Rumored 4.8-Inch Screen Ignites iPhone 6 Speculation
There could be good reason for Apple to stray toward phablet territory. "The 4.8-inch is an almost exact 16:9 enlargement of the 4-inch iPhone screen," suggested Seton Hall University professor Daniel Ladik. If the rumor is true, "all the app developers that updated for iOS 7 will not have to do anything beyond the norm for the larger screen."
The market has only just absorbed the newest offerings from Apple -- the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s -- but already certain elements have started to get excited about the next, big smartphone thing coming out of Cupertino: an iPhone with a larger screen.
The speculation was kicked off on Monday by a research note from analyst Peter Misek of Jefferies & Co. He raised his "hold" rating and US$450 target for Apple to a "buy" with a target of $600, in part over anticipation of the iPhone 6, which he said he has learned will sport a 4.8-inch screen.
Its introduction, he said, will lead to a huge upgrade cycle for Apple.
"We think the 85 million iPhones eligible for an upgrade when the iPhone 6 launches (we think Apple is targeting Sep 2014) could be boosted by another 5-10 million from people who skipped the 5s/5c cycle," Misek wrote. "While we think a 4.8-inch screen iPhone could lead to Apple regaining share vs.Android, just the iPhone installed base refresh supports upside to St FY15 estimates."
At close to 5 inches, Apple's purported new screen is veering into phablet territory -- a device form factor that, despite occasional rumors to the contrary, the company has shunned to date.
Company watchers, therefore, may be excused for wondering, is this rumor different?
It may be, suggested Daniel Ladik, associate professor of marketing at Seton Hall University.
Apple has good reason to move into this area, Ladik told MacNewsWorld. For starters, the company changes its form factor every two years or so, and next year would be the year for it to make this kind of update.
Also, Apple is clearly moving towards a "family of iPhone" and iOS devices, Ladik continued.
The particular screen size that's rumored -- 4.8 inches -- is especially compelling, he said.
"The 4.8-inch is an almost exact 16:9 enlargement of the 4-inch iPhone screen," Ladik explained. If the rumor is true, "all the app developers that updated for iOS 7 will not have to do anything beyond the norm for the larger screen."
Where the Market is Trending
Another reason for Apple to move in this direction is that everyone else in the market is, or already has. Consumers seem to prefer larger screen sizes, and the phablet form factor is in early growth mode.
Nearly 83 million phablets shipped in 2012, ABI Research reported earlier this year, representing an increase of 4,504 percent from 2011. The company expects that more than 150 million phablets will be shipped in 2013, accounting for 18 percent of all smartphone shipments.
Perhaps of greater importance to Apple, however, is that its main competitor -- Samsung -- has made significant inroads into this space.
"Apple may move into the phablet space if only to neutralize Samsung as much as it can in the growing Asian market for the latest fad in mobile devices," said Rich Hanley, associate professor and director of the graduate journalism program at Quinnipiac University.
On the other hand, Hanley continued, Apple is too much of a devotee to high design to just adopt any old form factor.
"In the final analysis, the company's fidelity to design aesthetics suggests it will not transform the iPhone into the clumsy is-it-a-fish-or-fowl form factor of the phablet," he said. "Apple's form simply does not follow the phablet's awkward function," Hanley told MacNewsWorld.
Sign of the Times
There is another interpretation of Misek's report -- one that is less than favorable to Apple.
"Apple moving to a bigger screen for the iPhone 6 may mean that it is recognizing that the minor changes they made with the iPhone have not been enough," David Johnson, principal of Strategic Vision, told MacNewsWorld.
"Apple sees the market share moving in a different direction and believes that to stay competitive it needs to follow direction," he added.
That is well and good, of course, but such a move could alter Apple's brand, Johnson said.
"Apple has been known since its beginning as an innovator and the company that doesn't follow the crowd, and with this move would shed that brand identity," he added.
Apple not respond to our request to comment for this story.