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Apple Inc's iPhone 6 Could Be Too Small

Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) next flagship iPhone, the iPhone 6, is widely expected to have a 4.7-inch screen. Several major media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and the Nikkei have reported on the existence of a forthcoming larger iPhone, too.

But by the time the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 is released, will it be too small? Ahead of the iPhone 6's debut, Android hardware manufacturers have continued to offer larger phones, many of which would dwarf a 4.7-inch iPhone.

LG, Samsung and HTC's phones just keep getting bigger
HTC was one of the first handset manufacturers to offer a larger smartphone -- its EVO 4G, released in 2010, sported a 4.3-inch screen that reviews (at the time) characterized as "beastly." In retrospect, it was positively tiny, as HTC's current flagship, the One M8, is nearly an inch larger.

Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF  ) , too, has gone bigger over time. The original Galaxy S was only 4 inches; the Galaxy S5 is 5.1. That means that Samsung's current flagship is almost as large as its original phablet, the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note.

LG's 2014 flagship, the G3, actually is larger. At 5.5-inches, it's the same size as LG's prior phablets. With the G lineup converging with its Optimus phones, LG may be poised to phase out smaller smartphones entirely, focusing strictly on phablets, and calling into question the need to even make such a distinction.

Will Apple release a phablet?
Many of the reports that have said Apple is planning to release a 4.7-inch iPhone have also claimed that it will release a 5.5-inch variant -- its own phablet; an alternative to Samsung's Galaxy Note.

But the likelyhood of this phone releasing in the near future is far from certain. Reuters, citing supply chain sources, reported that Apple had run into issues with the 5.5-inch screen, and was forced to delay its production by several months. Taiwanese website Commercial Times went further, claiming that 5.5-inch iPhone would not be released until 2015.

Of course, these reports are unconfirmed and unreliable. What's far more certain is the growing popularity of phablets, and the glaring lack of a such a device in Apple's product portfolio.

Samsung said it sold more than 10 million Galaxy Note IIIs during the device's first two months on the market, and that emerging markets in particular have been highly receptive. Research firm IDC made a similar observation, noting that phablets outsold both and tablets and laptops in most Asian countries during the second quarter of last year. On a global basis, analysts at Deloitte Canada now expect phablets to outsell tablets in 2014.

Apple is aware of its size problem
Despite not releasing a larger smartphone, Apple is well aware of the demand. In an internal slide originally composed in 2012, Apple declared that consumers wanted what it didn't have -- namely larger phones with screen sizes larger than 4 inches.

But that slide seems woefully out of date. With most Android manufacturers having moved on to phones even larger, a better dividing line may have been 5-inches, or perhaps even more. Assuming it's released, a 4.7-inch iPhone would be a step in the right direction, but with the market shifting toward phablets, even that may be far too small. More important to the future of Apple's handset business could be its 5.5-inch phablet -- hopefully the company debuts such a device later this year.

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Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 3:24 PM, twolf2919 wrote:

    "Samsung said it sold more than 10 million Galaxy Note IIIs during the device's first two months on the market" - so this is something Apple should emulate in its next iPhone? For comparison, Apple sold 10 million iPhones (5s, 5c) in the first WEEKEND of availability. And both devices have "only" a 4" display.

    Nobody is denying that there is a market for larger phones. But, clearly, there is a much larger market of customers for whom a larger screen is NOT that important (compared to other things). Apple is willing to up the screen size in the iPhone 6 in an attempt to entice some of the folks for whom a larger screen is important - but it would be foolish (pun intended) to suggest that Apple should go after the relative few folks for whom screen size is the end all, be all.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 4:06 PM, dbtuner wrote:

    Larger phones suk. Too big to carry and just too heavy. Only poor people buy large phones because they can't afford a phone and a tablet. Apple's customer base is not poor people

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 4:06 PM, jdmeck wrote:

    Could, could, could. How about we just wait and see?

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 4:17 PM, bytre wrote:

    As I age, my eyes are starting to lust for a larger screen.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 4:19 PM, zrohlfs wrote:

    What dbtuner said. I am personally looking for a smaller phone to replace my current phone and will most likely go with the HTC One Mini, Moto X or the new Apple 6 depending on size.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 4:22 PM, marv08 wrote:

    "Reuters, citing supply chain sources, reported that Apple had run into issues with the 5.5-inch screen, and was forced to delay its production by several months. Taiwanese website Commercial Times went further, claiming that 5.5-inch iPhone would not be released until 2015."

    You mean the same sources that said there will be no iOS 8 during WWDC as Apple needs all resources for OS X Yosemite, the same sources that said that initial supplies of the iPhone 5s would be limited (happened to be the fastest roll out for any device ever). The same sources that predict this type of doom for every single Apple product?

    Even you should "get" by now that they are not worth listening to.

  • Report this Comment On June 17, 2014, at 4:56 PM, yragsapo wrote:

    If large phones like the Galaxy S5 is so great, how come the iPhone 5S' sales are so much better, despite it costing more. Why are we not hearing about "Camera-gate", since the Galaxy S5 has the huge camera failure issue. The funny thing is that Samsung can't even blame their suppliers, as they manufactured their own camera. I guess this proves that Samsung was paying off the media to slam Apple for every last issue, unless it was one of the mega-rich, who was manipulating the stock market. You and I will never know.

  • Report this Comment On June 19, 2014, at 2:01 AM, THIGV wrote:

    I once observed an employee in a Cantonese restaurant using a character recognition program to send a email. He created characters on a screen with a stylus and hit a button to move them into the message. This would have been very difficult on a small screen. A small screen may be enough for text messages in English but may not be best in the world's largest market. Apple is going in the right direction to increase sales in China.

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Sam Mattera

Sam has a love of all things finance. He writes about tech stocks and consumer goods.

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