iPhone 6C
The iPhone 6C is expected to come with a metal case design, unlike its plastic predecessor, the iPhone 5C. Pictured, Makiko Maeda, 28, uses her iPhone 6S after purchasing it at the Apple Store at Tokyo's Omotesando shopping district Sept. 25, 2015. Reuters/Issei Kato

A new 4-inch iPhone could find its way into the spotlight in 2016. Supply chain sources claim that Apple Inc. is targeting January for the unveil of its “iPhone 6C,” followed shortly by a February release, according to unnamed Foxconn sources cited by Chinese publication TechWeb.

Last year, the handset was anticipated to launch with a plastic design similar to the iPhone 5C launched in 2013. But this time around, Apple is expected to abandon the material for the 6C and launch it with a metal case. The handset is expected to come with support for Apple Pay and Touch ID. However, the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch display launched with its iPhone 6S and 6S Plus likely won’t be included in the 6C.

Overall the handset is pegged to resemble an “upgraded iPhone 5S,” and include an A9 chip, according to a November research note from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple’s 6C could contribute 20 million to 30 million additional iPhone sales by 2016, he added in the note.

For now the focus is on the all-important holiday quarter for Apple, where analysts are looking to see if Apple can top the all-time record of 74.5 million units sold in the year prior.

Wall Street consensus estimates expect it to sell 78 million units in the period. But at the same time, Apple cut its November orders to its suppliers by as much as 10 percent, according to a research note issued from Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha on Tuesday. “The cuts seem to be driven by weak demand for the new iPhone 6S,” the note said. “As we had highlighted in our research report ‘AAPL: Supply-Chain Cuts, Weakness, Then Opportunity,’ we do see a subdued iPhone cycle for the next few quarters.”

But in the long term Credit Suisse anticipates that a shift to device installment plans can help Apple grow its user base from 400 million in 2014 to 615 million by 2017.