Apple reportedly has a smaller, inexpensive version of the iPhone prepped for release early this year. The latest scuttlebutt, which is coming from vendors in China, points to a rather powerful and compact smartphone that will cost around $500.
The latest report was published by a Chinese website called cnBeta. Citing sources at Apple partner Foxconn, cnBeta says the new iPhone will be called the iPhone 5e and is slated to replace the aging iPhone 5s. The "e" stands for "enhanced." Earlier reports suggested the name might be Apple iPhone 6c.
The device (5e or otherwise) will rely on the same 4-inch screen that adorned the iPhone 5, 5s, and 5c. An Apple A8 processor will be paired with 1GB of RAM to provide the iPhone 5e's power, says cnBeta. This contradicts some reports, including a prediction from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, that have suggested Apple will use the A9 in the smaller iPhone. The phone will be reportedly sold with either 16GB or 64GB of storage. I doubt there be a 128GB variant.
Apple will push the 8-megapixel camera from the iPhone 5s over to the iPhone 5e. There's been no word if or how the user-facing camera might be improved.
The form factor will be thinner and lighter than the iPhone 5s, but that's not saying much. The 5s is incredibly compact. The 5e's dimensions -- reported to be 122.9mm by 57.6mm -- are hardly smaller than the 5s, though the phone will be much smaller than either the iPhone 6s or 6s Plus. It is expected to be made from aluminum and come in black, white, rose color.
Apple Pay will be one major upgrade for the 5e compared to the 5s. Apple's mobile payment system is currently available only to the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus. It makes sense that Apple would add this capability to any new device it brings to market. The 5e would have to include NFC for Apple Pay to work -- a feature the 5s lacks.
VoLTE is the last major feature outed by cnBeta's sources. Apple's newer phones are VoLTE capable, but the older 5s was not. Adding the 4G voice technology to the 5e will make US carriers happy, as most now offer HD Voice and other features through their LTE 4G networks.
When will the iPhone 5e arrive? It is expected to make its debut during the first quarter, so before the end of March the latest, and possible as soon as February. The starting price will be $500 for the 16 GB model, which is about $150 less than the iPhone 6s.
Does Apple need a less-expensive iPhone? It might. Apple has recently reduced the number of orders for its two larger iPhone models amidst slowing demand. For many consumers, the $649 starting price is too steep. Adding a somewhat cheaper model to its lineup means Apple may hold onto consumers who might otherwise be tempted by the myriad inexpensive Android smartphones flooding the market.
**Elite 100 2016: DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JAN. 15, 2016** There's still time to be a part of the prestigious InformationWeek Elite 100! Submit your company's application by Jan. 15, 2016. You'll find instructions and a submission form here: InformationWeek's Elite 100 2016.