Apple does a very good job placing itself between the proverbial rock and a hard spot. When the iPhone launched in 2007 with a 3.5-inch display, competitors were eager to follow with every more larger displays.
In marketing, differentiation is key. It didn’t make much sense for iPhone copiers like Samsung to make a smart phone with a screen smaller than the iPhone’s 3.5-inch form factor, hence, larger is different, and different is better.
Personally, I think the 3.5-inch iPhone screen was probably the perfect size screen but it lives in an imperfect world where bigger is often considered better. The 3.5-inch iPhone screen fits perfectly in the hand, palm and fingers of most smart phone users. But most is to equivalent to everyone.
Along came iPhone competitors with ever more larger screens; first 4-inch, then 4.5-inch, 5-inch, and now a 6-inch display. Huawei’s Ascend Mate is an Android-powered phablet; blurring the lines between a phone and a tablet. Try sticking that into your pocket.
One side benefit to smart phone phablets with humongous screens is the ability to stick in a larger battery. It’s needed for the screen, but also powers more like a tablet.
The questions facing Apple watchers today are simple and straightforward. Does Apple need a smaller iPhone, say, an iPhone mini? And, does Apple need a larger iPhone, something akin to a 5.5-inch display?
I say yes.
First, a smaller iPhone wouldn’t need to be smaller, but merely less expensive. How Apple makes an iPhone less expensive is subject to debate, but not gouging customers on storage would be a good start. Ditch the Retina display would reduce costs, too.
Second, a larger iPhone with a 5.5-inch screen would be more akin to a phablet, ala the Ascend and the Samsung Galaxy Note II. Screen resolution gets tricky at 5.5-inches because Apple has locked itself into Retina display land for all iOS devices so iOS applications don’t swim on the screen.
The broadened iOS device line would start at a less expensive, lower quality iPhone, move to last year’s iPhone, this year’s iPhone, then the iPhone phablet, then the iPad mini without Retina display, an iPad mini with Retina display, and, of course, the larger iPad with Retina display.
By adjusting the resolution of either the iPhone scaled upward, or the iPad mini scaled downward, Apple could overcome the Retina display resolution problem for the iPhone 5.5-inch phablet. I haven’t done the resolution math but the idea is plausible.
Does Apple need to market a less expensive, un-locked iPhone model for the masses? And, does Apple need an iPhone phablet in the 5-inch- to 6-inch range?