17 Comments

Summary:

A new report today suggests that Apple may be planning to add more options to its iPhone line. Currently, Cupertino only offers either current gen or last gen tech, in a variety of storage sizes. It’s less of a choice, really, and more of an ultimatum.

iphone4 big

A new report today suggests that Apple may be planning to add more options to its iPhone line. Currently, Cupertino only offers either current gen or last gen tech, in a variety of storage sizes. It’s less of a choice, really, and more of an ultimatum.

The source of the rumors is Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu. Wu performed supply chain checks that revealed Apple was sourcing parts for touchscreens both larger and smaller than the current iPhone 4’s 3.5-inch display. Specific sizes weren’t mentioned, but Kaufman Bros. suggests that the new touchscreens could be for use in a new high- and low-end models of iPhone, and that the new models could ship before Apple’s annual late spring/early summer iPhone refresh date.

But is such a move likely from a company that has, for the last four iterations of the iPhone, stuck with the same formula and only released one version of its handset? If this was last year or the year before that, I’d easily dismiss these rumors as idle speculation. However, this isn’t those years. This is the year of Android.

Android devices come in a wide range of configurations, because it’s just a software platform that any hardware manufacturer can use. While Apple maintains quality control by building its own hardware, Google offers the benefit of choice to consumers, so they can pick a phone that fits their lifestyle. The iPhone, on the other hand, is almost a lifestyle unto itself.

With Android actually surging ahead of iOS in terms of new device sales, Apple must be feeling the heat. At this point in the year, the company is still at least eight months out from new hardware, following its usual schedule, which normally provides it with a big sales boost.

The iPad also showed that demand was there for different configurations of iOS devices. Its success could provide Cupertino with the impetus to try other form factors. A smaller iPhone has long been rumored, but if released now and sold for next to nothing on contract, it would take a lot of the wind out of Google’s sails. A larger screen, with a 4-inch or more Retina Display would easily beat out its big-screen competition from the Android camp.

One final thing to keep in mind is that Apple’s build cost for these devices continues to drop, thanks to the A4 chip, which the company makes itself. Leveraging that chip into as many devices as possible is just good business.

What do you think? Would a smaller or larger iPhone interest you? Could they stem the tide of Android?

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

  1. Your mistake is in assuming that Apple needs to compete with Android. They don’t. They just need to make more phones and sell with more Carriers.

    AT&T has 100% of all iPhones and, as reported elsewhere, 1% of all Android phones. The idea that Apple has to “Catch Up to Android” is so off the mark that it defies explanation.

    If Apple could make an extra million iPhones this month, they would sell them this month at full price and other people would buy them to scalp them on Ebay. They’re that much in demand.

    If HTC made an extra million Androids this month, they would be apologizing to their shareholders for having to give them away in BOGO offers.

    Share
    1. You’re definitely right in the short term, but Apple is known for thinking ahead of the curve, and the trend right now has to have them thinking about how successful Android could potentially be down the road.

      Better to head off a potential clash before it even happens, no?

      Share
      1. What you’re seeing in the success of Android is a lack of availability on CDMA, meaning a lack of availability on the “largest and best” carrier in the US.

        Android is picking up the slack, not forging ahead. That’s a key difference to understanding what Apple will do in the long term. (Add more carriers.)

        For proof, look to Europe. Apple is on more carriers and has a significant lead on Android in Europe.

        Share
  2. I foresee a major problem with that. App developers would have to resize their apps to fit the larger and/or smaller screens. I know that’s a big problem for Andriod phones right now. As it stands now, with only two screen sizes to worry about, it’s much easier for the developers to make their apps fit both.

    Share
    1. That’s a good point. Apple is clearly keen on keeping developers happy and interested in the platform, so that could significantly influence their decision.

      Share
  3. What alleygator said :) he or she is right in every way.

    Share
  4. I have NOT bought an iphone YET for a few reasons including it having a screen I consider TOO SMALL. I just bought the ATT Samsung Captivate Android phone. One of the key selling points was its 4″ AMOLED Screen. Apple has 3 different size notebooks: 13″, 15″, & 17″. Why can’t it have at least 2 different size iphones: 3.5″ & 4″? One size does NOT fit all, STEVE!

    Share
  5. AlleyGator is right about the iPhone needs to be available on more carriers. I know many potential and current iPhone users waiting for a Verizon iPhone and a few who’d like to see it on T-Mobile.

    More variety in the iPhones available, not sure that is needed. It’s already a problem that the Nexus One, G1, G2, Droid X, etc. are all slightly different UI’s. People just want the phone to work well.

    Apple does need to keep an eye out for what Android or any competitor is doing that’s just smart business. If I was a developer I’d like to see the Apple App approval process improved simpler protect the consumer from malicious apps, but a simpler approval process.

    Share
  6. @Larry Martin

    Who knows? You might get your wish. But don’t hold your breath. Customers like you are few and far between, and Steve Jobs is not going to fragment the entire worldwide assembly line to chase after a few hundred customers who don’t just “prefer” but actually “NEED” an extra half inch of length. Techy guys are addicted to specs, and they’re always going to wish they had an extra half inch on the things they use everyday. Wink wink nudge nudge!

    A genteel AlleyGator would desire to elaborate no further on this topic, but it bears repeating so anybody who’s listening: screen size is a dick-waving contest, and the current world champion is the Dell Streak. A non-feature at best, at worst a device that won’t fit in your pocket.

    So if you want the gorgeous 3.5″ IPS iPhone 4 Retina display to be bigger… Hold it closer to your face.

    Your options are and shall remain:
    1) a 3.5″ iPhone with a wide bezel, so it can be held easily
    2) a 9.7″ iPad with a wide bezel, so it can be held easily

    Share
  7. I have had an iphone 3Gs for 11 months now. We also picked up an IPad almost 2 months ago. OK I know they are two different machines and one is really portable by fitting into my pocket and the other is portable, but not as small. I will say I like to surf a lot more on the IPad of course that is a no brainer, but I would not mind an extra half inch on an iphone. Otherwise I am totally happy with both products.

    Share
    1. @gpo:
      but I suppose you would not like to make phone calls with the iPad?

      Share
  8. The biggest thing Apple need to is a total refresh of iOS, plz people want info about calender or missed calls in smarter way presented in the homescreen ! And were are the widgets ? I shoulden’t have to go into an app to se my updates ! Give me WIDGETS, Refresh iOS plz !

    Share
    1. I think that widgets are where Android fails most. I’ve seen and played with a number of Android devices and those that display widgets with lots of notifications are very messy and distracting. Apple’s interfaces are SIMPLE. Now and always. That’s probably why Apple limited multitasking to just the Music app. It makes the device run faster (with less on the RAM) and keeps things clean.

      Share
  9. I dont need phones in different sizes, I want wireless sync for media. I dont mind docking for backup and upgrade, but it cant be that hard to do a USB over ethernet driver.

    Share
  10. Total speculation, but I could definitely see Apple do an “iPhone mini” with the same screen resolution as the old iPhone (480 x 320) but with a higer dpi = smaller screen. S-E has recently had some success with its Xperia X10 mini, so maybe there’s a business there. Using the same resolution will allow apps to work even if they’re not optimized for the new size. There will have to be some UI tweaking to make things tappable and not cramped, but developers won’t have to make a special version if they don’t see the need, esp. games.

    Also: maybe this is the reason Verizon says all smug that they won’t carry THE iPhone while reports say it’s a done deal that they’ll carry AN iPhone. :)

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post