The latest spanking new (sort of) rumor about the next iPhone mentions two sizes. There will be a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 for regular people, and a 5.5 inch version for those who are caught up in the phablet revolution, or whatever you wish to call it.
Only these stories aren’t new. The Wall Street Journal published an article about similar configurations some months back. The latest rumors quote the usual supply chain sources that have allegedly seen the actual prototypes.
Even if true, that doesn’t mean that any of these models will actually go into production. It’s a sure thing that Apple tests all sorts of configurations before making the final decisions about what to release. But some of the newest rumors are peculiar, because they refer to displays that have no left-right bezel whatever. The screen continues right to the edge, which is a damned peculiar design decision, assuming you can take it seriously.
The news outlets reporting these claims without comment forget one thing. It’s called a case, and the case will overlap the corners of the unit, thus covering a portion of the display. I suppose you can envision a case that covers the sides, and only overlaps top and bottom, which will look rather strange. But they won’t slide off too easily, as opposed to a case with no overlap whatever.
Apple, however, is very much into usability, and you would have to hold your iPhone differently to avoid covering up some of the screen, but why? To reduce the size of the case by a quarter of an inch?
For some reason, though, the next iPhone is being strangely connected to what Samsung will be doing this year. So one particularly stupid source is asserts that, “Apple doesn’t do anything until Samsung does it, and then they improve on it.”
But how does that lame proclamation explain the 64-bit A7 chip, the M7 coprocessor, or Touch ID? Answer: It doesn’t. It’s just another foolish comment by someone who is getting coverage without critical comment. Except here.
Sure, I’m in no position to dispute the claimed sizes or form factors for the next generation iPhone. But I will use a little logic based on what Apple executives have already stated.
We have, for example, Tim Cook, who doesn’t dismiss the concept of a larger iPhone. But he speaks of problems with picture quality, longevity, and the impact of a larger display to battery life. Sometimes, when Apple denigrates a product category, it means they are working on what they perceive to be a solution.
So if there is a 4.5-inch or 4.7-inch or some other larger iPhone, Apple will tout the superior picture quality, the minimum impact to the overall size of the unit, and battery life that matches or exceeds the current levels. Of course, some believe that Apple needs to offer longer battery life, but that’s another matter.
The other issue is being able to conveniently manage an iPhone with one hand, which is what Apple touted when the screen grew from 3.5 inches to 4 inches. That’s not so easy on the 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S4, and certainly impossible on a Galaxy Note phablet. Besides, sales of the iPhone do not appear to be seriously impacted by the lack of a larger model.
If Apple goes that direction — and the current 4-inch iPhone 5s, and maybe the iPhone 5c, will no doubt remain in production — the end result will be large but not too large. While phablets appear to have gained traction in Asia, particularly South Korea, that doesn’t mean that mean that Apple must jump into that sandbox. The real question is whether phablets have staying power, whether people, upon being exposed on an extended basis to an overgrown smartphone, might just choose something smaller next time.
Remember those incessant demands that Apple build a netbook before the iPad came to be? But after the iPad arrived, sales of netbooks collapsed. Not just because of the iPad, but because those shrunken portable computers simply didn’t satisfy customers, although they were popular for a while.
Besides, Apple doesn’t latch onto trends; the goal is to start trends. Consider that most of the smartphones out nowadays are descended from the original iPhone form factor. They might be larger, more powerful, and do more things — needed or otherwise — but the originator is undeniable. It’s not about the BlackBerry, which provided the major inspiration in the market before Apple jumped in.
At the end of the day, I wouldn’t begin to suggest what an iPhone 6 would be like. A larger handset would seem a real possibility, although you can’t depend on the sizes being mentioned on the rumor sites as being accurate. But with rampant supply chain leaks, something will coalesce closer to the time of the new model’s actual release date.
It’s a sure thing that Apple won’t jump into the bigger, bolder, badder game that other smartphone makers are playing. If there’s a larger iPhone, Apple will find a way to justify the move in a way that makes it at least seem different — one hopes better.