Update: Things are heating up. Apple just sent out invites for its March 21 event at its Cupertino, CA-based campus. And, of course, we're already trying to crack the code on the image attached to it.
It's very possible that Apple is showing off the rose gold, pink and silver variations of its rumored iPhone SE. If true, these would be more subdued than the flashy, vibrant options available for the iPhone 5C.
Moving down to the language of the invite, our hopes fall off a bit for the SE. "Let us loop you in." doesn't really call out to its line of iPhones so much as it does to the Apple Watch.
We'll just have to wait a few more days to see what Apple has whipped up.
Original article continues below...
Whatever Apple is going to call the new device, it's likely readying the iPhone for this month.
According to the latest rumors it'll ditch the iPhone 6C, 5E and 5SE names and typical September release date.The current thinking is Apple's new 4-incher will be called the iPhone SE - but it's still very much up for debate.
Below is what we know about this less expensive handset that's said to be in production and has seemingly been caught on camera.
Apple hosted its annual iPhone launch on September 9, 2015, and while the main rumors suggesting the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus would be announced held true, we had heard rumblings that we'd see three iPhone models released this year.
The iPhone 6C has been long rumored, ever since the launch of the original "budget" iPhone model in 2013. While the iPhone 5C was designed purely as a more affordable iPhone, the iPhone 6C is likely to have more to differentiate it, with a smaller screen than either of the 6S models.
However, it was not to be, as Apple's 2015 event came and went, delivering on the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, but no mention at all of a cheaper iPhone.
Does that mean the iPhone 6C dream is all but dead? Will this year be all about the iPhone 7C? Well not quite. All the rumors point toward it being called the iPhone 5SE as well. Catchy name, eh?
Currently the only way to get an iPhone with a 4-inch screen is to buy the aged iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C, the latter of which is already discontinued, so a future iPhone C model would likely be aimed both at those who want to save some money and those who want to save some pocket space.
Early rumors suggested the iPhone 5SE would launch alongside the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, but alas that was not the case.
Instead it's now tipped to arrive at an unconfirmed Apple event on or around March 21, according to the latest leaks. This is a week after earlier reports indicated Apple was planning a product unveil for March 15. It's set to appear next to a new iPad and new Apple Watch bands.
Back this theory up, the iPhone 5SE (or perhaps it'll be called the iPhone SE) was tipped for a 2016 launch, with IHS analyst Kevin Wang predicting a release date of mid-2016. Meanwhile anonymous Foxconn employees (the firm that actually builds iPhones) have been quoted saying the iPhone 5SE could by ready as early as this month.
Another rumor suggests Apple may launch the iPhone 5SE alongside the Apple Watch 2, or maybe just some new bands, at an event in March, which has been given a further boost after a roadmap from China Mobile suggest we'd see an iPhone 7C release date in April 2016, although it's more likely to be called the iPhone 5SE.
According to Nikkei the iPhone 5SE is already in production and will launch this spring, so March is possible. We're still taking all these rumors with a pinch of salt though as it's unlike Apple to announce a phone earlier than September. That said, it may free up Apple to put all the focus on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus when it launches in September next year.
When it does arrive it may have a lot in common with the iPhone 5, as a recent leaked image purports to show it alongside the iPhone 5, sporting a similar shape and design, albeit with rounder edges and Touch ID.
However it's not totally clear what material the iPhone 5SE is made from in that image and it could well be more like the iPhone 5C in style, especially as there's talk and even an image of a plastic shell.
If it does launch with a plastic body then there's no doubt that it will be cheaper than Apple's flagship phones, though how much cheaper remains to be seen.
Apple might even have leaked them phone itself, with a weird render showing an iPhone 5C-a-like bearing the unmistakeable TouchID button in the picture - but that seems a bit early for a phone that we won't see until November, so let's chalk that one up to a glitch in the matrix.
The iPhone 5SE may also have been caught on video. A clip shared by MICGADGET and supposedly filmed inside Foxconn reportedly shows the phone. However to our minds it looks a little larger than 4 inches and it has exactly the same design as the iPhone 6S, so we're not convinced that it isn't just Apple's latest flagship masquerading as a lower end phone.
That video aside, the iPhone 5SE is largely expected to look a lot like either the iPhone 5C or the iPhone 5, but it could have ever so slightly curved screen edges, like the iPhone 6 does.
It may also share some specs with the iPhone 6, as it's rumored that the colorful handset will ship with an A8 processor, though while that's at the high end now bear in mind that the iPhone 6S will almost certainly have a newer, faster chip, marking the iPhone 5SE out as a lower end phone.
It's also rumored to have NFC and Touch ID, which could mean Apple Pay support, and of course if it launches this year it will run iOS 9 or iOS 10.
China Mobile appears to have shed more light on the 5SE specs, with roadmap details apparently revealing a 4-inch 1136 x 640 display, A9 processor, 2GB of RAM, 8MP camera, Touch ID and three colour options - gold, silver and black.
Another spec listing points to an A8 processor, 1GB of RAM, a 4.0-inch screen and 16 or 64GB of storage. Though it's not clear whether this is the iPhone 5SE in all but name or something else entirely.
A February report points to the iPhone 5SE having an A9 processor, just as the iPhone 6S does. There may also be some bad news though - it's possible Apple has dropped the iPhone 5SE all together.
Analysts at Cowen & Company noticed clues in the supply chain that suggested the iPhone 5SE was in production but bizarrely a few days later the clues disappeared. The same analysts then speculated that the phone wouldn't launch and Apple had axed it due to a worry it'll eat into current model sales.
We've got our fingers crossed they're wrong - and they very much could be - but it's also important to note they know what they're talking about and it could be bad news for the cheaper iPhone option.
There are still many glimmers of hope though, and a Digitimes report claims it sources say the iPhone 5SE is still very much on its way, but it'll break ranks from Apple's usual annual release cycle and instead show its face during the second quarter of 2016.
This is backed up by IHS analyst Kevin Wang who predicts a mid-2016 release for the 4-inch iPhone 5SE.
What we want to see
1. Touch ID
While the iPhone 5S has Touch ID, the iPhone 5C (which launched alongside it) doesn't. Two years on it's unlikely that Apple would keep it out of the iPhone 5SE, but it is a worry, especially as the phone is likely to be positioned as a budget alternative to the iPhone 6S.
We really, really hope that doesn't happen though, as it's one of the best recent iPhone features and not having it would severely limit the iPhone 5SE appeal. Thankfully its inclusion has already been rumored.
2. A powerful processor
As a budget device we don't expect the iPhone 5SE to match the iPhone 6S, but we hope it comes close, especially as it's likely to be the best 4-inch iPhone around.
Buyers who want a smaller phone shouldn't be overly penalised on specs so we'd like to see high-end performance from the iPhone 5SE. Current rumors point to it packing the same chip as the iPhone 6, which should just about cut it.
3. A 4.0-inch screen
While it's expected that the iPhone 5SE will have a 4.0-inch screen it's not actually confirmed, but we really hope it does.
If Apple only released one iPhone size we'd want it to be the now standard 4.7-inch model, but choice is always good and we'd wager there are many Apple fans who were disappointed by the move to larger screens, so a new model with a small screen would be much appreciated.
4. A more affordable price
While the iPhone 5C was designed to be a comparatively budget option it wasn't and even now still isn't particularly cheap.
So we'd like to see the iPhone 5SE be truly affordable. Perhaps not entry-level, but with a mid-range price of around £300/$400/AU$500.
5. A more premium design
One of the cost cutting measures employed with the iPhone 5C was to replace the premium metal and glass builds of other iPhone models with a colourful plastic shell.
It's a solid, well-built phone, but it undeniably looks far less premium or stylish than other Apple handsets.
We'd love to see Apple not skimp on the build materials with the iPhone 5SE. Of course it's very unlikely that we'll get both a premium build and a lower price, but we can dream.
6. A slim build
Given that the iPhone 5SE will likely be more compact than the iPhone 6S it would be great if Apple went all out and made it simmer too, so it's truly as pocket friendly as possible.
The iPhone 5C is 9mm thick, but we'd like to see the iPhone 5SE drop down to around 6.9mm thick like the iPhone 6.
7. Plenty of storage
The iPhone 5C was initially sold in several storage sizes, but it's now just available in a near useless 8GB model.
Given that Apple doesn't allow for expandable storage 16GB is the absolute minimum that we consider acceptable and even that's pushing it these days. So hopefully the iPhone 5SE will be available with a range of storage capacities and if 32GB was the smallest we wouldn't complain.
8. Better battery life
The iPhone 5C has respectable battery life, but it's still a phone you'll be charging every night, so we'd like to see the iPhone 5SE have longer life.
Very few phones last as long as we'd like, but we've seen from the likes of the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact that two days is possible, so we want to see that from the iPhone 5SE.