Why a 4-inch iPhone 6c in early 2016 makes more sense than the iPhone 5c did

An iPhone 6c released in the first of half of next year would face fewer challenges than the ill-fated iPhone 5c and could even spur iPad sales.

A second analyst is predicting that Apple will release a 4-inch iPhone by itself before the middle of next year. And unlike the iPhone 5c that came and went with little public fanfare, this time around, there's good reason for Apple to change up its iPhone product launch cycle.

Kevin Wang, China's IHS Technology Research director, suggested on Weibo that an iPhone 6c is on the way sooner rather than later, reports Cult of Mac.

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Earlier this month, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo offered the same glimpse into Apple's future, expecting Apple to sell between 20 and 30 million smaller iPhones in the second half of 2016.

There's a key difference in a potential iPhone 6c the iPhone 5c.

When Apple outed the lower priced 4-inch iPhone 5c, it was competing with the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s: Both of which also had 4-inch displays. Short of the different internals between the three models, the screens and sizes were identical. As a result, many customers opted to get the better performing phones.

Fast forward to present day and there are no 4-inch iPhones to be had, save for the old 5s, which is now more than two years old. I wouldn't expect Apple to continue selling it much longer so it either goes away - leaving Apple with only 4.7- and 5.5-inch phones - or it gets replaced with a new 4-inch model for those that prefer the smaller size.

Keeping a 4-inch iPhone in the lineup gives Apple something else too: It could help iPad sales.

Once a phone gets "big enough" it can actually discourage customers from buying a complementary tablet: I know several people, for example, that have essentially replaced their iPad with the large iPhone 6 Plus. I've read some comments from ZDNet readers saying the same. We're not talking about tens of millions of people here, but it's reasonable to think that some 5.7-inch iPhone owners no longer have, or simply use less, an iPad.

One other potential benefit of an iPhone 6c - assuming that's what it would be called - is that by offering it one or two quarters prior to the next "flagship" iPhone, Apple could smooth out its iPhone sales.

Typically, the company has a stellar quarter just after it launches a brand new iPhone model. About two quarters prior to that sales are markedly lower because people are keen to Apple's yearly iPhone refresh cycle. And if they're confident a new iPhone is coming, they'll often wait to upgrade, which puts a further damper on new sales.

Because of that, and since those nasty two-year phone contracts and subsidies are on the way out, Apple can smooth its sales and have something new to offer iPhone customers twice a year instead of once.

The iPhone 5c might have been a case of a smart strategy at the wrong time. An iPhone 6c? It makes more sense now.

Update: Several readers have commented publicly and privately to me that the iPhone 5c was considered a relative success with an estimated 24 million units sold. I've edited the post to reflect that the iPhone 5c wasn't as "ill fated" as I had thought.