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Despite all the hype leading up to Apple’s 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini, and even a series of positive reviews, the smaller iPhone model has turned out to be a flop when it comes to the only metric that really counts: how many units Apple has actually been selling.
While the iPhone 12 lineup generally took the world by storm last year, adding a new design, 5G support, and high-quality OLED displays on the entry-level models, the majority of buyers gravitated toward the now-standard 6.1-inch iPhone 12, leaving the smaller 5.4-inch version to languish in relative obscurity.
This led to rumours that Apple was planning to cancel the iPhone 12 mini entirely. This theory gained more traction after reports emerged in March that Apple was massively slashing production on the smaller iPhone, to the point that it even had to pay a penalty to Samsung for overcommitting to OLED display orders.
Now it looks like those rumours were at least partially true, as a new report by TrendForce reports that the iPhone 12 mini has “reached End-of-Life” sooner than expected, with production having already shut down during this quarter.
Apple is expected to focus on driving sales of the three non-mini models in the iPhone 12s series in view of the fact that the iPhone 12 mini (which reached End-of-Life ahead of time in 2Q21) suffered disappointing sales performances compared to other models in the iPhone 12 family.TrendForce
What This Means for the 5.4-inch iPhone
As TrendForce notes, the decision comes from the poor sales performance we’ve known about all along, but it also doesn’t mean that Apple is abandoning the idea of the smaller iPhone form factor quite yet.
Firstly, this is a supply chain production shutdown. Apple is not (yet) discontinuing the iPhone 12 mini, nor is it likely to do so until at least September, when the “iPhone 13” or “iPhone 12s” lineup arrives.
In fact, the iPhone 12 mini is still available on Apple’s online store without any shipping delays, and it’s also available for pickup in most Apple retail stores.
However, Apple has obviously forecasted how many iPhone 12 mini units it expects to sell between now and September, and decided that it has sufficient inventory to meet that expected demand. Thanks to Tim Cook’s logistical wizardry, Apple has a long reputation for “just-in-time” manufacturing, and, despite the occasional misstep, the company rarely finds itself with a surplus inventory of its products.
Along the same lines, we can expect that Apple will halt production of at least some of its other iPhone 12 models at some point. Assuming that Apple continues the trend of the past two years of new iPhone releases, the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max will likely be discontinued in favour of their next-generation counterparts, while the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 remains in the lineup.
What this does reveal, however, is that the iPhone 12 mini will not continue to be sold after the 2021 iPhone lineup is unveiled.
While that never seemed likely in the first place, it wasn’t entirely implausible, since Apple has kept its other entry-level iPhone models in the lineup. The 2018 iPhone XR and 2019 iPhone 11 are still sold by Apple, and we’re expecting the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 to take up a similar position later this year, likely edging out the iPhone XR.
By all reports, however, the 5.4-inch form factor isn’t completely dead — Apple is planning to give it at least one more year, with an ”iPhone 13 mini” expected to arrive in September alongside the other three more popular models.
However, it also looks like that may be the last time we see the 5.4-inch model. Apple is already making plans to retire it for the 2022 lineup, although there’s no indication whether those plans are final or not. Apple would almost certainly reconsider that decision if the “iPhone 13 mini” suddenly started flying off the shelves later this year.
Ultimately, it makes sense for Apple to give its diminutive iPhone form factor another year, just to make sure that this year’s demand isn’t simply a matter of bad timing. After all, the iPhone 12 mini came out only six months after the 2020 iPhone SE, and also arrived a month later than the standard 6.1-inch iPhone 12.
Further, with most users on two-year upgrade cycles, it’s impossible to properly assess the demand for a product in only a single release cycle. Many iPhone 11 owners have to wait for their contracts to expire before they’re eligible to upgrade to a new iPhone, putting them in the market for an “iPhone 13 mini” rather than an iPhone 12 mini.
What does seem clear, however, is that unless things dramatically change in terms of demand, the 2021 “iPhone 13 mini” will likely end up as the swan song for the smaller iPhone.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]