Why the iPhone 6C leak filled me with joy and then dread

Plenty of people want a smaller iPhone, says Craig Grannell. They just don’t want one that happens to be rubbish

An iPhone-shaped ripple of excitement has been cruelly smashed out of existence. A leaked photo of the iPhone 6C in a dock on Apple’s website has reportedly turned out to merely be a Photoshop cock-up.

According to one of the Mac rumour sites, someone at Apple messed up selecting layers before exporting the image, resulting in all the other rumour sites getting quite grumpy about having reported on the rumour in the first place, perhaps momentarily even considering getting out of the rumour game entirely. (OK, that last bit clearly isn’t true — when the sun goes supernova, this planet will comprise only deserts, cockroaches and Apple rumour websites.)

For me, this image almost simultaneously elicited two very different feelings: a very real moment of joy, followed insanely quickly by a sense of impending doom.

I wrote for Stuff a year ago about dreading the iPhone 6, and nothing I’ve experienced since has changed my mind. I find the new iPhones too big and too ungainly. I like being able to nonchalantly use my 5S in one hand — and the fact I can actually stretch a thumb across the entire screen. If I want a bigger display for something, I’ll use my iPad. Also, my pockets house an iPhone 5S perfectly well, and I don’t want to have to wear trousers like MC Hammer’s, just to cart an iPhone around.

The smart money has always been on Apple providing relatively minor upgrades to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus this summer, continuing its two-year cycle for major smartphone updates. The question mark was always what would happen to any smaller devices in Apple’s line-up. So my initial thoughts on seeing an iPhone 6C were that at least Apple was going to offer something new for people who want a more svelte unit. They weren’t being abandoned! The 5C wouldn’t somehow cling on in the line-up until 2027, when it’d find itself lurking next to a holographic iPhone 12 that plugs into your very soul!

And then I remembered what the iPhone 5C is: the compromise iPhone, in every conceivable way. It’s not that cheap, yet boasts ageing innards. It’s only available in one storage size, which on the box says 8GB, but may as well say ‘AHAHAHAHA! Good luck fitting much on this device or even upgrading iOS! … GB’. It’s the bottom rung of the iPhone ladder. On Apple HQ spreadsheets, it presumably resides in a little box marked ‘upsell model’, although you could argue you don’t upsell from an iPhone 5C to an iPhone 6 in the same way you don’t upsell from a sleek little convertible to a people carrier.

An iPhone 6C along similar lines as the 5C would, then, for me be just awful — an iPhone 5S (2013 technology!) in a colourful polycarbonate case (classy!), and with the kind of storage even a novelty USB keyring would scoff at. It wouldn’t be so much an upgrade for people desperate to remain in the iOS ecosystem but with a smaller yet current device — it’d be a brightly coloured slap across the face.

Naturally, no-one outside of a select few in Cupertino knows what’s coming this summer. I just hope Apple properly caters for people who want a non-giant iPhone (current tech; nice design; just smaller) or simply abandons that market entirely.

If we get an iPhone 6C that resembles the 5C too closely, we’ll all know the C stands for ‘Compromise’, ‘Crap’, and ‘Crikey! Apple must really hate people lacking huge thumbs if it’s foisting this garbage on them’. Which is a line that might be a bit hard to get on the relatively compact box, hence the natty abbreviated form.