By Jim Karpen on Wed, 02/19/2014
We have yet another report out of Taiwan saying that two new phones are coming from Apple with larger displays of 4.7 and 5.6 inches. This article, citing sources in Apple's supply chain, is from the Economic Daily News; you can see Google-translated report on Macotakara. A couple details stand out. The report labels the 5.6-inch phablet as "experimental" — and says that it won't be called an iPhone. A post on BGR says this detail is highly dubious, because the iPhone brand is so popular. Plus, they point out that none of the other rumors have indicated this. The Taiwan report also says that Apple's phablet will use sapphire crystal for the display. The iPhone 6 is said to have a display of 4.7 inches, and will continue to use Corning's Gorilla Glass. It will go into full production in July and will be out in September.
What can we glean from this? First of all, it's yet more evidence that we'll see a larger iPhone. I'd say that's almost certain now. And it's yet more evidence that the two new phones will have separate launches. And it's similar to various earlier rumors that the two phones will be branded differently, even if it does keep the iPhone name. It's not clear when the larger phone will be released. Many are expecting it this fall, but it could also be next year. Sometimes the rumors get a bit ahead, as when there were rumors of a 4-inch iPhone preceding the launch of the 3.5-inch iPhone 4s. We didn't get the larger 4-inch phone until the following year, with the iPhone 5.
The report on Macotakara also says that the reason the iPhone 6 won't get a sapphire crystal display is that not enough of the material will be available, since it's already slated for the iWatch in addition to the phablet.
There's also a rumor today via DigiTimes that a manufacturer of touch panels in Taiwan has contracted with Apple to produce the displays for the expected iWatch. It says the watch is expected this year, but mass production won't take place until the second half of the year. The site says that the iWatch will have a flexible AMOLED display and 3D protective glass and that rumors suggest it will use silver nanowire touch screen technology. Production of the touch panels is expected to begin in April.
This stirring in Apple's supply chain is a good sign. At this stage of the rumor cycle, it's clear evidence that something is coming. The prospect of an iWatch is now starting to be more tangible. It's one thing for Apple to hire experts in health-monitoring devices, but another to have rumors of the actual manufacture of components.