It may seem early, but predictions about the iPhone 6 actually started pretty much around the time the iPhone 5s was released. I would be surprised if some tech pundits began to project the changes in an alleged iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 before long.
But there seems to be one consistent factoid about the next iPhone, that it is destined to sport a larger display. Maybe there will be two versions, with displays under five inches and over five inches. All this supposedly to meet the competition from Samsung and other companies, which have a rich lineup of big smartphones.
While iPhone says are still going pretty well, at least according to Apple’s financials for the holiday quarter, tech and financial pundits continue to maintain that loads of sales are being left on the table because of perceived demand for bigger screens.
Now it’s not that Apple has completely dismissed the notion of making iPhones with displays of larger than four inches. In recent interviews, CEO Tim Cook has pointed to alleged shortcomings of existing larger displays in terms of display quality and battery life. It’s not that big screen smartphones have poor battery life, since handset makers will simply outfit them with batteries that are large enough to accommodate the additional needs. The argument about picture quality is also debatable.
But Apple won’t add multiple sizes willy nilly. Too many sizes make it difficult for developers to optimize their apps, and it also works against simplifying choices for customers. Some of the existing choices are absurd, such as increasing the size of the Samsung Galaxy S5’s display to 5.1 inches, compared to 5 inches for its predecessor. It hardly makes sense except to have a larger spec to tout. Indeed, this is one product refresh that has been deemed a yawner even by members of the media who usually fawn over anything Samsung as the epitome of innovation.
Apple is also clearly concerned about being able to use a smartphone with one hand. With small fingers, even the existing iPhone 5 series is a bit of a stretch. Five inches is impossible, and the predicted sizes of the rumored iPhone 6 range from 4.5 to 4.7 inches. But an iPhone phablet would appear fit into the “dream on” category. Beyond being a fad, particularly in Asia, do people really want smartphones that large?
The 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S4 was hard enough to stuff into my pocket, and usability has to count for something among customers. At least that’s Apple’s stock in trade.
Now one industry analyst, Brian Marshall of ISI Group, is claiming that a phenomenon known as “large-screen envy” exists, where potential iPhone customers aren’t upgrading as quickly because Apple has yet to surpass four inches. He also believes that there would be more Android switchers if Apple would only consent to a bigger iPhone. Clearly he knows about snappy quotables, by referring to it as the “mother lode of all upgrade cycles.”
But you wonder where he’s coming up with these estimates. His report measures upgrade rates but doesn’t actually produce a survey showing how many people are holding off switching to an iPhone, or just upgrading the existing product, because Apple has yet to embrace larger displays. Without a real survey based on a random sampling of both iOS and Android users, how does one know, or is it all about pulling out estimates from some dark place?
While Apple is not a company to deliver a product simply because sales might be high, there really isn’t much to argue about here. Apple could easily suggest that the new, larger iPhone 6 has the best display in the industry, that, after years of research, the problems with existing products have been solved.
But larger screens do not constitute innovation. Unless some new or better display technology is employed, it’s more about parts swapping.
That, however, hasn’t stopped some media pundits from doing comparisons with an existing product, the latest Samsung flagship smartphone, and what they perceive to be included in an iPhone 6. As you might expect, Apple ends up second best in this vaporware comparison.
Now aside from a larger display, and perhaps a camera with more megapixels and some related refinements, the speculation about the next iPhone is more about the possible new features in iOS 8. It is expected there will be more health and fitness monitoring features. I can see where pulse and temperature might be measured, but not blood pressure and other readings that might require additional hardware. But some of those rumors may be more about an iWatch than an iPhone, though you’d expect some feature sharing should Apple get into the wearables business.
But after all is said and done, until the next iPhone appears, or we get some really solid predictions close to the release date that may be based on information from the supply chain, all the speculation you’ve read so far is just that. The product does not exist, and the final feature set remains in the realm of fantasy.