Deja vu, infinité: rumors of a larger iPhone are back
The rumor of a larger iPhone refuses to die.
Reuters reports that Apple is set to begin production on 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays for new iPhone models expected to be announced later this year. The report follows similar predictions from the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, which covered the larger screens' development in January 2014 and November 2013, respectively. (Bloomberg also reported that the displays curved towards the top and bottom, but both the Journal and Reuters report to the contrary.)
Apple has been rumored to be working on larger displays before. Reuters reported in March 2012 that the company was working on a 4.6-inch display for the iPhone 5, a prediction that proved false just a few months later when the iPhone 5 was announced with a 4-inch display. The Journal reported in July 2013 that Apple was testing larger displays for both the iPhone and the iPad, and that suppliers were told to prepare shipments of the new devices in August of that year. Once again, the new iPhone and iPad models introduced in 2013 did not have bigger displays.
These rumors follow a familiar cycle: someone in Apple's supply chain whispers in a reporter's ear, those whispers are written up into widely-read reports, Apple announces a product that doesn't quite match the expectation created by those reports, and then the process begins anew. (Cue the "time is a flat circle" spiel, complete with beer can metaphor, from "True Detective.") Then something matching the reports -- a slightly larger display, a plastic-backed iPhone -- is announced, breathing life into the hype cycle and vindicating the publication of such rumors.
So a larger iPhone might be coming. It could be announced this year, or it could be announced next year. It could feature a curved display, but it probably won't. There might actually be two new display sizes announced. It's doubtful that many outside the company know Apple's plans. But the whispers will continue, the reports will spread, and the hype cycle will circle this crushed Lone Star beer can we call time.
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Reuters reports that the larger display could be delayed by technical problems:
Both iPhone 6 screens are expected to use in-cell touch panel technology - built into the screen and allowing for thinner construction than with standard touch panel films - that was introduced with the iPhone 5, the sources said.
But due to difficulties with in-cell production technology for the larger 5.5-inch size, one of the sources said, a decision was made to begin mass production with the 4.7-inch version alone. The Wall Street Journal notes the popularity of large displays in countries like China:
The plans for larger iPhones come as Apple is losing market share to rivals who offer bigger screens. Those models have proved popular as more people use the handsets to play games, watch video or surf the Web. Samsung's 5-inch Galaxy S4 and 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 are among its best-selling models.
Bigger screens are particularly popular in China, an important market for Apple's growth, where Chinese manufacturers offer smartphones with larger screens at a lower price than the iPhone. Apple this month started offering iPhones through the country's largest carrier, China Mobile Ltd. Bloomberg claims that large, curved displays would be added to the iPhone in response to products recently released by Samsung:
Two models planned for release in the second half of next year would feature larger displays with glass that curves downward at the edges, said the person, declining to be identified because the details aren’t public. Sensors that can distinguish heavy or light touches on the screen may be incorporated into subsequent models, the person said.
With screens of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, the two new models would be Apple’s largest iPhones, the person said, and would approach in size the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 that Samsung Electronics Co. debuted in September. The South Korean maker last month released its curved-screen Galaxy Round, the latest phone in an array of sizes and price points that’s helping keep Samsung ahead of Apple in global market share. [Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pando]