Why have so many 4-inch iPhone owners refused to upgrade?

Sixty percent of iPhone owners from before September 2014 have refused to upgrade to a larger iPhone. Why are they holding onto their smaller iPhones?

Apple's recent earnings call revealed a curious number for the first time: 60 percent of iPhone owners from before the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are still using their 4-inch iPhones. These Apple customers adamantly refuse to upgrade to larger size iPhones, and are sticking with their iPhone 4s, 5 and 5s models.

This number is quite significant and no doubt it's the main reason why rumors are flying that a new 4-inch iPhone is coming in March. Apple seems to finally understand that larger iPhones are not for everybody.

I couldn't help but wonder why so many people are holding onto their smaller iPhones, so I took a look in the Apple subreddit and found an interesting thread. I'll share my thoughts below, but here's a sample of the comments from that thread:

Ikkei: ”Consider how well a two-year old iPhone runs... do you really think most people feel so desperate to upgrade? Don't have elsewhere to spend money these days, tech or not? (tablet, laptop, gaming PC, connected car/home/stuff...) It's like PCs, in the early 2000s it was awful to run anything older than two years, nowadays a 4-years old good computer still runs pretty well, even in demanding scenarios. Phones have reached this threshold (diminishing returns in improvement/cost/usability) around 2013-2014.”

Hampa9: ”I'm still on a 5s. I don't see myself upgrading until the 7s. The size is fine for my use, it's still very fast, the camera is great and the battery life is little better on the newer non-Plus models anyway. ”

Lolly: ”I like the 4in factor, but it's the 5s' great performance that's putting off the upgrade for me. I'm a heavy user but it still does great so I don't see the need to spend more right now.”

Sayantsi2: ” I'm on a 5 still, having no interest in a 6 for its case design mostly, but also for the fact that I have a tablet at home and don't want to haul around a phablet all the time. If I had my way, an Apple watch would entirely replace my iPhone. I want smaller, not bigger, no matter how thin it is, and I don't need two symbiotic devices where one would do.”

Tjw5083: ”Not saying that I speak for the majority but my wife and I have both had upgrades available for over a year now but we're waiting for smaller iPhones to release before we use them. Other than the fact that her 5 and my 5s boh work fine, the phone size is the only thing keeping us from upgrading. We just don't want big clown phones.”

Fuzzycuffs: ”Writing this on my 5S. I just hate that they give the best things for the biggest phone. I want optical image stabilization and 1080p but don't want it in 5.5" format. I'm thinking that I'll wait for the 7 to see if the small or medium phone will work for me.”

Pudding: ”I could stomach a slight increase to the iPhone's screen size if the bezels got reduced, but I don't think I'm willing to go with a larger footprint. I'll be upset if Apple continues to follow the phablet trajectory.”

Aquanext: ”It would be dumb of them not to release another iPhone at the 4 or 5 form factor. Some people have small hands!”

More at Reddit

Larger iPhones are not for everybody

Right now I have an iPhone 6 Plus, and it's a terrific phone. I love the bigger screen since I read a lot on it, and my eyes aren't what they used to be. So the larger screen makes it easier for me to use a larger font and see still see a lot of text on the screen. My iPhone 6 Plus is also great for Netflix, games and browsing the web.

But a phablet or even a phone the size of the iPhone 6 or 6s simply isn't for everybody. Some folks have very small hands or simply don't want their pocket filled with a bigger phone. Or they just their phone as...gasp!...a phone, and don't use it for a lot of apps, reading, games, Netflix, etc.

iphone size comparison chart Mashable

Frankly, I've long felt that Apple made a big mistake by not releasing an updated 4-inch iPhone. For some weird reason the company went from making only 4-inch phones to only releasing new iPhones with larger screens. They went from one extreme to the other, and that never made any sense to me.

Apple should have realized before they released the larger iPhones that they would not appeal to everyone, and thus should have had an updated 4-inch ready to go alongside the larger iPhones. If that had happened there wouldn't be 60 percent of iPhone owners still using the earlier, smaller models from years past.

I think Apple understands the need for a 4-inch iPhone now

Given the data released in the earnings call, I think Apple finally understands the need for a 4-inch iPhone. I believe we'll see one released fairly soon, and that will make many owners of older, smaller iPhones very happy. They'll finally have a comfortable upgrade path and they'll be able to let their older iPhones go.

My only concern about a new 4-inch iPhone is related to its hardware features. If Apple releases it with no 3D Touch, or a slower processor and less RAM than the larger iPhones, I think some folks may still hold off upgrading. The exact hardware specs of the new 4-inch iPhone remain to be seen, however, and nobody really knows exactly what it will have. So for now I'm holding off making any judgements.

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