The min-iPhone

It's hard for me to accept the latest mini-iPhone rumors making their rounds.  None of the reports seem quite right.

I agree with John Gruber that "half size" can't possible mean it'll have a 1.75" screen, but John doesn't offer much more analysis than that.

Maybe Apple is moving towards a cloud-based (or cloud-assisted) model for media/content management and delivery, and maybe MobileMe becomes a free or freemium service; but these possibilities seem irrelevant to the next-generation iPhone's form factor.

To me, the relevant issues seem to be:

  • Apple has repeatedly - as in, just about every time the mini-iPhone (min-iPhone?) concept is discussed - said that they have no desire to chase the bottom of the smartphone market.  They've said this on investor calls and at press events.  A min-iPhone would therefore be a significant strategic shift.  Apple typically just answers "no comment" when asked about future plans.  Denying that they're going to do something is a pretty firm and clear position.  Or, they've been lying all this time.  
  • It's hard for me to see how any iOS device could be strictly cloud-based, because one can't assume that it will always be online.  And when an iPhone is on a cellular network, the meter is probably running on bandwidth.  Why would anyone want to eat away at their monthly bandwidth budget just to stream something that they used to have inside their phone?  On this subject, The Apple TV is not a fair comparison to this theoretical new mini because 1) it's not technically running iOS and 2) it's an inherently stationary device, like a desktop computer.  On a related topic, the next move for MobileMe won't be some cloud-hybrid relying access to a user's library on a remote computer, because you can't assume that device will always be online.  John Gruber pointed this out while I was in the process of writing this post.
  • How small could the iPhone get, while remaining functional?  I haven't used a new nano at all, outside of the Apple store, but that thing seems to be too small to use.  Millions of people must think otherwise, though.  I'm not saying the iPhone can't get smaller, I'm just not sure how much smaller it could get.  I already hate typing on my current iPhone.  I can't imagine I would even try on something, say, 30% smaller.
  • Conventional wisdom is that the next generation iPad screen (rumored to come with the iPad 3) will be twice the resolution of the current generation.  This makes scaling and app porting much easier, and follows the path Apple took from iPhone to iPhone 4.  How would a min-iPhone fit into this?  Smaller screen and smaller pixels at 480X320 resolution?  Certainly not some new aspect ratio, unless...
  • The min-iPhone doesn't run apps.  This is inconceivable to me.  So much so, I don't know how to even comment on it.
All of the above notwithstanding,  would love to see Apple pull this off.  I have always wished the iPhone came in a model that's about 2/3 the size of what they've done so far.  And I'd even be willing to give some features up to get this.  I just don't know what they'd be, or how many other people would be willing to do the same.  So, here's where Apple's going to have to tell us what we want again.  I just hope and pray they're right.