Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) foray into a larger form factor with the newest iterations of its iPhone -- the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus -- have so far been a mixed bag. On the positive side, the company reported an amazing record of 10 million phones sold its first weekend, besting its prior record by 1 million. On the other hand, the company has also faced criticism for being late to increase its screen size.
However, right now, Apple faces another cycle of unfavorable news with regard to its larger, phablet-like iPhone 6 Plus model: It bends out of shape. What originally started as a trickle has exploded to a stream of reports of the device bending on Twitter. Apple's high-end arch-nemesis, Samsung, took to the microblogging site in an attempt to mock Apple.
Obviously, the company would prefer more favorable news coverage; but investors should consider this a minor issue for Cupertino. However, as consumers, have we reached an inflection point in terms of thinness?
A history of devices
Before Apple's first iPhone iteration, form factor and design wasn't a large part of the decision-making process in regards to smartphone selection. In many cases, larger phones were touted as more durable. Throughout the early 2000s, the highest-selling device manufacturer was Nokia. Its highest-selling unit --the Nokia 1110 -- is the highest-selling unit ever; nearly 250 million units were reportedly sold. The phone boasted about its durability.
Apple reinvented the cell phone. Not content with the current design or interface of other phones, the company took design cues from its iPod device, and focused on sleek design and elegance rather than durability. Although there were concerns about durability, the device sold well; by 2008, Apple had the best-selling device -- an achievement it has repeated every year thereafter.
Have we crossed the Rubicon?
Design, much like basis economics, is based on trade-offs. And more recently, phone manufacturers have decidedly pushed in one direction -- thinner. For perspective, the first year Apple led worldwide sales, it was on the strength of the iPhone 3GS. That unit was 12.3 millimeters (0.48 inches) thick, and weighed 4.7 ounces with a 3.5-inch screen. The current phablet-sized iPhone 6 plus is actually 43% thinner; it comes in at 7.1 millimeters (0.28 inches).
The larger iPhone 6 Plus actually weighs more -- 6.1 ounces -- but a lot of that weight comes from an expanded screen size of two inches. The smaller iPhone 6 weighs less than the iPhone 3GS, and packs a screen size more than an inch larger.
The exception to Apple's, and every hardware manufacturer's, quest for smaller has been screen size. As smartphones have become portable content consumption devices, screen sizes have increased. And therein lies the issue: As Apple continues to push the envelope to deliver thinner and lighter devices, at some point, we'll reach a tipping point where thinner devices reduce utility rather than add to it. Personally, I feel we are there considering that most cell phone owners pay for phone cases.
Is this a risk to the investment? Probably not. The problem appears to be isolated in Apple's larger unit. Early third-party results point toward the iPhone 6 outselling the iPhone 6 Plus. Both mobile-analytics companies Fiksu and Mixpanel are reporting adoption rates in decided favor of the smaller model, although they do note the iPhone 6 Plus is harder to find.
Apple has a history of doing right by their customers. First, it will cover some of the bent phones under the warranty -- and you can bet the company is looking to quickly fix the iPhone 6 Plus going forward. For investors, this is a mere temporary issue, and should be treated as such.
Jamal Carnette has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.