clients ‘we expect the iPhone 7 to sport a unique design from the iPhone 6/6S’.
He believes it will do away with the home button, instead relying on the 3D Touch screen introduced in the 6S.
The move would mean Apple has to move the Touch ID sensor to elsewhere on the phone.