September 3, 2014 at 9:16 PM by Dr. Drang
The consensus is that Apple’s going to announce two new, larger iPhones: one at 4.7″ and the other at 5.5″. The iPhone 5s, with its puny 4″ screen, will drop in price and get on the two-year conveyor belt to retirement. If that’s true, it means Apple is abandoning the “compact” smartphone, leaving that market to Samsung and HTC with their Minis.1 I think that’s a mistake, and I wonder if that’s really what Apple plans to do.
I’ve said before that although I’m the perfect target for a larger phone, many people prefer and are better served by the current iPhone size. Women’s clothes, in particular, are typically not designed for carrying large phones, which is why I see lots of women carrying their phones in their back pockets—they just don’t have any other place for them.
This is the point where men often say “But they have purses!” Very observant. You might also have noticed that women don’t carry their purses as they move around their homes or workplaces. But they still want to keep their phones with them.
Tim Cook famously said that he was not going to leave a price umbrella in the tablet market. Shortly thereafter, the iPad mini appeared. I find it hard to believe he wants Apple to leave a screen size umbrella in the phone market, especially since Apple is currently the dominant player in smaller sized phones.
On the other hand, I’ve seen no leaks concerning a new 4″ iPhone. Surely if one were in the pipeline we’d have seen something about it by now. So if there’s no new 4″ iPhone, doesn’t that mean Apple’s giving up on that size? Maybe not.
In moving to a 64-bit processor last year, Apple made a jump in technical specifications that Samsung and HTC still haven’t caught up with. Maybe Apple believes that this head start, combined with a decreasing demand for smaller phones, will allow it to shift to a two-year update cycle for smaller iPhones. In which case, we won’t see a new 4″ phone this year, but we will see one in 2015.
Are you sure Apple won’t use a two-year update cycle because they never have before? Don’t be. First, “Apple always/Apple never” arguments are just plain silly—Apple does what it thinks is best and doesn’t care if it breaks some perceived tradition. Second, the iPod nano and iPod Touch haven’t had a significant update in two years and they both used to be on a one-year update cycle. Times change.
I’m perfectly willing to believe that I’m all wet on this and that Apple’s review of trends has told them that there’ll be no market for smaller phones in a couple of years. If that’s the case, they’ll play out the string with the 5s and that’ll be that.
Which are still bigger than the iPhone 5s, but only by a little. ↩