Is Apple Planning to Diversify Its iPhone Lineup?

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?

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