Supply chain evidence of 4-inch 'iPhone 6c' disappears, analyst says

AppleInsider may earn an affiliate commission on purchases made through links on our site.

Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri, one of the first to report on the possibility of a 4-inch "iPhone 6c," revealed in a recent interview that he can no longer find evidence that Apple is working on such a device for 2015.

Talking with Business Insider, Arcuri speculates Apple may have nixed the idea of a small-screened next-generation iPhone so as not to cannibalize sales of refreshed 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models widely expected to launch this fall.

"I think one of the reasons is because the iPhone 6 has sold so well," Arcuri said. "And they said, 'Look, why would we want to cannibalize? If we came out with an iPhone 6C, we would essentially cannibalize a price-reduced iPhone 6.'"

Arcuri first claimed Apple was mulling a return to the 4-inch smartphone form factor last December, saying it was "possible" that the device would be marketed as an alternative to refreshed "iPhone 6s" and "iPhone 6s Plus" hardware. A number of longtime iPhone owners were dismayed when Apple decided to move away from the pocketable 4-inch screen size last year.

Follow-up reports, supposed parts leaks and industry scuttlebutt seemingly confirmed Apple was on track to introduce a third, smaller iPhone version this year, perhaps as a repackaged iPhone 5s wrapped in aluminum. Those rumors have since fizzled out.

It should be noted that Arcuri has a mixed track record when it comes to Apple predictions. In early 2014, he correctly identified a number of iPhone 6 features prior to its announcement in September, but incorrectly guessed the iPhone 6 Plus would come with a more powerful processor. However, the recent research note lines up well with predictions from the more reliable Ming-Chi Kuo, who in April said Apple is unlikely to launch a 4-inch model this year.

Apple might be waiting to unleash a new 4-inch model next year as part of iPhone's biennial overhaul. Reports in June claim AU Optronics won an order to supply 4-inch panels for an as-yet-unannounced iPhone model to be introduced in 2016.

With rumors now pointing away from a 4-inch "iPhone 6c," at least for 2015, Apple could be looking at a handset lineup anchored by a free-on-contract iPhone 5s on one end, two new "iPhone 6s" devices on the other and discounted iPhone 6 models in between.