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Apple Passing on a larger iPhone Display still a Head Scratcher

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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?


3. Apple iPhone Concept with flexible wrap-around display

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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No, Marc you are incorrect. You are the small fraction of the market. You are about 5-10% of the market which wants a 4 inch screen. I hate to put it to you like that, but it is true.

My evidence. Current estimates show that iPhones are selling approximately 12% of the rate of androids. About 90% of all androids are above 4 inches in display size.

There have been studies that have shown that among iPhone users that approximately 45-75% of iPhone users demand or desire a larger screen. The most chosen size was 4.7 inches.

Therefore, you are a very very small part of the pie. Have you used a 4.7 inch phone?

I meant to also say that, I went with the HTC One- because for whatever reason- Apple was unable to build a larger screen. Therefore, I am enjoying my larger screen on my One. I still miss iOS. Apple's loss...

I am not really so much an androider. I use an iPhone and an HTC One. I do agree that many android users are over the top though. I fully stand by what I said previously.

What kind of nose candy are you using? You Androiders are so over the top at times. Ha! Dream on.

The reason is simple. Samsung is known to bribe their customers and clients alike. Years ago, the VP of Operations of a second tier company named Apple might have taken bribe from Samsung. Now this person has become the CEO of Apple. He is being blackmailed by Samsung to deliberately cease the smartphone market to it.

Apple's board of directors need to investigate Tim Cook ASAP.

I think it actually involves money. A larger screen has a higher cost to build- screen and battery, metal, etc... Apple probably thinks they can get by with a smaller screen and wait for prices to drop on the larger screens.

What I'm thinking is that the fingerprint reader makes the cost in R&D and parts/labor a bit higher than last one. If they had additionally increased the size it would have put it a CTB that he thought was too high.

Still, other makers are doing it. Apple would be taking un-necessarily high risks by not providing both (remember they aren't exactly broke). Apple cannot become complacent and say," whatever I do build, they will buy it."

Thanks for the follow up, James.

It's called progress. And super-sizing everything is the American way anyway, right?

What makes me angry is that when the iPhone first came out it was blamed for its huge display. Now its the opposite.

Hi Jack! Thanks for the response. I should have added a bit more detail to my initial reply about display suppliers. Something like... suppliers who can consistently produce quality large displays in the quantity that Apple requires.

There are not that many display suppliers that fit this requirement. Even you have written how Apple's move to other display suppliers gets hampered by quality and quantity shortages. I am not attempting to present a conspiracy theory just a possibility of why Apple is not providing a larger display.

Tim basically said, we will see the larger iPhone when the display tech arrives. Assume that is 2014 with IGZO.

I have no doubt that if the majority of phone customers truly preferred large phones, Apple would accommodate them.

I think this is just an issue of timing and strategy. Apple don't want to have three different iPhone display sizes at once, so they're maneuvering to get rid of 3.5" screens before introducing bigger. Following the next iPhone event on Sept 10th, the 4 and 4S will be properly put out to pasture, with an all 4" display line up covering both the low and high end markets. Then next year they can add 4.7" models and have these two sizes to stick at going forward.

Personally I like the iPhone 5 size - as Apple's launch video promoted, it's still perfect for operating with one hand. Anything bigger is more cumbersome, though there's an undeniable demand for one more size up. 4.7" seems like the best solution. I doubt Apple will go bigger than that or bother with the 'phablet' market. A 4" and 4.7" range of both high end and low end devices will cover all their targets and cause a headache for competitors.

No offense taken, Jack. I just don't buy into the 5"+ phone displays. Ergonomics are important. Apple will never let a small fraction of its users push them to use a larger screen size just to keep up with the competition on size.

Whatever size they move up to beyond the present [I wouldn't be surprised if it's a bit greater surface area come the announcement] I see them adjusting their entire product lines accordingly to give Developers a smooth path to adapting their UIs.

Hi Bill. So many Apple fans feel that way and that's great. But you needing a "man purse" for a 5 inch iPhone display is a good laugh. Thanks for that.

Marc, Marc, Marc. I didn't take your for an extremist. A 7" display iPhone? Did I mention a 7" iPhone.? A 5 inch iPhone display would be reasonable and it's not gigantic in the least. 80% of the market will purchase smartphones between 4.7 and 6.0 this Christmas.

Cheers, Marc

Apple isn't HTC and would have suppliers falling over themselves to serve Apple if Apple wanted to produce a 5 inch iPhone. No conspiracies need apply. But thanks for your comment, James.

I am very happy Apple has kept the screen size
Those Samsung phones might as well be tablets
No need for that size. Any bigger and I'll need a man purse to carry my phone.

Go search for tablet android on Ebay.

Nothing but junk at rock-bottom pricing. In short, these phablets are indeed a fad and whether you like the fact Apple has stuck to its vision of iPhone/iPod Touch form factor, then iPad/iPad Mini specs with some minute variance in size, or not, doesn't change reality: Apple cannot make their product lines fast enough to meet demand.

With the smart watch market soon upon us, you won't be wearing a 4 in monster on your wrist. It will be a cohesive ecosystem of products interfacing with one another, at varying sizes, to address the need at hand.

Sorry, but a 7in phablet held to my face is not a trend to make for making phone calls.

More states are moving to hands free phone calls so a larger/fat screen isn't even legal to muck with inside a moving vehicle.

An iPad Mini interfacing with GPS stuck on dash if you don't have the iOS integrated car experience is more than compensate.

Don't be surprised if Apple sells a bluetooth headset with a smart watch that is an actual Phone.

A reason for Apple NOT providing a display larger than 4 inches is cost. Think about who supplies Apple with displays. Charging Apple a higher price for larger iPhone displays would increase the price of the iPhone, which would make the iPhone less competitive price-wise.

Another reason could be suppliers choosing not to sell larger displays to Apple. It has been reported that some suppliers actually choose to not sell products to customers to keep them out of or delay them from entering a market. HTC has encountered this problem with at least one of its phones. Who is to say Apple has not encountered similar blockages when it comes to having a competitive advantage?

Sure Apple could enter the display manufacturing business, but how much time would that take AND how many lawsuits would be hurled at Apple to prevent and/or delay such a move?

Jack, you are correct about hindsight. One day the world will discover why Apple did not produce an iPhone with a display size larger than 4 inches when customers and analysts want larger displays.

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