As 2013 kicked off, we wondered aloud as to whether Apple would follow the 5" or larger smartphone trend. Months earlier, Apple's Phil Schiller mocked Samsung's shift to a larger display size by saying that it's "really easy to make a new product that's bigger. Everyone does that. The challenge is to make it better and smaller." Schiller put Apple in a box with his keynote emphasis on keeping the iPhone to a limited size for hand comfort. A new study recently published shows that smartphones with large displays have now overtaken both tablet and portable PC Shipments. Although Apple could have nullified their competitors screen size advantage this fall, they've apparently chosen not to do so. Of course, Apple could always surprise us with one at their iPhone event in September, but at the moment, it doesn't appear to be in the cards.
In 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced the amazing iPhone, one of his key points about it was that it was the "internet in your pocket." Yet times change, and larger displays on smartphones now greatly enhance the web surfing experience. For many, surfing the net with a smartphone is the priority service, not telephony. Having the two services available on one device is the key over having to buy an iPad mini with cellular connectivity and an iPhone.
Intel's Thomas M. Kilroy, Executive VP and GM of Sales and Marketing Group enjoyed taking a stab at Apple during Computex in June of this year. He presented a series of slides showing how Android overwhelmingly overtook iOS and that Apple was wrong about the 7" tablet market. Trends shift quickly and Apple was missing them.
In respect to smartphone screen sizes, Kilroy noted that "Ninety percent of the time that we spend on a smartphone is for computing, not talking. We browse, we play apps, we do email and watch videos on phones driving the need for larger screens."
Not that recognizing this trend has done anything for Intel. In fact Apple's shift to iDevices severely hurt Intel. So yes, Intel was attempting to stick it back at Apple by applauding Android and their ability to overtake iOS. Yet, the larger display trend that he was quoting is indeed factual to some degree.
A new DigiTimes report this morning states that "Smartphones with screen sizes of 5- to just under 7-inch, colloquially known as phablets, overtook shipments of each of the portable PC and tablet device categories in Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) in the second quarter of 2013, according to IDC.
According to IDC's figures, device vendors shipped 25.2 million phablets in the second quarter of 2013, compared with 12.6 million tablets, and 12.7 million portable PCs. Phablets made a significant jump, up 100% on quarter, and up 620% for the same quarter in 2012.
DigiTimes further noted that "Particularly in emerging markets, where consumers may not have the budget to pick up one of each, the phablet is winning out to capture both the telephony and better browsing and multimedia experience. Phablets have proven to be more than just a short blip of a fad."
Today we learned that Taiwanese smartphone maker Acer announced the world's first 4K high-resolution video recording smartphone, Liquid S2, just days ahead of the IFA tradeshow in Berlin. The new Acer smartphone will sport a 6.0-inch IPS full HD display. Even the home grown Chinese Company Xiaomi will be launching a 4.7" display on a smartphone with decent specs for $130 US.
In respect to premium smartphones, I don't think there'll be another premium smartphone outside the iPhone this fall that will be stuck in the past with a 4" display. The funny thing is that the rumor mill pegs the iPhone 6 moving to a larger display in 2014. So why has Apple decided to delay a feature that so many possible customers clearly want into next year?
In the immediate future, Apple is likely to introduce a few new iPhone features that their competitors won't be able to match. You know – the more sophisticated types of technology that others can't even imagine. The stuff that clearly shows who the real market leader is from the fast follower crowd.
One such feature is a new fingerprint sensor/scanner that hopefully will be associated with a new iWallet micropayment application; a service that some will think is more useful than simply having a larger display.
This is what the market will be looking for at Apple's upcoming iPhone event. Does Apple still have the magic to deliver a few key surprises that'll actually advance the smartphone category? Because if they lack a meaningful surprise, then their competition's one trick pony of a larger display will painfully extend Android's smartphone lead into North America handsomely. And then Wall Street and shareholders will be asking the simple question: why didn't Apple simply offer a larger display to remain competitive?
The mystery behind Apple's unwillingness to provide their fan base with a larger iPhone display option at this point in time is really a head scratcher. I can't figure it out whether there's real logic behind their madness or if it's simply a matter of arrogance and hard headiness. We understand that Apple missed out on this larger trend last year but have a harder time understanding it a year later.
If there was logic associated with Apple's reasoning for remaining with a 4 inch display, then it could rest with a future two display fold-out design. Others in the industry have filed numerous patents on this coming wave including this new LG patent for a smartphone TV as noted in the graphic below.
Think about it: If you double a 4" display in a dual display design, then it becomes feasible for size and cost. Try doing that with a 5 or 6 inch display. So could Apple be sticking with a smaller display so that they could offer a dual display model in 2014? Well, it's certainly one possibility.
Another possibility could simply be that Apple has a radical new design on tap for 2014 and re-tooling for a larger display in 2013 just didn't make any business sense?
Only in hindsight will we be able to judge whether logic played any role in Apple delaying the introduction of a large display iPhone in 2013. For those of us who were hoping against all odds for a larger display this year, we're simply out of luck. Sometimes you win when you're ready for a new smartphone and sometimes you lose depending on the cycle. That's always been the pain with technology. Yet with all that said, it's a bit of sting that every other major smartphone OEM will be offering a larger display this year except for the iPhone.
At the end of the day, I look forward to Apple's upcoming iPhone event like no other. I'm looking for real magic to once again emerge to show the world that they're still the Crazy Ones of Cupertino; the ones that had the brain power to ignite the smartphone revolution back in 2007 and advance it once again in the coming days ahead. While the lack of a larger iPhone 5S display remains a bit of head scratcher, I'm sure that we'll all be buzzing about some of the great new features found in the next iPhone in one way or another. In fact, count on it.
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