Will a bigger iPhone push iPad buyers towards the Air... or Pro?

The iPhone 6, which is presumably going to be announced next month, is also presumably going to have a larger screen — 4.7- and/or 5.5-inches larger according to rumors. When you get towards 5.5, you become as much mini tablet as you do big phone. Apple already makes a mini tablet, of course — 7.9-inches of iPad mini to be precise. It's widely believed to be the more popular of the two iPad models, outselling the 9.7-inch iPad Air. So, could a bigger iPhone cannibalize the smaller iPad? Or could it lead to an entirely new market for the Air, and the rumored iPad Pro?

Apple has repeatedly said they'd rather cannibalize their own products than have someone else do it. However, there's likely more to it than that. Currently the biggest iPhone you can buy is 4-inches. If you want a larger screened iOS device to travel with, iPad mini fits the bill perfectly. It's identical to the iPad in all almost all ways but size and price, and size is the major differentiator. In a world with a 5.5-inch iPhone, however, people can have both an iPhone and a larger screened iOS device all in one. That will eliminate the need for an iPad mini for some portion of the customer base.

Yet it might also open up the desire for an iPad Air or even a — currently speculative — 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

If having a small iPhone leads to a preference for having a small iPad, perhaps having a large iPhone will lead to an equal and opposite preference for having a large iPad. Absent the need for high portability, size and power could become more important for iPad customers. In other words, when you don't travel, when you leave it at home or at work, a larger screen can be more valuable.

Apple's done a great job mainstreaming productivity with their Your Verse campaign for the iPad Air. As larger phones prove valuable to a segment of the market, it's quite possible larger tablets will as well, and for the same reasons.

I'm currently traveling with an iPhone 5s and an iPad mini with Retina display. Come November, I can easily see myself traveling with a iPhone 6 and an iPad Air 2. Come 2015, I can just as easily see myself with a iPad Pro instead.

Especially if it packs in some of my wish-list...

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.

  • I would say that if, that is if, Apple launch a 5.5 inch iPhone it will certainly impact the iPad Mini slightly but I think it is more a case of those that are moving away from subsidized phones that will make a choice between having a separate iPhone and an iPad Mini to having just the iPhone and pay the full price for the iPhone 5.5 inch model. Will it push people towards the larger screen, maybe those that are buying an iPad for those occasions where they would require a larger screen. When you look at the markets when there the larger screen Galaxy Note etc that are getting close to 6 inches the buyers tend to be those where they don't have other devices in the home and use just their phones for everything. When I switched to T-Mobile I had the iPhone 5 which did not transport across and bought a Nexus 5, I thought it would be nice to try Android and then if I said anything negative about Android I would be educated about the comment rather than making a claim that I could not substantiate through Actual use. Even with the slight under 5 inch screen size the increase in size resulted in a drop in use of my iPad and I know that if they do launch a 5.5 inch display iPhone I will be switching back to Apple and using that larger screen iPhone rather than the iPad, Nexus 5 etc. I really think it will not affect a transition to the larger iPads and may just cannibalize the sales on the non-retina iPad Mini.
  • I'm curious to know as a regular iPhone user, how was your experience with the Nexus 5 compared to your iPhone? I just want to hear your thoughts... Delivered by the Nexus 5 or the mighty Surface Pro 3
  • Agreed... Me too... If apple released 5.5 inches iphone, i would buy that and wont buy an ipad...
    Because with larger screen iphone, i got everything i need... All in one device... Sent from the iMore App
  • I disagree for one reason. A lot of the apps that truly benefit from a larger screen have iPad versions. Also, some of the better games and apps are iPad only. Having a 5.5" phone is great, but having to use the same apps that come on the 4" phone is not. I do agree with someone above that mentioned ending subsidized phones causing a reduction in sales. There is absolutely no reason to pay full price for a phone if you don't have a contract you are trying to keep. Hell, the reason given for gouging us on plans is that we have subsidized phones.
  • I assume that will highly depend on the predominant use. If one is mainly using the iPad for reading, viewing video or playing games, a 5.5" phone may absolutely void the need for a separate tablet. For people using an iPad for productivity, like I do, phone apps will not replace dedicated tablet apps, and (having an original iPad Mini and an iPad Air I can say so), even 7.9" means some compromises, the amount of zooming and panning increases and the amount of miss-taps increases on the Mini when using more complex apps like e.g. OmniGraffle, at 5.5" this would be even worse, if not completely unusable. A 12-13" iPad would make a lot of sense as a productivity device. You could display business documents (legal or A4) at around 100% and see and annotate them as intended without too much zooming and panning. You could attach a full size keyboard if required, and at this size even pen input starts to make sense. I would totally buy one for business use and keep he Air for private matters / entertainment.
  • "Letter" paper is 8.5x11 = 13.9 diagonal, so how could you fit "Legal" 8.5x14 on a 12.9 diagonal? Or even "A4" (8.3x11.)7?
    I guess if you deleted the margins, maybe it could fit, but that defeats the purpose. Also, paper is none of these paper formats are the same aspect ratio of the current iPads (4:3).
  • I have an iPad Air. I liked the combination of the iPhone and the iPad mini, but I traded it for an air because I'd rather have the 5.5 inch phone with the 10 inch tablet. I use the air now for reading and typing with a keyboard as a laptop replacement, and I love it. I think the large phone and larger tablet will be an awesome combination for people like me who use Evernote extensively. I also use pages and keynote exclusively now, and I don't miss a laptop at all.
    A 12.9" iPad Pro leaves enough room for a virtual iPhone screen on the display whereby multi-tasking via drag/drop is possible. Currently I use my 5S as a second screen for my iPad 3, considering that I push said iPad to its RAM and A5X limits with all my productivity workflows. Hell, even a 5.5" virtual iPhone screen should work fine. It's all about enterprise and productivity. IPAD MINI BECOMES VOID BY 5.5" IPHONE 6
    With an iPhone 6 that large, what is the point of having an iPad Mini? Of course, iPad developers need to allow for that new iPhone to process iPad apps.
  • That makes perfect since!! The are already doing "virtual calls" and the bigger screen will allow for that!! Sent from the iMore App
  • The point of the iPad mini is that with the iPhone 5.5" you have to get a phone plan, with the mini you don't. Like I said in another post, if they made a 5.5" iPod touch, then maybe it would threaten the iPad mini. But, I doubt it because the iPad mini is a huge success.
  • I absolutely will buy the largest screen iPhone Apple can throw at me. I'd love to see the 5.5" come out before the end of the year, but if not we'll see if the 4.7" has anything beyond the 5s to compel me to upgrade. (I would most likely wait for the 5.5".) In an ideal world where the 5.5" iPhone 6 is released this fall, I'd love to trade my iPad mini up to an iPad Air. It just makes sense to use the 5.5" screen for media consumption and a larger iPad for productivity use. (Currently I shoehorn productivity into the iPad Mini since I can't really justify two iPads of varying sizes. But I would love the additional screen real estate of an Air.) An iPad Pro would have to depend on what it ends up actually being. If I could do some actual "pro"-ish stuff with it, then I'm sold. If it's just a really big iPad then I don't need *that* much screen real estate. I'd love to see the following possibilities: - Integrated Keyboard soft cover
    - Simultaneous multi-app support
    - Extension of Continuity that allows me to integrate it as a Space on my Mac and utilize it as a second (or third) screen -- or some sort of "screen sharing" option I, of course, have no idea how to do these things. I would rely on Apple's magical engineers to make this happen. :)
  • There are apps that turn your iPad into a second screen. I think Splashtop makes one. They probably charge too much, but I'm sure there are others. I would NOT expect them to work as a second screen WITH touch screen though, rather simply an extended desktop monitor.
  • A large portion of my iPad usage is for displaying sheet music, so regardless of the iPhone 6 screen size, I would go for a 12" iPad Pro in a heartbeat.
  • I'm selling my iPad Mini to fund the purchase of a 5.5" iPhone 6. It's pretty simple, really.
  • l'm going for the 5.5 model. Would allow me to not have to use my Wi-Fi iPad as much. Sent from the iMore App
  • If a 5.5 inch comes out, then I for one, would trade my iPad Mini for an Air. Though I'm hoping the 5.5 inch iPhone would also be able to handle iPad apps, but I doubt that will happen.
  • What if the pro isn't a bigger Air? What if it's more a Surface. OSX/iOS...
  • Many patents from Apple 'hint's it's possibly a hybrid... both in form and OS.. IE without keyboard your using iOS, and with attached keyboard component, that has 'intel inside' and SSD to run OS X. This is why I think they are so hot on continuity. If you had 2 OS's that could work tightly together, and in this case, 'slide' between the 2 on the same screen, it would make for a very interesting use case. IMHO anyway. Think about it this way, they could make the screen so crazy light but huge with A9 for iOS, and heavier keyboard / battery to run 'meaty' OS X productivity. This likely means we'll see some 'touch' screen adjustments coming to OS X in late 2015 though too... All speculation on their Hybrid patents for keyboard and screen.. but still a very different take than current hybrids which try to 'walk' between 2 worlds.. instead Apple goes no compromise with both modes.. /shrug
  • I just don't see the Continuity mindset evolving into a hybrid OS. I think Apple is making it pretty clear that OSX is for computers, iOS is for iPhone/iPad. Continuity will keep them both completely synced, yet independent. I can't imagine having the operating system completely change when you attach/detach the keyboard? That would be horrible.
  • I like your thinking.
    Would be cool and just what POWER users would want and need.
    I have mentioned before, I had a iPad, sold it.
    Just wasn't powerful enough for me as a designer and just didn't play well with my Apple ecosys, file transfer, printing, storing and retrieving files. It all sucked on my iPad.
  • I doubt that. Apple has said a lot if times that they thinks it's crazy to have a touchscreen laptop! Sent from the iMore App
  • They (Steve Jobs) also always reaffirmed that anything over a 3.5" phone screen was monstrous and absurd and that the market would show there's no room for these phones. And if we've learned anything from Apple from the last WWDC, it's that they're willing to break old beliefs. Then again, it's probably not a hybrid...
  • this
  • this
  • I think, with Yosemite, Apple has made it clear that they are not going to meld OSX & iOS. If anything, any kind of "iPad Pro" would have a larger screen, and probably more storage. And maybe they would design a keyboard cover to differentiate the iPad Pro from the Air? Who knows?
  • Hybrid OS = Windows 8 = crap.
    Touchscreen OS = not getting work done (I wrestled Numbers to make a spreadsheet on my iPhone today)
    Real work needs a real OS. Play time doesn't need the bulk of a keyboard or mouse, or box on a desk, hence: iOS / iPad.
    Using the "truck" to do the heavy lifting, then opening the same file to view / minor editing with iOS makes more sense. Hence: Handoff & iCloud Drive.
    I predict no iPad Pro as it has been conceptualized as a hybrid. Maybe bigger screen & more storage, but no dual OS, no hybrid OS, no stupid cover/keyboard/trackpad/battery... Just buy a MacBook Pro and an iPad and an iPhone.
  • OS X isn't touch optimized. My understanding is Apple wouldn't do a hybrid any more than they tried to stick a desktop OS on a phone.
  • Even though a phablet is getting close in size to a small tablet, they are not in the same market. With a phone you have to get a plan from a wireless carrier for upwards of $60+/month. With the iPad mini you don't have to do anything other than buy it and use it. (you can get a data plan, but it's non-contract and much cheaper than a smartphone plan) Now if Apple made a 5.5" iPod touch? Maybe, maybe, it would creep into the iPad mini market, but even that is a bit of a stretch. This is why Apple is so smart. They are filling every product category. Small smartphone, large smartphone, non-phone internet device (iPod touch), small laptop (soon-ish 12" rMBA), medium laptop (13" rMBP), large laptop (15" rMBP), consumer desktop (iMac & Mac Mini) and high-end professional desktop (Mac Pro). Simple.
  • A 5.5" inch iPhone doesn't replace an iPad due to the simple fact that it won't and can't run iPad Apps. For that I still need an iPad and because of that I'll go 4.7" along with an iPad Air.
  • What he said. The mini will run iPad apps. An iPhone won't. Imore has spent plenty of time discussing why apps optimized for the iPad are superior to other tablets that basically run phone apps. Is this not the case anymore? A 5.5" phone is still a small screen especially at 16:9. The mini still is much bigger. You still won't be able to read PDFs or comics (that well) on a slightly bigger iPhone. It still won't have the battery life of a mini. It won't run any iPad specific games. I can't think of any real advantage 5.5" has over the current iPhone. Two handed operation will basically suck IMO.
  • Here, Here!!! Sent from the iMore App
  • 5.5" Screen: too big to be a phone. Too small to be a tablet.
  • It's not as simple as that but close. It's not just the hardware but the software. No one likes to use phone apps on the ipad...that's a given. But all of a sudden we want a 5.5" device to run bigger phone apps? In the past Jobs mentioned they built hardware around the software. They went into detail on one handedness and the attention to detail that went into it. The 5.5" iphone ignores all this. It's existence is in answer to all the competitors that trot out bigger screens and brag about them. I'm not saying it's not ok for Apple to knock down barriers to entry and answer many people's wishes for a big screen. But the software (OS) needs to be designed for it. I think you fundamentally have a different type of device. It's now two handed. It can boast more power, better battery, better specs, etc. I'd like to see Apple tweak iOS for it and allow apps made for it while still being able to run regular iphone apps. If it's simply a bigger iphone with no changes, then it'll be disappointing. JMO though. Even just a bigger iphone will excite many I know but perhaps this is just a reason for me to wait til the 6S cycle. The 5S is plenty powerful and still feels underutilized.
  • Apple seems to be encouraging developers not to code to a screen resolution but to flow into the space given to them. That suggests to me that they will be allowing all apps on all devices. There's no real reason for them to artificially limit iPad apps to Mini and above (except for possible business reasons). I personally don't think Apple would keep an artificial restriction on it once the architecture is there.
  • I would love a bigger iPhone. I currently have the iPad Mini Retina. Having previously had the Ipad 2, I absolutely love the size of the Mini but the iPhone is too small in my opinion Sent from the iMore App
  • Just make everything. Sent from the iMore App
  • I may be in the minority, but I would get the 4.7 and an iPad mini, because even a mini is still a good bit larger than the iPhone and the extra space makes it nice for videos and gaming. Plus the added portability that comes with a mini Sent from the iMore App
  • Nothing personal, but this article is all over the place and makes little sense. It's like: "Maybe it will rain, maybe not. Maybe the sun will come out, maybe not." LOL I think it's just as likely that a larger "phablet" phone, will engender a *smaller* iPad mini. And whether you believe that or not, I don't see that there's any connection at all to the purported larger iPad one way or the other. I probably shouldn't reveal this, but I happen to be in the know on why the iPhone is finally getting bigger this year, and the reason is ... the iWatch. In making the iWatch, Apple has come up against the inescapable fact that the phone itself is going to disappear, because that's what the iWatch will eventually become. You see, it used to be important to have a small phone, because a phone was mainly for communication and you always needed to put it up to your ear and then back in your pocket. They needed to be as lightweight, and as minimal as possible. But the end result of that process is that the phone will soon be small enough to go on your wrist. Now we know that the phone is going to disappear into the watch, (just like the "camera" the "calculator" and the "TV" before it, disappeared into other devices), the size of the iPhone now doesn't matter. The communication bit will eventually sit on your wrist in the form of a tiny chip and radio, so the device you carry around with you will be size irrelevant. A tiny little phone is only desirable as long as "phones" exist as a separate device category. People will soon use whatever mobile device size suits their personal needs because it's really a personal computer now and (soon to be) not really a phone at all.
  • I kinda see where you're going with this, but I think the 'reality' of it is quite a long ways off. I think the reason for larger iPhones is really more short term, in that these sizes sell well on Android and Apple needs to be there.
  • It's at least a few years off, and I was having a bit of fun with it, but I do think this realisation that the "Steve Jobs reason" for small phones no longer applies in the current world has a lot to do with their reversal on the size issue. The way I see it, eventually there will be a large mix of varied tablet/laptop devices with different capabilities for different types of users, all connected to the "phone" or communicator part, which sits on your wrist (or on your chest a la Star Trek), and which you keep with you even when you put the computer down. There are a lot of people like me who have no actual use for a "telephone" and already use the iPhone in this way, (merely as a necessary communication node for the tablet I do use). There are a lot of people who would get rid of their phone, if the phone's capabilities were also in the tablet, or the laptop etc.
  • I concur. I think this is one of the reasons that the Continuity tech has been released. If the call comes in on your "watch" or "wrist-strapped-mini-phone" or whatever... And you can answer it on any other device, from your iPod/iPad 5.5" all the way up to your Mac Pro... who cares. It just works. I answer the call on whatever device I happen to have in my hand. And that is Apple magic.
  • I'm going to wait and see. I might "downgrade" from three devices to two. What I currently have: An iPhone 5, an iPad Air, a 27" iMac fully tricked out. What I'm considering moving to: An iPhone 6 with 5.5" screen, a 15" Macbook Pro fully tricked out. The phablet would make surfing and reading books a pleasure, which it is not on the 4" model. The Macbook pro would provide mobility with all my real work and play. A big monitor on my desk along with other hardware could be docked to. What I'd lose: mostly from the iPad being sacrificed, some games and comic books which are ideal in landscape mode in full-width reading mode. Also the wonderful speakers of the iMac which I use for final mixdown of audio projects in Logic as a go-between from very cheap speakers to high-end audio systems. Like I said, I have to see this phablet before I would make this kind of switch but I really think I'm likely to do it. I rarely use the phone as a phone, and earbuds are my normal usage for talking to people. Making my powerhouse computer more mobile would be a huge plus. I need a couch in the Apple Store so I can try lounging with the Macbook Pro.
  • I don't think so. I think people buy the mini cause it's cheaper considering these are super pricey items. I think people will buy the cheaper ones. I think the fanboys that will don't care about price butmost people consider it. I think it will be normal iphone, small ipad, macbook air as it is now. Sidenote: i've heard more and more people saying they've opted for the air over any ipad because you can do more and the ipad is kinda a pricey novelty in the way they use it.
  • I'd love a so-called "iPad Pro", but only if Apple simultaneously offers a Wacom-level pen for art and design applications.
  • It all goes to your need. The 5S screen size is perfect for me. Some need a larger screen in a phone. I use my iPad retina Mini for music. I like the extreme portability of it. For serious work, but still portable, the MacBook Pro is needed. For home, or professional studio, the Mac Pro. The fact that all devices are connected, or can be is my need. I can lay some tracks down on the phone, work with them on the mini later, then mix down on the MacBook Pro, then final edit at home on the Mac Pro. I am saving up for that. The question, is the screen size of the phone. Is it really just a fad so to speak, because everyone else is doing it, or the next logical evolution? Sent from the iMore App
  • i have always said and felt alone that i want the iPhone to stay the same size i was very adverse to 4 inches and am still adverse to another size increase i'd be willing to look at implementation but if it's just like a super small iPad (IOS stretched on a another even higher super high density display I'm not sure i'd want that
  • I currently do not own a cel phone and instead use a cellular iPad Mini retina. It is not quite as convenient to use as a telephone as the iPhone would be, but the productivity advantages of using iPad rather than iPhone apps more than makes up for a little hassle. The 5.5" iPhone would only be of interest if it were the first phone to run iOS tablet apps, and I don't think that's possible. Would love to be proved wrong.