Is Apple Wrong About This Major Tech Trend?

When Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) launched its latest and greatest iPhone 5 a couple months ago, one of the biggest changes to the device was that it opted to change the size of the display for the first time in the product's lifetime. The iPhone maker took a slightly different route with how it made the screen bigger, keeping the same width but making it taller and changing the aspect ratio.

Source: Apple.

Apple took it a step farther and preemptively addressed criticism it knew it would get, arguing that keeping the same width made the device more usable with one hand while much of the Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android army has been encroaching "phablet" (the single worst portmanteau ever known to man) territory.

Is Apple wrong?
Archenemy Samsung has now announced that its Galaxy Note 2 device has shipped 5 million units, less than one month after it crossed the 3-million-unit threshold. The South Korean conglomerate's Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 are among its best-selling devices right now, and each feature displays much larger than the iPhone 5.

Device

Display Size

Resolution

iPhone 5

4-inch

1,136 x 640

Galaxy S3

4.8-inch

1,280 x 720

Galaxy Note 2

5.5-inch

1,280 x 720

Sources: Apple and Samsung.

Samsung's not the only Android OEM pushing display size, either. HTC's One X has a 4.7-inch display and its Droid DNA went up to a 5-incher. There's a 4.7-inch screen on LG's Optimus G, the device that Google's own Nexus 4 is based on (so it has the same display).

A study released in September by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech showed that Android adoption is being led by smartphones with larger screens. In the three months covered by the study, 29% of Android devices had a display size of 4.5 inches or larger. The researcher also concluded that a larger display translates into more ways that a user will utilize the device. Say what you will about Apple's approach, but the trend toward phablet devices appears here to stay.

Was Dell right?
One of the greatest ironies with this trend is that Dell (UNKNOWN: DELL.DL  ) was actually an early pioneer into the phablet frontier. The PC giant came out with the Android-powered Dell Streak 5 way back in 2010, predating the current crop of jumbo Android devices. The Streak 5 would last just one year before it was axed.

For a company currently perceived as being stuck in the past, particularly when it comes to mobile computing, how many times in recent memory has it nailed it with future trends?

Woz speaks
Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, a vocal Android enthusiast, called Apple "arrogant" for not making a larger iPhone, since there's obviously a market for large devices. While we can't all carry around a dozen smartphones and tablets like he does, that puts more emphasis on the fewer devices we do buy and it seems a lot of consumers are going bigger.

Woz has a point though: not everyone wants the same thing, and not offering a larger iPhone to appeal to those buyers is a missed opportunity.

Apple's been wrong before
It's not as if Apple's never been wrong before. The iPad Mini is the perfect embodiment of that. After Steve Jobs famously bashed 7-inch tablets, Apple has now launched a tablet in the same category. Jobs was wrong that a 10-inch display was the perfect size for a tablet.

At the same time, one of Apple's biggest strengths has always been its discipline and ability to say no and focus on what it felt was best for users. Apple has the courage of its convictions that its approach is the way to go, but the only entity that will determine if it's right will be the market.

Apple's next earnings release in January will give investors some indication whether the iPhone 5 is sized right or not.

There is absolutely no argument that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.


Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 26, 2012, at 6:53 PM, fauxscot wrote:

    Rehash of tired arguments. You guys pull this every time the stock has a +3% day, just to look "intelligent", I think. Well, it's not working.

    If Apple misses on one or two points, yes, it could hurt. On the other hand, all of the other wannabes are going to have to hit 100% to even start to move up. Dell? Microsoft? Sony? HP? HTC? RIM? Samsung and their "we are only one Apple patent victory away from being out of business" line up of photocopied products?

    Who has an ecosystem? Who has retail outlets? Who dominates manufacturing and supply chains? Who has a pipeline full of brand new products that work, are shipping, and people use? Who already employs the best innovators and has the track record to prove it? Apple.

    Now quit being idiots and start being fools, fools. Jesus.

  • Report this Comment On November 26, 2012, at 7:17 PM, daveshouston wrote:

    The copy-cats can't compete head-to-head against the Apple steamroller. So they have to look for niches that are not in the direct path of the steamroller. Bigger, cheaper, and with a stylus are examples of such niches.

    Apple did introduce the iPad Mini, which is a different form factor. Perhaps they will introduce a larger phone as a future option.

  • Report this Comment On November 26, 2012, at 10:18 PM, 0gre wrote:

    It's hard to take any article that quotes Woz seriously. There is a circus somewhere that misses him dearly.

  • Report this Comment On November 26, 2012, at 10:24 PM, SuntanIronMan wrote:

    Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, a vocal Android enthusiast, called Apple "arrogant" for not making a larger iPhone, since there's obviously a market for large devices."

    There is also a market for small devices... the iPhone market. Some smartphones are big. Some smartphones are small. They don't all have to trend in the same direction (although they all seem to be doing just that). Tablets are trending smaller, phones are trending bigger. Eventually there will be little to no difference between the two.

  • Report this Comment On November 26, 2012, at 10:34 PM, SUPERMANSTOCKS wrote:

    This point has been driven into the ground. Apple is not wrong about the major tech trend. But they won't be at the top either.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2012, at 7:52 AM, jdmeck wrote:

    All just your opinions with no facts. Negative as usual. I for one think the 10" pad is the perfect size and will never buy the mini, nor will I ever buy an oversized phone. Those who want the larger size are not using them primarily as phones. Of course we also know they are not using them for on-line purchases either, so what are they doing? I for one prefer to watch movies videos on my TV.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2012, at 9:28 AM, lucasmonger wrote:

    Everywhere I've looked, the iPhone 5 appears to be sold out with more shipments coming all the time. I know, I know, if I order from Apple.com I could get one in two weeks, but we're trying to do a carrier crossgrade (trade my wife's off-contract phone in for a new one, then a 3 way shift between family members which can only be done at a corporate AT&T store).

    So, it seems to me Apple is not losing that many iPhone users due to the lack of even larger screens. Plus, try finding a variety of cases for all the different sized/shaped Android phones out there... I'll stick with iPhones, thank you.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2012, at 11:11 AM, dlchase24 wrote:

    I don't think the problem is Apple's decision to use a longer but not wider screen, the problem is the rationalization for it. I can easily use my 4.3" screen with a single hand... most importantly, not every hand is the same.

    Apple is arrogant for implying their way is the only way.

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2012, at 7:06 PM, chinaman8 wrote:

    this article is right on, Samsung is selling all those Galaxy's because Apple has no equivalent phone sizes

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