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Would Apple really make an iPhone mini?

By

January 5, 2013

That might be a little too 'mini' (Digitally altered from original at Shutterstock)

That might be a little too 'mini' (Digitally altered from original at Shutterstock)

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For the last couple of years, analysts have waxed poetic about an iPhone mini. The logic is that Android's dominance of budget and emerging markets will "force" Apple to release the mythical budget iPhone. Is there anything to this, or is it just a bunch of hot air?

Past as prologue?

Do past mini's forecast a future mini?

On the surface, an iPhone mini looks like a no-brainer. The iPod mini, Mac mini, and iPad mini were all cheaper – and successful – versions of iconic Apple products.

From a business perspective, each of these minis lowered the entry fee for its product line. But from a consumer perspective, they each added something else:

The iPod mini (and, later, the iPod nano) added greater portability. Gym rats, commuters, and children loved its smaller form factor, and it went on to outsell the classic iPod.

The Mac mini adds flexibility, as the only consumer Mac that isn't an all-in-one. It smooths the transition for Windows converts who already own a monitor, mouse, and keyboard.

The iPad mini adds portability and comfort. It's much lighter and easier to hold than the 9.7-inch iPad, which it is likely outselling (possibly by a large margin).

Added value

Unless Apple radically changes its values, an iPhone mini would need to add something other than a cheap price tag. But what?

Making it lighter and thinner could add value. But that's already one of the iPhone 5’s killer features. Wouldn't it need something different?

A smaller screen? iPhone customers have already spent five years using 3.5-inch displays, and anything smaller would cramp and cripple iOS.

It could add the flexibility of buying off-contract for pre-paid service. But isn't that the same as saying it's cheap?

Hints

Apple surprised most of us with 'the new iPad'

We can also look to Apple's branding for clues. Seven months before Apple announced the iPad mini, the company dropped numbering from the iPad line. What everyone expected to be the "iPad 3" was just "iPad." This paved a road of simplicity: iPad and iPad mini.

The iPhone, though, still has a numeric suffix. If Apple was already moving forward with an iPhone mini, wouldn't the iPhone 5 simply be called "iPhone?"

Last year's model

Apple already sells the previous two years' iPhones for lower prices

Let's not forget that Apple already has a budget iPhone strategy: selling the previous two years' models in decreasing US$100 increments.

If Apple wants a bigger presence in the budget/prepaid market, it could reach back one more generation. Sell the model from three years prior for, say, $150-300 off-contract.

Wouldn't that be simpler than – and perhaps just as effective as – producing an iPhone mini?

Who knows?

Will Apple eventually make an iPhone mini? Unless you're a high-ranking Apple employee, you're left to guess.

One thing we won't see, though, is an iPhone whose sole purpose is to be smaller and cheaper. Apple could still make a new iPhone that costs less. But something about it would also have to be better. Right now, it's hard to imagine what that something would be.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin covers consumer technology for Gizmag. He's previously written for Android Central, Geek, GottaBeMobile, Android Police, and The Huffington Post.
He lives in New Mexico, U.S., with his lovely wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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4 Comments

if apple says "its the software" then apple should relase a cheap mini version of the iphone to demonstrate that the megapixel multiprocessor gigahertz thing is a myth.

worf2
6th January, 2013 @ 01:36 am PST

Yes, it would be a watch! And many of us a just waiting patiently almost for it. Have it unfold and it could be the size of a iphone. Detachable earpiece. Swivel. Basic stuff like emails and weather at first should be easy. Would release us from having to carry a phone in our pockets all the time. Maybe even a good looking pocket watch iphone as well?

ZekeG
6th January, 2013 @ 07:24 am PST

When I compare my S3 to an iPhone 4 they already feel mini. It feels like a phone meant for a woman.

I generally hate having things in my pockets. At work we once had to pick out BlackBerries for company phones so I picked the BB Pearl and my coworkers nearly made me turn in my man card over it. The 3.5" iPhone 4 is almost exactly the same size as the Pearl.

Offering the last gen model seems to solve the price problem. I think people are stating to notice the huge sexy beasts that are the flagship Android phones and it might make more sense for Apple to offer a slightly larger iPhone to compete with things like the 4.8" S3, the 4.7" razr, the 5" 1080p DNA, and the 5.55" Note II.

At the same time though if you offer a 3.5" and a 4.5" version of each iPhone the difference between calling the little one mini or the bigger one something else is just marketing.

Daishi
6th January, 2013 @ 12:51 pm PST

Better question, will Apple release a larger version of the iPad, and if so will they call it the "Maxi"? I can see the trademark lawsuit already.

Seriously though, Apple is going to have a fit when project glass finally hits the market. Why are we worried about the size of iPhones when we are about to get a real and practical HUD interface?

Charles Bosse
7th January, 2013 @ 09:11 am PST
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