In January the Wall Street Journal provided data suggesting larger screen iPhones. A string of rumors and conjecture have been reported ever since in an attempt to portray a undeniable truth – a larger screen iPhone is coming.
Assume for a moment the rumors, the analysts' expert analysis, and the "upstream supply chain" informants are correct, and that Apple is going to deliver a larger screen iPhone 6. Shouldn't the question really be about whether Apple will ship a larger screen device beyond a big screen iPhone, such as phablet device?
In 2003, Steve Jobs made fun of tiny screen devices, telling Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, "I’m not convinced people want to watch movies on a tiny little screen." Two years later, the 2.7" screen iPod video arrived. On September 7, 2005, Jobs also introduced the iPod nano, sporting a 1.5" screen.
After Apple launched the iPad (showing the world what a tablet should be), Jobs made a special appearance during a quarterly earnings conference call to make fun of the emerging 7" tablet market during. “7-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad,” said Jobs. He talked of people needing to shave down their fingertips to work on such small tablets, and the only reason the competition was making small screened devices is because they could not compete with the iPad price point that sported a full size screen. Then, at an Apple Special event in October, 2012, Apple launched the iPad mini with a 7.9" screen.
Whether multi-sized laptops, desktop computers, or mobile devices, Apple has left very little room for competition to find a screen size niche that Apple does not have an offering.
However, Apple does have one exception in their lineup. The iPhone, Apple's most important product, has remained essentially unchanged in screen size. The Android smartphone market has exploded with a variety of screen sizes, while Apple has remained locked into position with a 3.5" display, or a slightly elongated 4" screen, starting with the iPhone 5.
As Apple's continued high-end smartphone market share continues it's slow growth trend, developers have loved the simplicity of a consistent pixel count and screen dimensions to develop native applications for, and the economies of scale for Apple can't be underestimated. Many factors add up as to why Apple has stayed true to a relatively small display. And yet for all the reasons Apple has done this, there are many more compelling reasons this model will change.
Apple's history alone shows how the company's top brass will state one thing, and do another. Screen size is chief amongst Apple's list of "deny then launch". An iPhone 6 with a significantly larger screen is on its way, and likely much sooner than many are predicting. The most likely launch time for the arrival of the iPhone 6 is at Apple's WWDC14, where developers will be able to get in-depth support on how to port current – and develop new – applications for the larger display. Rumors and analysts have been reporting that many components for a new iPhone have been in production as early as January of this year. With components ramping to production long ago, an iPhone 6 in June is nearly a given.
It all leads back to that nagging question: Will a larger screen device – larger than an increased screen iPhone 6 – emerge from Cupertino? The lame answer? Maybe.
An iPhone 6 with 4.7" screen is a solid and safe move for Apple, as they will be able to gauge its acceptance in the market, able to determine if it is eating into would-be Android phablet sales. If a 4.7" iPhone consumes a large share of Android phablet sales, Apple has no need to confuse and fragment its lineup with a phablet-like device.
However, if spectacularly large markets like China are slow to adopt a larger-screen iPhone 6, expect Apple to launch a phablet device this fall, ensuring its competition has no niche markets left to find safe harbor.
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