I have come to believe that it’s critical for Apple to introduce a version of the iPhone with a 5-inch screen. It needs this device to stay relevant in the global phone market over the long term.
Before any of the fans of the current model start on an angry response, let me say that this doesn’t mean I think Apple should stop making smaller handsets. It needs these, too.
Apple has to give up its “one size fits all” mentality. One smartphone is not right for everyone. Apple’s stubborn resistance to this is costing it customers.
Those who want a larger screen on their smartphone are turning to Apple’s rivals, most notably Samsung. By going with an Android-based device, these people can get what they want: a phone that fits their needs better.
Too Big vs. Too Small
This is an argument has been going on for a long time, with one side urging Apple to increase the size of its screens, and the other saying that this would make the iPhone unwieldy.
Any argument that a 5-inch display is too big to appeal to a mass audience is exploded by the Samsung Galaxy S III. This device has a 4.8-inch screen, and Samsung has sold over 30 million of them in under a year.
On the other hand, Apple’s 4-inch iPhone 5 is selling quite well, too. It would be a mistake for the company to abandon this form-factor.
That’s why I’m not proposing that Apple stop making handsets with 4-inch screens and switch completely to larger models. I say it’s time Apple offer both.
A Tale of Two Users
Two different iPhone models are necessary because users can be broken up into two broad categories.
Data-centric: To one of these groups, their iPhone is a small computer they carry with them everywhere. They use it to access the Web, play games, watch video, and run all kinds of other apps. For all these uses, a bigger screen is better. They make calls too, but not as often.
Voice-centric: The second group emphasizes the “phone” in iPhone. They make calls all the time. That’s why they don’t want to have to deal with a big device. They use apps too, but voice is the primary way they use their phone.
To be the best competitor it can be, Apple needs to appeal to both of these groups.
I have good reason to hope Apple is already working on a larger iPhone. It’s not just the persistent rumors that keep coming out of Asia — I take all of those with a grain of salt. No, for the best evidence that Apple is willing to break out of its mold, I have to look no farther than the iPad line.
After several years of making only 9.7-inch iPads, last fall Apple introduced the 7.9-inch iPad mini. This quickly became a top seller, and might even be outselling its big brother.
So Apple realized that one tablet can’t satisfy everyone, and broadened its product offerings. I see no reason why it shouldn’t follow the same logic to make two sizes of smartphone.
A Cautionary Tale
Sometimes it’s easiest to see why some thing is necessary now by looking back at the past.
Henry Ford famously said, “Any customer can have a car painted in any colour he wants so long as it is black.” Ford believed that “one size fits all” and made the Model T for almost 20 years. His company was very successful for a long time, but was eventually beat out by General Motors because Henry Ford held on to the Model T for too long. By the time the Ford Model A was released, General Motors had taken the lead.
Replace a few names in that story and you’d almost have Apple’s battle with Android. At least Ford eventually stopped holding on to the past, which is why it’s still in business today. If Apple wants to be around in another 100 years, it needs to do the same. Making only phones with small screens has worked for Apple for awhile, but it’s not going to be successful long term.