Super Sizing the iPhone

big iPhone screen size

With the perceived success of Samsung’s Galaxy series, there has been a rapidly changing mindset when it comes to a super-sized handset from Apple. The laughable rumors of the iPhone Math and continuing parade of analysts claiming Apple needs to go big has some of the more prominent Apple bloggers including John Gruber, Marco Arment and Rene Ritchie busy crunching numbers on how it could be done without disrupting developers. The short answer is yes, it’s possible, but is it a good idea for Apple to start super sizing the iPhone.

Supersize 5-inch iPhone

The Samsung Argument
Samsung sold 5 million of the Galaxy Note worldwide in the first six months of its release, with another 5 million sold the in the following 4 months. 10 million in 10 months. Not in the US, but worldwide. The bigger sales numbers for them comes from their Galaxy S III flagship, with sales of 40 million in 7 months time. The Galaxy Note features a 5.3-inch display, the Note II a 5.5-inch display and the GSIII a 4.8-inch display. It’s safe to classify the entire line as giant when compared to the current iPhone 5 and definitely the older 3.5-inch iPhones. If you are shopping premium smartphones, these are your only choices from Samsung.

People like theses phones, at least according to a quick perusal of reviews at AT&T. There are an assortment of reasons why customers purchase either the Note or the Galaxy S III. The size of the display is just one reason, but is it a compelling enough reason for perspective iPhone customers to opt for a Samsung phone. How many prospective customers is Apple losing to people who based their smartphone purchase solely on the size of the display? To think that a 5-inch iPhone, which would carry an entry price of roughly $100 more than the current model, would instantly sway customers away from a Samsung phone is a bit of a stretch. During Q4 of 2012, Apple had a tougher time keeping the less expensive iPhone 4S in stock. Yes, that very same iPhone 4S with a 3.5-inch display. If there is an argument for product line-up decisions based on competitive pressures, the lower cost Samsung phones that are dominating international markets might be a better place to start.

The iPad mini Argument
Apple said they would never make a 7-inch tablet. Better yet, Steve Jobs infamous quote that “unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size.” was a lock that Apple would never make a 7-inch tablet. In October, they started selling the iPad mini. Good luck finding one during the holidays and only recently has Apple’s supply started to catch up with demand. The iPad mini argument suggests that even Apple can change course and deliver a product that is wildly popular.

The iPad mini solves a problem. It’s incredibly thin, small and portable. It’s also less-expensive, allowing Apple to be more competitive with the lower-cost Nexus 7 and Amazon Fire tablets. It makes sense for Apple and for consumers. A classic win-win.

A 5-inch iPhone helps consumers how? I won’t say the word, but the case here is that it’s part phone and part tablet. A super-breed of mobile devices. I don’t buy that argument. Will the iPhone Godzilla model run apps in iPad mode? For all the advantages of a larger display, there is a substantial negative impact on portability.

I had a tough time holding a Galaxy Note to my ear in public without feeling like a bit of a dork. A phone of this size also affects your willingness to carry it everywhere. I’m just one person, one blogger and the numbers do indicate that a good number of consumers have no problem with it being too big or awkward. You can have multiple apps running in the same window and the larger display allows you to use it as a notepad using the included stylus. It has a place and a customer, but the market feels too niche for Apple.

Apple has always stood for creating technology that’s right for mainstream consumers. They don’t always make the best decisions initially, but are willing to reverse course if there is a way to improve upon an existing product or experience. I’ve yet to see a compelling reason for moving from a 4-inch iPhone 5 that is for the most part, capable of one-handed use.

Creating new hardware with spectacularly large screens is a strategy better left to the other guys. Just when you think they’ve created the largest possible phone, some manufacturer releases one that’s even bigger. It’s like the old days of the megapixel wars. At some point, the craziness has to end. With cameras, the focus went back to creating on overall better product that took better pictures. When it comes to phones, the experience is directly tied to software. Apple has been leading for quite some time, but Android seems to be making inroads. The stable of apps still fall short, but they are improving, enough so that consumers are comfortable shifting between platforms. The Apple I know is about creating products that provide a better experience than the other guys. Sure they make great hardware, but it’s the software that drives the experience. Super sizing the iPhone isn’t the answer.




  1. KrakaJap

    February 4, 2013 at 11:27 am

    They can crunch numbers all they want but it all comes back to preference anyway. There are, I would guess, 3 kinds of people… those who absolutely want a larger screen, those who are fine with a small screen but wouldn’t mind a larger one if available, and those who think the current size is perfect and anything larger would be cumbersome or feel awkward. The iPhone sells perfectly fine as is so increasing the size would bring it into an unknown playing field regardless of how well other “large” phones sell. I can easily see Apple waiting around a while longer to see if the screens zero in on a more widely accepted size before making another change. Personally I think a Note sized iPhone would look ridiculous… hell I think the Note’s size is ridiculous. 😉 But that’s just me

  2. Rowan

    February 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I was reading an article that’s states the S4 is going to be the size of the Note 1 (5″) and the Note 2 is going to a whopping 6.3″. Come on this is just ridiculous. Who wants to walk around with something so big? This “phablet” thing is just dumb. I have 2 friends that bought the Note 2 and when I ask how do they talk with it, they look at me and said phones aren’t made for talking. I pray Apple doesn’t follow this trend because it will soon come to an end. People criticize Apple for not being innovative, all they do is make a product thinner. I would say in reverse that Samsung, since the are the only Android phone that sells a little is just making phones bigger.

    • Krakajap

      February 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      Obviously the many people who purchased a Note are perfectly fine with that size 🙂 lol So it may be ridiculous to us but that’s as far as that goes. And Samsung isn’t the “only” Android phone that sells. Personally I think the iPhone 5 screen is far too small for my tastes but this is exactly my point. There is no “standard” for this and never will be. Consumers are always going to want whatever size they want.

      • Rowan

        February 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm

        I understand what your saying but HTC is losing money, Motorola doesn’t make much sales, and I won’t even mention LG. When it comes to sales Samsung is by far the only other company making money. The S3 is the biggest I want to see a phone and at some point phones are going to interfere with the tablet space, Kindle, Nexus 7 then people will hopefully open their eyes. I hope

  3. Rowan

    February 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    @Christopher I was wondering where you got your numbers for Samsung as they don’t give sold units only shipped.

    • Christopher Meinck

      February 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      In the case of the Note II numbers which I linked to the Verge, Samsung confirmed the 10 million number is actual sales.

      • Rowan

        February 4, 2013 at 1:48 pm

        Got you.

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