The latest rumours are that Apple will embrace the big phone trend, following its current 4-inch iPhone 5S with a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 in the fall, and with a 5.5-inch iPhone possibly on the way, too.
Apple’s iPhone size used to be the industry standard as everyone rushed to copy the breakthrough product, and founder Steve Jobs was very particular about size. As Samsung and others had success with larger phones, however, Apple was increasingly on the defensive.
In January 2013, CEO Tim Cook defended Apple’s smaller phone on an earnings call, saying, “The iPhone 5 screen offers a new four-inch retina display. It also provides a larger screen without sacrificing one-handed use. We put a lot of thought into screen sizes and we think we picked the right one.”
Privately, Apple had concluded that “consumers want what we don’t have,” noting on an internal presentation that smartphone growth is all coming from phones that cost less than $US300 or are larger than four inches. Vocal spectators like Business Insider’s Henry Blodget have been asking for a larger iPhone for years. Likewise, Wall Street is drooling about the revenue that could be unlocked by a radical product redesign like a bigger screen — enough with the tweaks and fine-tunings that have characterised recent upgrades.
So should we be excited that Apple is coming out with a bigger phone?
It’s true, big screens have advantages. Most importantly, they are better for watching movies, playing games, and reading comic books or magazines. Potentially, they are better for some complex apps, and arguably, they are better for typing with two hands.
The thing is that smaller screens have advantages, too. Most importantly, they can be used with one hand, which is how I frequently use my iPhone 5S. I can’t imagine doing the same with a larger phone, and my fiancée, who like most women has smaller hands, feels that way even more strongly. Also, smaller screens fit less obtrusively in my pocket. Meanwhile, small screens are just as good for primary functions like for texting, emailing, and most web surfing, not to mention making phone calls and listening to music.
In fact, those small screen advantages are two of my favourite features about the iPhone, while I don’t care much for the advantages of a large screen.
I use my iPhone on the go. I don’t watch movies or play a lot of games on it. When I do want to watch movies or play games, I prefer to do it on my iPad or TV. Indeed, that paradigm seems to be what Jobs had in mind when he designed a smaller smart phone and a larger tablet and a device for TV integration.
Now I don’t want to hold back the future. At this point, Apple should and will go ahead and make a larger phone. Apple often discontinues older models when new ones arrive, so there is a risk that the iPhone 4S will become extinct. But Apple also sells a lot of those phones in places like India, where it functions as a sort of discount model. I just hope they also keep selling the 4-inch model as something more than a reject line meant for kids and emerging markets.
That’s right, I want an option for an 4-inch iPhone 6 — or at least a 4-inch iPhone 6S in the next update — with all of the features and improvements going into the other phone except for the size change. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people want the same.
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