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Why an Apple Phablet Doesn’t Add Up

by Todd Haselton | June 13, 2013June 13, 2013 12:20 pm PDT

iphone-5-in-hand

Apparently Apple is working on a larger-screened iPhone. Apparently this has been the case for a long time. And that’s odd, because the company has denied outright to the press that it has any interest in a larger screened phone. Here’s exactly what Tim Cook had to say just last month:

My only point is these products all served a different person, a different type, they served different needs. For the phone that is the question. Are we now at a point to serve enough people that we need to do that?

I think, maybe, if the market conditions are right we’ll see a 4.7-inch iPhone at some point in the future, mainly because you can add that to a phone and still use it easily with one hand. I don’t, however, see the rumored 5.7-inch iPhone ever seeing the light of day.

No way, no how.

Samsung Galaxy S4 VS Apple iPhone 5-Dialer

First — I think Apple is too smart to enter the market. Sure, Samsung has seen success there, as has LG with its Optimus G Pro. But that’s not Apple’s style, it doesn’t mimic the market and it doesn’t create niche devices. As we’ve seen with the progression from the standard-sized iPad to the iPad mini, Apple is only willing to enter a market where it sees incredible demand and a place where it can differentiate. The iPad mini hit that market because Apple was able to create a cheaper version of the iPad that could appeal to the masses, like education systems or people who were otherwise gravitating away from the more expensive iPad for budget Android devices.

The smartphone market isn’t quite the same. Phablets are more expensive than the iPhone, so Apple would essentially be moving into a more expensive market that’s already been paved by Samsung and LG. Sure, it could differentiate, but only by offering an iOS device at a larger size. But the iPad mini fits those needs just fine.

Plus, we’ve seen with iOS 7, and even in earlier iterations of the mobile operating system. that Apple is dead focused on one-handed usability. It wants users to be able to access everything on the phone while holding it in a single hand. Really, there’s no need to have to use two hands on an iPhone, and it’s why even Android fans have called on Samsung and HTC to develop more powerful devices with smaller screens.

iOS 7 Hands On - 002

Big screens are great, and I’m not knocking the Galaxy Note II or the Optimus G Pro at all. I just don’t think it’s in Apple’s best interest to tackle that arena. A 5.7-inch iPhone could, very likely, give consumers a reason to avoid buying an iPad mini or an iPad altogether. After all, it could provide the both of best worlds: a big screen and the ability to place phone calls. Why eat into its tablet market share when the iPad is so incredibly successful?

Apple doesn’t spray and pray when it comes to creating new products. It analyzes the market and then delivers a product it thinks will meet the needs of a mass consumer base. That’s why we don’t see many options when it comes to the iPhone and why Apple doesn’t usually create budget products, but instead drops the price of early models to help users enter its ecosystem. The rumored budget iPhone could be the only stray away from this territory, but remember, that’s going to be targeted at emerging markets and China, where Apple has fierce competition against local phone makers and others with experience in emerging market territories such as Nokia and BlackBerry.

Samsung Galaxy S4 VS Apple iPhone 5-Web
Yes, I’d love to see a bigger iPhone and, in theory, it would be a lot of fun to play with. I don’t doubt the Reuters report that Apple may be looking at it — why not toy around and see what’s possible?—I just don’t think there are any serious plans to ever bring such a device to the market. At least not in the next few years.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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