According to DigiTimes, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will be releasing both iPhone 6s devices in addition to what the site refers to as the iPhone 6c. The site says that Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM) will manufacture the chips for the iPhone 6s models on its advanced 16-nanometer technology, while the chips for the 6c will be built on its 20-nanometer technology.
In other words, it seems reasonable to expect that the 6s phones will feature the next generation Apple processor known as the A9, while the 6c will likely pack the same A8 processor found in the current iPhone 6 devices.
If Apple does indeed plan to launch a 6c this year, then that should have some interesting implications for the company's product stack.
What might Apple's product stack look like later this year?
With a two-year contract, the iPhone 5c is currently free, the 5s starts at $99, the 6 begins at $199, and the 6 Plus comes in at $299. When the 6s models become available, it makes sense for them to occupy the price points that the iPhone 6 devices currently occupy. The question, then, is what the $99 and "free" product offerings will look like.
DigiTimes says the 6c is a 4-inch phone. One possibility, then, is that the 6c would occupy the $99-with-contract price point and then the 5s would be become the "free" model.
However, since Apple likely wants to proliferate its new Apple Pay service and assuming the 6c supports Apple Pay, another possibility is the company will ax the 5s altogether and simply offer multiple storage tiers of the rumored iPhone 6c to address the lower price points.
For example, Apple could offer a variant of the iPhone 6c with 8GB of storage at the "free" price point, a 16GB model at $99, and then a 32GB model at the $149 price point that the 32GB iPhone 5s currently occupies.
Will the iPhone 6c feature a metal chassis or a plastic one?
A question worth pondering is whether this reported 6c will come in a plastic case like the 5c, or if it will simply be a smaller metallic phone? From a product differentiation perspective, it might make sense to build the "c" models out of plastic to make the "s" series look more premium.
It could also help reduce the cost structure of the iPhone 6c relative to the more expensive 6s.
The "c" in iPhone 5c is already widely viewed as standing for "color" or "colorful." I think that if Apple were to simply improve the plastic chassis of the 5c (by making it slimmer, for example), it could have an attractive offering for the lower end of the smartphone market.
Apple will need to raise the bar with the iPhone 6s series
If Apple does target the low-end of the iPhone market with an iPhone 6c, then Apple is going to need to raise the bar with the iPhone 6s phones. If the lower end models feature Touch ID and NFC, then my expectation is that the company will bring something "game changing" from a user-experience perspective to the higher end iPhones.
Of course, the higher end phones will feature a faster applications processor, and I would not be surprised if Apple upped the amount of memory found on the 6s devices. However, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple plans to bring "force touch" to its latest iPhones, which, if done properly, might be an example of such a "game changer."
It also does not hurt that the 6s models are expected to feature larger screens than the 6c, appealing to customers who prefer larger devices.