Does the iPhone need a bigger screen?

Joe Brown, New York editor of Wired, discusses Apple’s development of new iPhone features with Emily Chang on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West.”

Well, there’s no doubt that phablets are really, really popular. Despite everybody making fun of the [Samsung] Galaxy Note when it first came out, they sold about half a million of them in no time flat.

So, Apple would be foolish not to pursue a larger screen phone, especially if they’re looking to get into the Chinese market which has been so tough for them to crack. The question is whether adding that SKU is going to dilute their penetration in America and whether it’s going to play well with the U.S. market that traditionally doesn’t love such a big phone.

I think this is Apple experimenting. I don’t think we’re going to see two different phone sizes next year. That’s just my gut.

 
Direct link to video here.

MacDailyNews Take: There is a lot of talk in the video about why Apple iPhone “hasn’t done well” in China. As in most countries, Apple iPhone owns the high end smartphone market in China. It “hasn’t done well” in unit share simply because Apple doesn’t play the unit share game. Apple doesn’t make cheap, low margin phones, and try to make it up in volume.

Apple seeks to delight customers, not just pile them up for piling’s sake.

In fact, Apple has done quite well in China and they are doing better all the time as China’s population slowly grows richer and they are able to afford high-end products. Also of note, the iPhone 5c is selling better in relation to iPhone 5s than iPhone 4s sold in relation to iPhone 5. This tired meme that iPhone 5c is “not selling” is simply not supported by facts. iPhone 5c is not a cheap iPhone for emerging markets. Anyone who judges it as such has no earthly idea what they’re talking about.

All that said, by now, of course the world’s most valuable company should have more diverse range of iPhone display sizes available to the public. Besides the old ‘that’s what my friends/family told me to get,’ a larger screen is the number one reason given when we ask people why they settled for a fragmandroid phone instead of getting themselves a superior iOS device.

75 Comments

      1. Yup. If the iPad mini was successful, don’t see why another sized ‘wider’ screen wouldn’t be successful as well. But they should still keep the skinny iphones too. Some consider compactness as a feature.

        1. They could just add phone capabilities to the iPad Mini to make a phablet, for those Note size lovers. But I also think that Apple would do well to add a larger iPhone into the mix. I happen to like the current size; I was happy with the 4S size, but the marketplace has proven that there is a large segment of mobile phone users that prefer a larger screen. I heard several of my Android-using friends remark that they’d come back to iPhone if there was a larger screen option.

      2. Creates a hassle for developers. The wide variance of screen sizes is the biggest cause of fragmentation in Android. That, and the lack of updates for even slightly old models.

        Resolution Independence would fix this, and allow Apple to create any phone size they desire, without creating a mess for developers.

        1. @ MrMcLargeHuge,
          Screen variance is not the cause of Android fragmentation. As a software developer, I can tell you that few things are easier to plan for than a range of screen sizes, as long as the minimum and maximum sizes are known.

          Android fragmentation is a problem for the most part because:
          1) Android hardware differs on many dimensions across dozens (hundreds now?) of models actively being used.
          2) Android licensees customize Android (for look, hardware compatibility, and other aspects) so the same versions of Android on different phones are not identical.
          3) The licensee customizations make for a very difficult/unreliable/slow Android OS upgrade process, as each Android update from Google must be re-customized by each licensee for each phone. The result is many Android phones are never updated and high percentages of active phones remain running old versions.

          All these reasons create an extremely diverse set of Android platforms to keep up with. Testing across all versions of Android, and each handset each version can run on, is not feasible even for large software developers.

          A well defined range of screens sizes for iPhones, with a limited number of recent iOS versions, is not a software support problem. As a software developer I welcome a little more choice in the iPhone family as it means more people are likely to buy into this simpler to support ecosystem.

        2. Screen size is not the key software issue when it comes to fragmentation. The number of pixels and aspect ratio of the display is paramount. If those are equivalent between two devices, such as the iPad Air and iPad mini retina, then the only effect is that icons and text are smaller. That is relatively simple to address.

          Right now, the iPhone 5c/5s differs from the 4s in number of pixels (vertical) and aspect ratio. And all iPhone models differ from the iPad, both in number of pixels and aspect ratio. That is fragmentation, although to a much more minor degree that in the Android ecosystem.

      1. I’ll be 82 next month. While I have no objection to Apple making a future iPhone with a larger screen for those who want that, I don’t want an iPhone larger than the 5S. I want to be able to carry the phone in a pocket or clipped to my belt.

        When I’m doing a lot of Web browsing, reading or writing I do prefer a larger screen. That’s why I’ve also got an iPad Air and a MacBook Pro Retina. Apple has me solidly hooked. 🙂

        Did I mention how good the camera is in the iPhone 5S, and that it streams those photos to my other devices?

    1. tl;dr: HELL NO!

      I don’t carry a purse or wear cargo pants like most of you metros. I do NOT want my phone to grow in size! It should fit in my back pocket comfortably.

      I have my iPad & MBPro for when I anticipate needing a bigger screen.

    1. Idk, there is clearly a market for bigger screens. That can be considered another category for apple to not only address, but essentially take over.

      I see dudes with fat fingers choosing droids strictly on screen size.

      Then u have women that type “blackberry style” on their droids and carry their phones in their purses.

      And others don’t mind (lookg lame IMO) having a phablet since it has enuf real estate as a tablet, but has phone functions with a carrier plan that doesnt require an additional data plan.

    2. A diversion from true innovation? Really? How is that? How does screen size affect innovation? So when Apple went from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5, they lost their ability to innovate? Please! That’s embarrassing. If there wasn’t a demand for a larger phone why did Apple increase the size of the iPhone from the 4S to the iPhone 5?…………..? It’s bigger. May not be wider but it’s bigger. Why did Apple bother to make a taller phone? Because that’s what people wanted. They wanted a larger phone. And without retooling much Apple could at least make it a taller phone quickly. And they did. If they could have stepped on the 4S and made it wider they would have done that also. But that would have required complete retooling and the inability to maximize profits on that form factor.

      And it’s a larger iPhone not an iPad mini size phone. There is a huge demand for a phone around 5 inches. That is the sweet spot. And also a large demand for a 5.5 to 5.7 inch phone. So those who keep throwing out the iPad mini size solution are being disingenuous at best.

      There is clearly a market for larger iPhone always has been. Just because Apple misjudged the market doesn’t mean that everyone that wants a larger iPhone went away. They simply had to buy the current iPhone rather than something else. Think about that for a minute.

      And as others have said, there are two sizes of iPads aren’t there? Why is that? It appears that Apple will have an even larger iPad coming next year. What will the naysayers say then? Remember when the iPad mini was not coming according to some here? One of you in particular. How did that turn out?

      The introduction of the iPad has been wonderful. Just picked up my iPad Air last week. Very nice. I have had the iPad one, two, three and now the Air. Using the iPad and then going to your iPhone makes it so obvious that a larger screen is needed. And would be such a luxury. For those who have small hands I’m sure Apple will still keep the current form factor around for a couple of years.

      Bigger is generally better. As long as it is manageable and practical. Does everyone here still have a 17 inch television? Or do you have a 42, 60, 70 inch or bigger television? It may take up a little more real estate but it is so much better for the main objective: viewing. Same holds true for a phone. The main objective is viewing the phone so you can use it. It has a screen for a reason : viewing. If it didn’t have a screen it could be the size of a pack of chewing gum. But it does have a screen. That screen is there for a reason. And the bigger the screen the easier it is to view. Thus to operate. And to type on. The keyboard on my 5S is so very small. Unless you have a very small fingers. And perhaps a lot of you do? You can’t fit an iPad mini in your pocket. So clearly something that large is impractical. Though it is certainly easy enough to hold with one hand. At least for most of us. But there is a sweet spot or two and Apple will find them.

      A bigger iPhone. It’s coming. Or more likely, they are coming. Would’ve been there sooner but Apple misjudged the market. Yes the 5S is selling wonderfully. Not so much the 5C but I believe that will pick up eventually also. But the sales of those two phones have nothing at all to do with a larger iPhone. Nothing at all. That is all about people with contracts that have expired and they are now eligible for a new phone. Just like me. I didn’t really want the 5S, except for the fingerprint sensor that now doesn’t seem to be working very well, but I got it anyway. Why not? And it’s also all about those of us who live and die with Apple products and have no intention of ever leaving the ecosystem. What? Apple doesn’t make a larger iPhone so I’m going to go out and buy a droid? Hardly. Same holds true for all those millions of others who are purchasing the 5S and 5C. So of course they are selling well. But if you placed a 5 inch iPhone (with the same features ) next to the current 5S and 5C the larger iPhone would be the clear winner. Hands-down. So current sales have nothing to do with the fact that Apple doesn’t have the larger iPhone yet. Just wait until Apple does have the larger iPhone, it will make sales of the 5S and 5C pale in comparison. And they’ll sell like hotcakes!

    3. Good design is about customer benefits, not innovation trophies. Obvious improvements are worth doing. A lot of “true innovation” is worth saying no to. Obvious or innovative, its about creating better products.

    1. Many of us prefer the current 5S/5 size screen (I just got the 5S about 2 weeks ago, and my “old” 4S seems so small now!). However, I wouldn’t want something much larger because I keep my iPhone in my pocket. I don’t use a case because I don’t like it being bulky, and I really notice how much thinner and lighter the 5S is than the 4S.

      But some people may want a larger screen, and that would be fine as long as Apple keeps the current size as an option. Charge more for a larger screen iPhone if it wants.

      1. Totally agree with u. Some have just become accustomed to a larger screen and don’t mind it not fitting in their pocket.

        If Apple releases a wider phone, apple gets to keep the high end consumers of bigger screens and kill off the more profitable part of Androids(mostly samsung, the rest already lost to samsung). Let them fight over the smaller margin phones

        Samsung, LG can have the 5 inch category. Nowhere the same volume seen as galaxy 3 & 4.

  1. For me when it comes to the iPhone size does not matter. Very happy with the current size. If I need bigger, I just pull out my mini which is not that often. I travel with both devices.

  2. Sometimes I’m using my phone and think it would be nice to have more scree, but the majority of the time it’s absolutely fine and I wouldn’t want to have to fit something bigger in my pocket. Personally I want a phone that can change size.

  3. There is a passionate group that is loudly demanding large screens. The author of this article is part of this group. His data is skewed, though; Samsung may have sold “500,000 in no time flat”, but only if we qualify that “no time flat” as first six weeks (or months). Compared to all other phone sizes, “phablets” (i.e. large-screen smartphones) represent minuscule segment of the market. The three big players in the Android market (Samsung, LG, HTC) all have a model or two with big screen, but none of those are anywhere near the top-ten best selling list.

    Large-screen phones are an interesting phenomenon. A lot of people talk about it, they create a lot of noise and buzz, but not many people actually decide to buy them. The general perception is “This is totally cool and awesome. But it’s just a bit too big for my pocket / hand / purse / manpurse”.

    I’m not sure Apple is willing to pursue a market segment that does generate disproportionate amount of buzz, but that buzz doesn’t translate into actual sales. It is just the question of: How many is enough to make it worth while. I would be surprised if they decided to do this.

    1. Your conclusion is based on data regarding large Android phones. Your observation may or may not be accurate? But there is no large iPhone so your argument is flawed. Only after Apple releases the larger iPhone or iPhones can you compare larger Android phones to larger iPhones. The sales of larger Android phones is irrelevant. They are android phones not iPhones. There is a difference. If you doubt it, ask anyone on this site? The Zune didn’t sell well even though the iPod was selling by the millions every day. If the iPod is selling like hotcakes then of course the Zune should succeed . How could it not? Right? Data showed that the iPod was a runaway bestseller so the Zune was certain to follow. Just one example of a flawed assumption/observation. It’s an iPhone.It’s not an Android phone. It will be larger and will be here within a year. And it has nothing to do with the sales of larger Android or anyone else’s larger phones. It’s a larger iPhone. And it will sell like hotcakes!

      1. Your premise is flawed. Comparing Android sales to iPhone sales is valid, as they very closely resemble each other (remember, Google purportedly stole iOS and put it in Android; Jony Ive purportedly took the look of Android and put it in iOS7). The devices serve the same function, they go after the same market and have too many similarities to be called irrelevant.

        Within the Android’s own market space, large-screen devices aren’t taking a major market share. There is absolutely NO data point anywhere to indicate that if Apple were to make a large phone, that it would for some reason sell “like hotcakes!”. Every relevant information that we currently have available to us to draw conclusions from points that large phones are NOT attracting that many buyers. To propose that Apple would suddenly completely change this is essentially just pulling it out of thin air.

        1. Because Samsung quickly sold 500K phat phones, an analyst is emboldened to insist “Apple would be foolish not to pursue a larger screen phone”.

          If by foolish they mean failing to scurry after a market slice with unproven permanence, one that may be accompanied by diminished margins, and refuse to grub away market share from mole-like competitors, preferring their white-gloves approach and hard-won reputation as prime innovator, then Apple stands guilty as charged, showing a fool’s contempt for conventional business practices.

          But if by foolish they refer to the inaccessible riches of the imagination, the wild card in negotiations and tournaments, the genius of thinking outside the box, the divine madness that dances in our dreams and yearns to be made flesh, why, I believe Apple would admit to such folly with alacrity — and has in fact done so all along.

    1. Talkatone works very well for me on WiFi. I don’t really get to use it that often (my iPhone is always in my pocket anyway), but with Google Voice account, it works fairly flawlessly as advertised.

      The only fundamental problem with VoIP applications for iOS (and for all other OSes, for that matter) is that there is vast inconsistency in the reliability and robustness of public Internet connections. In most cases, when you connect via WiFi to a home network, bandwidth is abundant and consistent, so you get good service. In public places, though, it is enough for two people on the same WiFi to jump on YouTube to clog the network and introduce frequent dropouts. Mobile data networks suffer from similar problems, with inconsistent accessibility and bandwidth, which often causes dropouts that seriously degrade VoIP performance. The voice segment of the mobile network is engineered to be robust, which makes these latency problem for the most part non-existent, but with data networks, all bets are off.

      Mobile VoIP largely works, but one must manage one’s expectations. It will never be as reliable and consistent as mobile voice connection.

    1. Blowing his nose with a man-sized facial tissue from the last remaining box.

      (Sales of those dropped off as replacements reverted to standard size. In the long run, scent and colour diversification worked much better than size diversification in that product category.)

  4. As long as screen size doesn’t disturb one hand usability. At times it would be nice to have a larger screen but not at the cost of usability. Curved screens and ergenomic work would be needed to make it work

  5. I think Steve got it right the first time. A larger phone would not feel good in my pocket, the iPad mini is too small. The problem is people think they want a choice, but in reality some people have to make those mistakes for themselves.
    That being said, maybe a larger iPad would be nice.

    1. I disagree. The 5S phone size is better than the original screen size. I barely notice the 5S in my pocket compared to my 4S, which is interesting. I think it’s because the 5S is not only thinner and lighter, but the length of the phone distributes the weight better. Plus, I think the extra screen height is perfect for many apps, especially filling in forms in Safari (you can actually see the blank fill in as you’re typing).

        1. I think they could actually go with a bezel-less design in the future to make it smaller for females with smaller hands. It would be like an iPod minification of the iPhone. Smaller but even more luxurious and fashionable.

          On another note, this was actually a pretty darn good interview.

          1. Indeed, that is the sweet spot. I do believe we’ll see it sooner rather than later, allowing that Apple have pursued miniaturisation with a vengeance, tackling it from every angle. At five foot even, I approve, and the leprechauns are all in as well.

  6. I’m pretty happy with the iPhone 5/5c/5s screen . . . BUT I would consider a larger size if it only widens the phone a tad, doesn’t lengthen it much (if at all) and gains the size basically from eliminating the bezel.

    And if it thinned out even more in the process, I think it would be a fabulous compromise. Bigger size, less weight, longer battery life — only Apple could pull that off.

    In the end, we might only be talking about another .5 inches diagonally but that would be a pretty sweet device.

  7. I have been using Apple products since 1984 and have the full range including the 5S and have just ordered the Mini Retina .
    I for one think that the iOS experience is second to none but would go for a larger iPhone .
    Near vision starts to deteriorate for most people after the age of 40.Not only is that a sizeable demographic but it is also the demographic with disposable income .

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