Consumers who find the latest iPhone displays a tad too large for their tastes may get a small victory in 2016.
An iPhone with a 4-inch-screen could debut alongside next year's expected iPhone 7, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a Tuesday note to investors picked up by AppleInsider. The phone reportedly would be similar in functionality to the iPhone 5S, which was the last iPhone to pack a 4-inch display.
The more diminutive iPhone would buck the trend toward smartphones with large displays, but also would offer an alternative for consumers who prefer a smaller device or are looking for a more budget-friendly phone.
To regain market share and sales lost to bigger-screened Android phones, Apple last year bumped up the display of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively. Those same sizes carried over to this year's iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. Their introduction gave consumers less of a reason to turn to other phone makers.
Kuo, though, believes that demand still exists for a smaller-screened iPhone and that mass production will rev up in the first half of 2016. That means the new phone could debut next year when Apple unveils its next-generation iPhone lineup, typically a September occurrence.
The analyst sees the 4-inch iPhone as a budget-priced model. The casing would still be metal, unlike the plastic casing found on the iPhone 5C. The phone would be powered by an A9 processor, which is used in the current iPhone 6S and 6S Plus lineup but would be considered yesterday's technology a year from now.
The smaller phone isn't likely to sport the 3D touch technology found in the latest iPhones, according to Kuo. Their touch-sensitive display responds to how hard you press the screen, with, for instance, a light tap opening an app and a harder touch opening a choice of commands.
Rumors that Apple would revive a smaller-screened iPhone have swirled around for more than a year now. Such speculation should normally be taken with a grain of salt, but Kuo has been on the mark with many of his past predictions.
Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.