Does a four-inch iPhone make sense anymore?


Rumors are swirling that Apple is going to make a gigantic mistake in the near future. A four-inch iPhone is purportedly in the works for a release this spring. Reportedly, this will serve as the low-end iPhone, and probably only cost $650 (yes, I’m making that up for a joke). The only part that the rumors have not yet addressed is the most important question that should be on the minds of everyone working in the space ship. Why?

Every iPhone that came out before the iPhone 6 has had one thing in common. They were all tiny. To be fair, every phone that came out before the iPhone 4 had another thing in common – no one noticed because every other phone was that size too. But between the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5S, something happened. Phones got big. What’s more, people liked it.

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You see, I’m not alone here in thinking that the iPhone 5 and everything before it is a tiny little baby phone. They’re all tiny little baby phones. This was my one criticism of the iPhone 5c when I first tried iOS a year ago. It was a fine phone with a decent OS, but it was a tiny little baby phone and no one should ever have to use a tiny little baby phone. So when I tried out the iPhone 6 for a time, well I thought Apple might be on to something with this whole iOS business.

Before that, I was willing to accept some of iOS’s peccadillos assuming that the teensy weensy screen was somehow to blame. Once I had a chance to use iOS on the iPhone 6, that perspective changed. I was finally able to judge the whole platform now that it was residing on an acceptable canvas. And I’m pretty darn sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

The people have spoken

When the iPhone 6 came out, it flew off store shelves at a pretty incredible rate. Yes, it was a new iPhone, but the iPhone 6 broke sales records by a lot.  This was not an accident. For years, the public was having the same problem I was. They wanted to like this operating system but were turned off by the fact that they were no longer six years old and now the phone was hard to use. When Apple finally inflated its screen size to 4.7 and 5.5 inches respectively, people stood up and took notice in a big way.

So what is all this nonsensical garbage about bringing back the four-inch form factor. Even for a “cheap” Apple phone, no one deserves this. Some might argue that Apple is giving a nod back to the purists who actually enjoyed the four-inch form factor and in fact prefer it. I don’t know who those people are, or where to find them, but my guess is that they only prefer the four-inch form factor because they’re still using the iPhone 5S and haven’t tried the iPhone 6 yet.

Alike, but different

These are the same kinds of people to whom Blackberry is trying to cater by keeping its physical keyboards, but with one key difference. In Blackberry’s case, the physical keyboard makes their phones distinctive. A four-inch smartphone is not really distinctive. There are plenty of four-inch smartphones out there, and they all mostly suck. So maybe this is Apple’s way of standing out in that space. But no one is in that space. No one wants to be in that space.

Some called the iPhone 6 an anti-Apple kind of move. Steve Jobs, God rest his soul, seemingly enjoyed the four-inch form factor, and held on to it throughout his tenure at Apple. When the iPhone 6 was introduced with its 4.7-inch form factor, it was called “sacrilegious” by some. And maybe that’s true. But what is even more of an anti-Apple move is backpedaling like this and introducing a form factor that was left behind.

Nothing new

Some of you might be thinking, “Apple has always offered a four-inch phone, because the iPhone 5S is still for sale.” That’s true. You can still buy one right now, if you want a tiny little baby phone for the bargain price of $500. I won’t judge. But Apple has merely continued to offer the iPhone 5S as a four-inch “cheap” phone since its introduction. These rumors indicate that Apple is actually trying to make a new four-inch iPhone. It is actually investing time and resources into developing a new product in a form factor that was left behind 18 months ago. This is the part that is truly shocking.

If Apple wants to continue to offer a tiny baby phone to customers who want tiny baby phones, I guess that’s marginally acceptable. But to actually develop a new tiny baby phone, seemingly to replace the old tiny baby phone, that’s the part I have trouble wrapping my head around. Maybe Apple is on to something. Maybe Apple knows something I don’t. I doubt it.

You figure it out

If the market has said anything about screen sizes these past few years, it’s that bigger is better. So why Apple is doing this simply boggles my mind. Maybe you have a better idea. Let’s hear your theories in the comments below. There has to be a reasonable explanation involved that doesn’t involve evil twins or mind control – I just can’t figure out what it is. So give me a hand with this. My head already hurts from trying to figure this out, so let’s share a bottle of Aspirin while we try to figure this out.

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!