Will There Be an iPhone Jumbo?

October 16th, 2013

As names go, “phablet” is butt ugly. It represents the clumsy marriage of a tablet and a smartphone, or perhaps just a halfway point between the two. Regardless, the biggest thing the phablet has going for it, so far as the companies who make them are concerned, is the fact that Apple isn’t making one. At least not yet.

But that doesn’t mean swollen smartphones haven’t been successful. I gather they are doing quite well in Asia. In South Korea, Samsung’s home country, the iPhone gets a 14% share among smartphones, and phablets are quite the popular gadget. They are clearly meant to serve as PC alternatives for many, offering traditional smartphone features, plus a slightly larger form factor that affords some more space to do things.

So far at least, Apple has resisted the call to make a larger iPhone. The theory goes that larger smartphones are less convenient to use with one hand, and the 4-inch iPhone 5 series is already a stretch for those with smaller digits. The 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S4 that I used for several months was nearly impossible for me to use with one hand, and I have long, thin fingers, which they tell me are ideally suited for piano playing, although the only instrument I learned to any degree was a guitar.

Certainly, popping a phablet in your pocket or purse may be difficult, so I suppose a holster-style case might be best suited to that form factor. I don’t present to prejudge how people use those things. But if there is a large demand for an overgrown smartphone, and big profits are to be made, it would seem silly for Apple to overlook the possibility of getting into the fray.

Remember, Apple isn’t always first to the party, but they do try to offer a better solution. So what sort of solution would Apple offer, other than a larger display?

Tim Cook’s excuse for Apple’s decision to stay clear of larger displays is all about alleged tradeoffs. There is picture quality, longevity, and battery life. My main exposure to large smartphones on an extended basis involves two members of the Samsung Galaxy family. Both used AMOLED displays that totally washed out in bright sunlight. Samsung clearly prefers to tout impressive specs rather than impressive performance and usability. That didn’t stop some tech reviewers from falling for this gimmick, although sales are said to be far less than originally expected.

Even assuming Apple decides to build an iPhone in the 4.5 to 5-inch range, and deliver a superior picture and otherwise resolve quality and battery life concerns, how will yet another form factor impact developers? While iOS 7 and its successors may allow for easier scaling of apps to fit different display sizes and resolutions, compromises will likely have to be made.

There’s also the question whether Apple would even consider an iPad micro, a six-inch or smaller version. Would that be a viable answer to the phablet concept? Not if it comes without a phone, so therefore wouldn’t an iPhone Jumbo or iPhone Maxi be the better alternative? What’s in a name anyway?

It’s a sure thing that Apple is trying to boost sales in Asia, and if the customers feel a 4-inch iPhone is too small for their needs, that would be a compelling reason to consider larger alternatives.

But what about Apple’s timetable for such a gadget? While I suppose there could be some unexpected surprises at the now-confirmed October 22nd iPad media event, an Apple phablet seems very unlikely. So when would Apple release such a device? Would it wait until September 2014, or would Apple consider a spring event to increase the frequency of product rollouts?

Some suggest that the rumored iPhone 6 would be the model to support a larger display size. But that doesn’t mean there is no room for even more iPad variants. Just the other day, I wrote about the published report suggesting that a 13-inch version, a possible iPad/Mac convergence device, was being considered.

But when it comes to next week’s product introductions, it’s rare for Apple to introduce something that isn’t mentioned by the rumor sites. One reason September’s iPhone rollout was perceived as a disappointment is that there were no significant surprises. Offering the iWork apps free to new iPhone purchasers, was minor in the scheme of things.

So far, most expect Apple to introduce a fifth generation iPad with a smaller form factor, and an iPad mini with Retina display. If that occurs, it is quite possible that the original iPad mini will remain in the lineup at a lower price, for those who feel $329 is just too much in comparison with the $200 or so 7-inch tablets the competitors are offering.

It is also claimed that OS X Mavericks and perhaps new MacBook Pros will make their debut, though the announcement would likely be relatively brief. The Mac Pro? The latest scuttlebutt suggests mid-November, but that would seem a bit late unless Apple is still waiting for Intel to deliver the parts they need in sufficient quantities. Or perhaps Apple will announce, during the iPad event, that the Mac Pro is available for preordering, with delivery some time in November. That would make sense.

Oh, and by the way, an Apple phablet would not be something I’d be inclined to want to purchase. But I was never the target customer for such a gadget.

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2 Responses to “Will There Be an iPhone Jumbo?”

  1. Jase says:

    I got an iPhone 5S a couple of days ago, and it is a wonder of design for its form factor, so incredibly thin and light given the processing power and the quality of the camera. I am convinced that there is no way that an Android phone could be that small and thin and light and have the same capabilities, because the Apple integrated approach between hardware and software is more efficient. That being said, I seem to have worse battery life in my new 5S than I do with my heavily used iPhone 4S. That is not good, and I have background refresh turned off.

    I would certainly prefer a larger form factor, something 5 inches or larger. I almost chose a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and I don’t think that it is all that difficult to handle with one hand, and I also did not have any trouble fitting it in my pocket while I was in the store trying it out. Also, from a design/features standpoint, everything is easier when you have a larger size to design a phone around. You can fit a larger battery inside, you have more space for heat dissipation issues, and it is just easier than cramming everything into something as thin and as light as an iPhone 5S. You can also have a removable back cover that allows you to replace the battery and add micro SD cards, something that Samsung does on their models and the LG G2 does on some of their non-U.S. versions of that phone.

    By the way, I really thought that I would dislike the look and feel of iOS 7, and even the colors. But strangely, once I started using iOS 7, I found that I actually prefer the new colors and the simplified design. I chose a simple gray background and I find that I appreciate the reduction in visual clutter.

  2. David says:

    I used to say I wouldn’t buy an iPhone until Apple made a really big one. My eyes cry out for a large display, but even the famous reality distortion field can’t put a 6″ display into a 4″ device so I’ve been forced to take a good long look at what an iPhone would do for me and it’s not much. I’m near an internet connected computer most of the day so I don’t really need the internet in my pocket and can’t justify paying $70+ per month for the privilege. I’ve also realized that I don’t want to be connected to email and Twitter 24/7, that I enjoy the breaks I get when it’s just me and my 5 senses (plus a phone for urgent communications).

    Having made the decision that I can’t make proper use of an internet connected phone, can’t justify the expense and don’t really want one has led me to realize that I’m probably never going to buy an iPhone of any size.

    I did finally ditch my flip phone and surprised myself in choosing a low cost Nokia. It’s well built, reasonably responsive and small enough to carry everywhere without being a burden. Most surprising of all I actually like Windows Phone. Being able to put people on the home screen is terrific. No more digging through contact lists to reach the people I call/text most often, the most important ones are just one tap away. Even syncing with my Macs isn’t as painful as I had anticipated from a product with Windows in its name. I find the word suggestion feature in Windows Phone is amazing. I rarely have to type more than 2 or 3 characters to get the word I want.

    All is not sunshine and flowers, of course. Windows Phone, like Android, wants to give access to my personal data to every app I install but I don’t have a data plan so apps aren’t important. I’m also not thrilled with the lack of customization, particularly font size because it makes it nearly impossible for me to read text messages without digging out reading glasses. Every Android phone I’ve seen has the same font readability problem, but I haven’t spent enough time with Android to explore the options. I’m not fond of the chat bubble UI that iChat/Messages made ubiquitous and my Windows phone uses. It’s a stupid waste of screen real estate to me. Simple alternating colours and alternating left/right justification would yield plenty of space for large fonts on small phones.

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