By Jim Karpen on Thu, 12/26/2013
In an end-of-year memo to employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "We have a lot to look forward to in 2014, including some big plans that we think customers are going to love." That's not much to go on, but it's created a lot of buzz. And it lends support to the latest rumor that Apple will be releasing a larger iPhone in May and a 12.9-inch iPad in October. Both rumors of larger devices are gaining some traction, given that various sources in Apple's supply chain have indicated this. The most recent provenance is the Taiwan publication DigiTimes. Their source says that Apple has considered both a 12.9-inch and 13.3-inch display for the larger iPad, with the former now seeming more likely. The report doesn't say what size iPhone is expected in May, but past rumors have said that Apple has been testing a 4.9-inch model. One analyst has suggested that the phone will be between 4.5 and 5 inches, and that a model larger than 5 inches is unlikely.
Samsung, of course, already has its Galaxy Note series, ranging in size from 5.3 to 5.7 inches. and their Galaxy Mega, which has screen sizes of 5.8 and 6.3 inches.
Apple has long tried to keep its product line focused, with fewer models. This has several advantages. One is that developers have the convenience of developing for a limited set of dimensions. Another is that market research has shown that when consumers have fewer choices, they are more likely to purchase. Too many choices simply confuses them. And a third is simply that the more different models you make, the greater the manufacturing costs.
So Apple is clearly going in a new direction with multiple sizes, though still keeping to a fairly narrow range. Apparently it's an acknowledgment that some consumers simply have a need or strong preference for larger sizes. However, regarding the iPhone, Apple seems intent on keeping the size under 5 inches, hewing to their belief that one should be able to conveniently operate the phone with one hand.
So what else might CEO Cook have been referring to when he noted "big plans that we think consumers are going to love"? Much evidence suggests an iWatch. and I'm betting they'll come out with a new version of Apple TV, with a new interface and a new platform that will be open to developers.