Apple testing 6-inch iPhone concepts, of course

Apple has so far released 3.5-inche iPhones from 2007 to 2011, and a 4-inch iPhone in 2012. However, to get to those very specific sizes, Apple likely prototyped everything at quarter-inch intervals in-between. That's why they have Jony Ive, the design group, and all that fancy prototyping equipment in the labs. Which screen size(s) eventually get released and when is a far more interesting question, and difficult one. Here's what Ian Sherr, Eva Dou, and Lorraine Luk for the Wall Street Journal:

The electronics giant has begun evaluating a plan to offer iPhones with screens ranging from 4.8 inches to as high as 6 inches, people familiar with the matter say. That would be a sizable leap from the 4-inch screen of the iPhone 5 released last year, and, at the upper end, would be one of the largest on the market.

The idea a larger screen iPhone moving from prototype into product has been getting more attention over the last year or so, and could be getting much more attention next year. The math works out for a 5 inch iPhone. From 4.3- to 5-inches in probably the sweet spot. 6-inches seems a little on the big side, but could make sense for emerging markets where phones are primary computing devices. (i.e. where the "computer" part is exponentially more important than the "phone" part, and buying more than one device isn't feasible.)

Sure, bigger screens aren't as easy to use one-handed, but casing size can be reduced around the screen, like with the Moto X or come up with software solutions like the gesture navigation in on the BlackBerry Z10.

There's not as much pressure in U.S. markets quite yet, which is why Apple is probably going with a less expensive iPhone 5c instead of a larger screen iPhone right now, but the time will likely come for that soon enough. Perhaps even next.

Once you have the iPhone and its market, increasing that market by annexing adjoining segments just makes sense. Less expensive this year, for first time buyers who are more price sensitive, larger screen next year for people for whom the computing aspect is more important than the phone aspect, and so on.

Apple has two screen sizes for iMac, for MacBooks Air and Pro, for iPad. Is it hard to imagine they'll eventually settle on two screen sizes for iPhone?

Source: Wall Street Journal

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Does this actually mean anything? Surely Apple will test, well every possible size?
  • The point here Rene is what you do with that larger screen.
    I think we 're at a point where there has to be some form of "elegantly realized" multitasking for larger screens such as the iPad or a bigger sized iPhone if it ever comes out.
  • For me it's simply reading. I wear glasses, my eyes are not the best.. I would love a naturally larger screen to read from .. yes, I could use an iPad.. but not on the go. Retina? pfff, couldn't tell the difference.. seriously.. lol
  • It is all in the mind because most of the text in the websites wouldn't be any bigger in a 5 inch screen. Case in point I have an iPad mini and have problem reading the text because the font size is too small whereas the regular iPad is just ok and at times I have to enlarge the font size for a better reading experience.
  • I personally would want a 4.3 inch iphone but nothing bigger than 4.5 inches. I have an iPad I don't want a huge phone, I want to be able to use my iPhone one handed. If apple provides iPhone with multiple screen sizes but virtually identical aside from battery life being probably better with the larger phones that'd be awesome. I'd just be pissed if they only had one iPhone and it was bigger than 4.5 inches.
  • +1! This is exactly what I wanted to say. 6 inches is too big- we have iPad mini for that functionality. I own an iPhone 5 and an iPad 2 (soon to be iPad 5 I hope) and it works great. There are times when a 4.3-4.5 in. screen on my phone would be nice, but for the most part I'm more than satisfied with the current 4 in. screen. Anything too big would just be obnoxious IMHO
  • I wouldn't like to lose the comfort of one handed use. The iPhone 5's size seems close to that limit, but if Apple get the balance and usability right, then a bigger size could be interesting. Sent from the iMore App
  • 3.5" = perfect
    4" = damn close to perfect
    4.3" = I could deal with it if I have to
    4.5" = only would buy it if there were no other options
    > 4.5" = SH!T, where am I gonna keep this thing! Now I see why Samsung is releasing the gear... If only I could leave my phone at home and just wear the watch! Maybe I can hack it, put in a LTE radio so I don't have the limitations of wifi or Bluetooth and maybe, just maybe VPN my phone and my watch! Now that's sweet.... Bring on the 6" screens!!! Sent from the iMore App
  • For the first time that galaxy note 3 made me doubt my love for the iPhone, 2.3 ghz quad core, 3 gigs of memory, 5.7 inch screen, wah?
  • I could take a 7" iPhone, aka iPad mini with phone capabilities enabled. With retina display. I don't hold phone to my ear anyway, rather using speaker or headset depending on where I am. If not that, then minimal phone, small one, which I probably wouldn't use as much more than a phone, and an iPad mini (with retina display) I'd use when full sized iPad was too big to be handy. I need glasses, so retina is very important to me in smaller physical screen sizes. Otherwise I'll need to zoom and the physical size becomes constrained. Full size iPad (retina) is great while iPhone just is too small to use except where voice commands and siri work well. Limited subset of what I want to do. It's hard for me to justify iPad mini if it doesn't replace iPhone, unless of course iPhone mini would replace full sized (and priced) iPhone. So best case for me would be iPad mini with phone functionality, or huge 6" iPhone, with second best being iPhone mini (say 3") combined with iPad mini. Sent from the iMore App
  • You need help Sent from the iMore App
  • This has been obvious and inevitable for a long time now. The biggest constraint has always been iOS. With the iphone 5 and change in aspect ratio, Apple signaled that they're headed this way. I still don't think much of that past article where you think there's no pressure (or not as much) in the US even. Android beats iOS marketshare in the US. Say it to yourself a few more times. Why? Because android phones are cheaper (not much because of subsidies) but more importantly have larger screens. You're only deluding yourself if you think larger screens aren't the main reason people go to android besides the OS itself. Carriers made price differences irrelevant in the US with subsidies. Apple should be wiping the floor in this market. Besides, they already meet the main pricing tiers with iphone 4 (free), iphone 4S (99) and iphone 5 (199). The iphone 5C only allows Apple to better market these lower tiers. You can't keep pointing to the past 4th quarter 2012 as any kind of reliable indicator of demand for screen sizes. That's the quarter the iphone 5 was launched. Apple better dominate its launch quarter. IMO, if Apple offered 5" iphones as well as 4", they would jump ahead of android for least in the US.
  • Having used phones of various sizes (even a Galaxy Note), I can say that I absolutely prefer something that is usable with one hand. To me, 4.5" is pushing it, and my hands aren't small. If Apple went bigger, they would need to introduce features in the software to keep one hand use easy (like Blackberry's "flick" keyboard and gestures, as mentioned above).
  • Yeah, I would say there IS pressure in the US market now. Look at any of the many polls conducted on websites and forums like this one, a huge perecentage of existing customers want bigger screens and become less and less loyal as time goes on. I'm one of them. Not to the point where I'd leave Apple for a larger screen but the thought has crossed my mind, the seed has been planted. And there's no doubt Android is grabbing market share. Apple's one new phone every other year (and an upgraded phone in between) just isn't going to cut it much longer (not sure how the 5C is going to play into that). The marketing barage from Android manufacturers, Samsung in particular, is really changing perceptions. I'm not necessarily saying they're making anything better - but perception, in many cases, is king. To me the solution is simple. Continue to offer a 4" phone. Offer a 4.5"-5" phone as well, everything the same except the display and size of the case, use the extra space for battery. Done. Everyone's happy. I'm sure we'll see a larger phone eventually. Apple will become desperate to keep what they have. I think we're still a year or (more likely) two off though. It does seem like Tim Cook is way more open to giving the public what it wants than Jobs was.
  • I switched to prepaid plans a little over a year ago and am not going back ($30 for unlimited talk and text... and unlimited data for $10 more... c'mon). That being said, I need a very cheap phone, so I bought a bargain-basement Android with Gingerbread. The first few months, I must admit... I hated it! Scrolling is choppy, crashes a lot, UI is inconsistent, only has 50MB for apps (without using SD card, which not all apps can be loaded onto anyway)... horrible smartphone. Then, I traded in my iPad 2 for a mini with 32GB of storage (double what I did have). The mini is much more portable than my iPad 2 ever was, so I carry it with me just about everywhere. And the crappy Android phone is actually quite good at making calls and writing texts... who knew?! I am completely content with my choices at this point :) One "smart" device is plenty for me, and the 2 form factors are great for what they do. I don't want to strap a bluetooth headset on to make calls from my mini, and I don't want to lug around a huge phone to be a stand-in for my home PC.
  • No NOT like blackberry! Like the HP Pre3
  • Steve Jobs is rolling over in his grave now and saying, "what is Cook doing with my minimalism approach to designing simple, beautiful products?" Sent from the iMore App
  • I wish apple would give me an option for a 3.5 inch phone. I hate big phones, and its driving me crazy that everyone is telling apple they need a bigger phone. Look at how many iPhone 4/4Ss they sold this year compared to the 5. I don't think most people really care about a big phone. Maybe if you have giant hands, but that's not the majors population of this world.
  • I think your last point issues the size and popularity of Android phones. As far as selling many 4/4s's...they cost $100 less or are FREE. That doesn't mean people dot care about larger phones. It means those particular people cared more about a cheaper phone.
  • Yes. They should have at least 2 and ideally 3 sizes of iPhone.
    1) 4" for those that like "small"
    2) 4.7" to 5" for those that like big.
    3) 6" for those that want a phablet. Apple should have been releasing at least options #1 *AND* option #2 this year. The fact that my beloved Apple is waiting until 2014 for this is, quite frankly, sad. They are seriously behind here and it's disappointing.
  • It has been written on here that since iPhones account for more than half of carriers' smartphone sales, then large-screen phones must not be in demand as much as some people (and sites) would like you to think they are. My opinion is that a great number of people want a 4.3-5 inch screen, but also do not want to leave iOS, and make the choice to stay with Apple and hope for a bigger-screen iPhone. If Apple were to release a 4.7-inch iPhone, I think that sales would be off the charts, with a large number of them being current Android owners.
    I am trying to stay with my i5, but the Moto X is very tempting. It is the first optimized Android phone, which makes it just as smooth as iOS, and the form factor is still good for one-handed use. Android has made great strides, but I think that a bigger screen iPhone would slow down that train.
  • All these 6 inch screens are pretty dumb to me,
    All it really does is say "hey guys, look at my big phone" or when someone sees you talking on a big block of nothing and they laugh at you.
    Really?? iPad Mini works, but a 6 inch screen is dumb Sent from the iMore App
  • You're right and it's getting ridiculous.
  • Rene, Question 1 -- Another part of the WSJ article suggested Apple was particularly interested in a 4.8" screen. Can you think of a reason why that size would be of such interest (and would the math allow that size to minimize screen resolution fragmentation)? Question 2 -- Could there be a single screen resolution that a 4.8" iPhone 6 screen could somehow share with the rumored 13" iPad Pro? I wonder if this would be a slam dunk way to try to keep things simple, minimize fragmentation, reduce developer work, and introduce two new products in 2014?