Start talking about the iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 screen sizes and you’re sure to hear from consumers who want a larger screen and from an equally adamant set of users who don’t want Apple to mess with the one-handed ease of use that comes with a 3.5-inch or 4-inch display.
These conversations highlight the difficulty in announcing one phone every year, rather than offering phones in multiple sizes like Motorola, Samsung, HTC and others do.
Perhaps the easiest way for Apple to appeal to both markets is to offer multiple iPhone models. Not an iPhone 6 with a larger display and last year’s iPhone 5S, but a collection of devices that arrive at the same time to serve specific users rather than a one size fits all solution.
Tim Cook managed to spend an hour and a half talking at the All Things D 11 conference last night without actually saying much about Apple’s plans for the future, but one series of questions stands out as a small reveal of where Apple might go.
When asked by Walt Mossberg if Apple would come out with multiple iPhone models in the same year, Tim Cook responded,
“We haven’t so far, that doesn’t shut off the future.”
You can watch the entire exchange below, which gives insight into why Apple focuses on a single iPhone each release.
The short version, as Tim Cook explains, is that it takes a “lot of really detail work to do a phone right when you manage the hardware, the software and the services around it.” According to Cook, Apple chose to put their energy into getting those things right with the iPhone and in doing so focused on a single iPhone model rather than a collection of iPhones.
There is no need for Apple to announce multiple iPhone models, specifically one with a larger screen, just because the competition is doing this. That said, when Cook relates the reasoning to the iPod portfolio we begin to see where Apple could offer an iPhone in multiple sizes. Cook states, “My only point is these products all served a different person, a different type, they served different needs.” Cook adds,
“And so on the phone, that is the question. … Are we now at a point to serve enough people that we need to do that?”
While the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One didn’t command the same opening weekend sales as the iPhone 5, these devices and larger ones like the Galaxy Note 2, show there is consumer interest in a larger screen iPhone. This is from users who don’t want a larger screen for the sake of a larger screen, but to serve specific purposes of creativity, productivity, mobile gaming and mobiel viewing.
Whilke talking about wearables in the same interview Tim Cook talks more about the idea of a device serving a specific purpose. Cook explains that fitness devices that do more than one thing, aren’t “great.” If we step this back and combine it with Cook’s comments on why Apple offers multiple iPod sizes we can see why one iPhone that tries to do all things for all users might not be great, and why Apple could be open to a larger iPhone in the future.
Apple isn’t ready for a higher resolution or larger display in the iPhone yet. Cook re-iterated his disapproval of the larger displays found in mobile phones stating, ” A large screen today comes with a lot of tradeoffs. Cook went on to list color, white balance, reflectivity, battery life, brightness and longevity of the display before praising the iPhone 5’s Retina Display. Cook does open up to the idea closing his answer with,
In a hypothetical world where those tradeoffs didn’t exist, you could see that [a larger screen] being one of the things that differentiates.
It’s important to consider the context of Cook’s statements. Apple is not currently offering a phablet or a cheaper iPhone because the company doesn’t see the a need that the iPhone 5 can’t fill in the phone space and the screens aren’t up to Apple’s standards.
As Apple works with display companies and as consumers vote for larger screens with their wallets, Apple could come around to offer a larger screen iPhone model. Rather than selling an iPhone 6 with a larger display and forcing users that want a smalle display to pick last year’s tech, we could see the introduction of an iPhone portfolio.
Based on the industry and rumors, 2014 and the iPhone 6 is the first likely release we would expect to see Apple release multiple iPhone models. While at least one analyst feels Apple will do this with the iPhone 5S, it is more likely that Apple will save such a change for a new generation.