iPhone 5.7 (T3 magazine concept 001)

Analysts think Apple will respond to competition by producing not one, but two large-screen iPhone models in 2014. According to Piper Jaffary’s Gene Munster (infamous for its Apple-branded television set prediction), the iPhone 6 will make its debut in September 2014 and it’s going to be a “blockbuster” release thanks to a blown up screen.

His peer, Peter Misek over at Jeffries, thinks the iPhone 6 will offer a 4.8-inch screen. If anything, Samsung has managed to prove that phablets sell: the company predicts shipping a total of hundred million units of the five-inch Galaxy S4 smartphone and the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 devices this year.

Whichever way you look at it, phablets have quickly gone from a niche category to being the hot new form factor. How does this change in market dynamics affect Apple?

According to Misek, a whopping 50 percent of smartphones shipped last quarter had screens larger than four inches, compared with just 20 percent a year prior. Still, the current iPhone lineup maxes out at four inches.

Digitimes Research thinks Apple could ship up to fifty million units of five-inch iPhones, accounting for as much as 26.6 percent of the estimated 190 million iPhone shipments in 2014. In other words, one out of each four iPhones next year could be the iPhablet.

Specifically, Digitimes Research derived the figure from Apple’s $578 prepayment to supplier GT Advanced.

GT Advanced (boule, Pocketnow 001).jpg
A 115kg cylindrical section of industrial sapphire called a “boule”.

Apple is basically funding next-generation furnaces in order to secure multi-year steady supply of the sapphire cover glass, currently used to protect iSight camera lens on iPhones and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

Apple’s funding will go toward bolstering up GT’s manufacturing prowess as Apple gears up to build a next-generation sapphire production capacity in Mesa, Arizona, which the research firm thinks will “produce enough sapphire to make five-inch screen covers for 33.79-50.56 million iPhones a year”.

US$578 million can be used to procure 1,930-2,890 sapphire growing furnaces for a monthly production of 5.28-7.90 million mm of 2-inch-equivalent sapphire ingots, Digitimes Research indicated.

Such a volume of sapphire ingots could be used to make screen covers for 33.79-50.56 million 5-inch iPhones a year, accounting for 17.8-26.6% of the estimated 190 million iPhones to be shipped in 2014.

In addition to Misek and Munster, the highly accurate analyst Ming-Chi Kuo wrote in a note to clients that Apple is experimenting with large-sized iPhone screens, based on his recent tour of Apple’s suppliers.

In lending the iPhablet meme an aura of credibility, the credulous Wall Street Journal recently asserted Apple’s been testing iPhone screens measuring between 4.8 and six inches diagonally.

However, Kuo isn’t convinced Apple will go beyond five inches due to its “unwavering principle of one hand use”. The notion was shared in the December 2013 issue of the Japanese magazine Mac Fan, which claimed Apple engineers are looking to make the side bezels of a large-screen iPhone as skinny as possible.

This edge-to-edge design should allow for one-handed use, the story asserted, adding Apple will actually advertise the iPhone 6 as the first phablet on the market optimized for one-hand operation.

As if that weren’t enough, Bloomberg reported yesterday that the cover glass on the iPhablet’s flat screen will “curve downward at the edges,” as seen on Nokia’s high-end Lumias.

Nokia curved screen Lumia

Aside from feeling better in your pocket, such a design should allow for even more smoother gestures, especially swiping across the screen from the edges. Nokia’s existing screen curvature and Apple’s rumored design are both different from Samsung’s Galaxy Round phone whose display is actually rounded, not flat.

Galaxy Round (image 001)
Samsung’s new Galaxy Round. Note the unwieldy curvature of the whole screen.

In addition to Samsung, LG recently announced its own curved-screen smartphone, the LG Flex.

LG Flex (The Verge 001)
LG’s curved G Flex phablet, introduced last month.

iDownloadBlog ran a little poll in May 2012 asking you to vote for your preferred iPhone form factor. As Samsung wouldn’t release its five-inch Galaxy S4 for another year, the results favor gadgets having a sub-five-inch screen.

Specifically, nearly half of the respondents felt that four inches should be the new gold standard for iPhones, with less than ten percent voting for a 4.8-inch screen, like the Galaxy S3.

Fast-forward eight months and more than half of the respondents voted in favor of an iPhablet in another poll. What a difference a few months make!

So yeah, I guess you could say that phablets are here to stay.

The bigger question is whether Apple’s 2014 switch to 5+ inches is exclusive or perhaps the company plans to offer jumbo-sized iPhones alongside the current four-inch form factor?

What would you do if you were standing in Apple’s shoes?

  • hkgsulphate

    also fits your butt better

  • RarestName

    After trying out the iPhone 5, I’ve learnt that one-handed use isn’t limited to the screen size. I actually found the iPhone 5 easier to handle as compared to the iPhone 4/4S due to its thiness.

    My guess is that if there is an iPhone with a bigger screen, it’ll be crazy thin.

    • George Dobson

      The reason your one-handed use with the iPhone 5/5S hasn’t been affected is due to the width of the phone.

      The phone has marginally become longer/taller however, your left-to-right thumb reach has remained the same allowing full user-ability with only one hand.

      In my opinion a larger-wider screen will make use less convenient.

      • CoolJRT

        I agree. Larger phones are harder to use.
        It’s all just marketing crap. They want to lure Samsung users to Apple’s products by offering pointless devices that are similar to what those users are familiar with.

  • Al

    People have been clamoring for a bigger display for the iPhone… so eventually it’s going to happen.

    And this being the iPhone 6, changes will be made… it’s no telling whether it will be the display or not. I doubt they make that compromise, I think they will keep the display the same.. It’s only been since 2012 since the iPhone 5 with the upgraded display, It took Apple 5 years to change the screen from 3.5 to 4 inches.

    • Jonathan

      True, but people are demanding more. If Apple doesn’t give it out soon enough, they’ll lose people who will probably go to Android just for the larger screen. Yes, some will stay, mainly the hard-core-die-hard fans of Apple.

      • Al

        I honestly feel competing against Android and their onslaught of devices… is a no win situation with Apple. Apple is all about making their products better, they evaluate what risks or rewards are involved with the bigger screen.. and go from there.

        There’s a lot of factors that go into making that change, some people still like the 3.5 screen size.

      • Kurt

        Making a phablet is making it better! 4 inches is a joke. They should have at least 2 sizes. Some like small screens while others enjoy phablets.

      • Dan

        True. They lost me.
        Actually hoping they do make a bigger screen phone, then I’ll considering going back to iPhone.

      • Kurt

        They lost me, I have a Note 3, hardly touch my 4S, and I mean hardly. I won’t buy an iPhone again if its not at least 5 inches. But I’d switch back in a heartbeat if its at least 5.5″. Screen size is most important to me, then apps.

      • Victor Wong

        They lost to me too. After using several generations of iPhones, I have gone to a Note 3 because of the larger screen size. I won’t go back to iPhone until they increase the screen size. Loving the Note 3 right now!!!

    • hkgsulphate

      personally I prefer 4″ iPhone + retina mini
      left hand with mini, right hand with iPhone
      perfect and comfortable.

  • Jonathan

    Oh man, I so hope this is true… I would so buy it.

  • appleyay

    they need a new bigger iPhone and a seperate new product in the phablet segment that merges IOS and OSX more closely.. iphone at 4.5 inches and phablet at 5.8 inches

  • qosmio

    5″ is not a phablet

    • Rowan09

      5″ or more is what they consider a phablet, I’m not sure why the S4 is not considered a phablet though.

    • Kurt

      5 inches is too small, i hope the largest iphones will be at least 5.5″

      • Tech Guru

        the Galaxy Mega is huge, I think its over 6″

      • Kurt

        6.3″

        I’ll stay in the mid 5″ range

  • Adam Bowman

    I would so buy this.

  • Nestea80

    Dear Mr. Ziberg, for the 26th time, whenever you mention the Wall Street Journal can you please NOT call them the “credulous” Wall Street Journal? -__-

    • Kurt

      He thinks it means credible, a common mistake by many. I mentioned this around 5 times. No one from IDB passes on the message.

  • Ram Dasika

    lol let them first relase ipad mini 2 and finish the final product launch of 2013 then we will think of next year

  • Beastboi504

    A phablet iphone sounds stupid, people wanting these huge sized as phones should just get a damn iPad mini, I personally think android phones are stupid with nearly 5 inch screens, what’s next 6? or does the note already have that size. My 5 is perfect, but I see people now days want to use Phones like its a damn car

    • Kurt

      ipad mini is 8 inches. what’s wrong with you. i’ll take a 5.7″ iphone, not an ipad mini

    • Tech Guru

      you’re totally dumb. Android phones with 5″ screens feel to the hands much the same as an iPhone 4.

      you’re obviously speaking for yourself and have never used any phone besides an iCrap.

      • Beastboi504

        Your the chicken, your the pussy here don’t get angry because I don’t like your stupid lag supported ass keyboard, also that “iCrap” you speak of is at the top, also started most of the features your android has today. Have a nice day

      • Tech Guru

        Lmfao. On your period?

    • mjastudios

      Beastboi, yours is just one opinion, and due to sales, not even a good one. I think Apple is stupid to ignore all of us die-hard, two-decade old Apple fans the only reason to own an Android…because they didn’t care to listen.

  • Kurt

    In lending the iPhablet meme an aura of credibility, the credulous Wall Street Journal<—credulous doesn't mean credible. It means gullible. 66 articles and counting and still using this word wrong. Wall Street Journal is known for being credible, not credulous(gullible)

  • chumawumba

    “Analysts”

  • nicholas damien tunnell

    Hmm, well, i mean, though i do not have any stock in Apple, and do not make any profit from what they as a company decide to do, i do think that it would be unfortunate if Apple did go this route. As a man who has large enough hands to comfortably palm a regulation sized NBA basketball, i still have a rather difficult and challenging time functioning on devices such as the Galaxy S2/3/4, Note 1-3, HTC One, etc, with one handed use. Can it be done? Yes, i believe it can be because i have done it. While it is challenging and cumbersome, i can get away with insecurely placing a Galaxy Note 1-3 onto my four fingers, and not securely into my palm where there are less chances for me to drop it. However, just because i can do it and it is possible, doesn’t mean it should be done. The same can be said about the Samsung Galaxy Curve, or the LG G-Flex. Actual utility of these two phones’ most notable features, most would say is few and far between. And though there is some usage case here and there, on a grand scale, i don’t believe the newness would denote “innovation,” but simply “first-ness.” With this parallel being made, i think it is the same case with “phablets,” and over-sized smartphones. A phone snugly fitting in a palm that is not the behemoth size of say Shaquille O’ Neal, is much more secure than it gingerly sitting at the base of a pinky. And though i do see so many people with very large screen phones, one thing that i constantly see in post, is that very large, very expensive phone sitting only on the base of their pinky. Yes, the user would most definitely benefit from more screen real estate, who wouldn’t? However, in the grand scheme of things, be it marginally, or largely, this will decrease usability, ease of one-handed use, and overall safety of the device that the user just paid “so and so” dollars for. After considering these implications, i can honestly say, that though a bigger screen would be nice to look at, i cannot justify all of the aforementioned sacrifices that it would seem to bring. In my opinion, if Apple does not discover a way to avoid these drawbacks that come with the territory of a larger screen, save completely doing away with that black or white thing called a bezel and really making the entire device a giant screen, i am hopeful that they will stick the current size of the flagship iPhone 5s at 4.0 inches diagonally. Any thoughts guys and gals?

  • Fevostone

    Would be nice if we were talking about this year phone and the jailbreak..??? And leave next years phone till next year..!! Come on jailbreak by the time we get one we will have a iphone 6 lol
    I know they work really hard for a jailbreak so b4 anyone gets on my back to bother..

    • appleyay

      jailbreak community is quiet as hell now cause there is nothing more tok do until IOS7 JB is out..

      • Fevostone

        Just wish it was just round the corner pal :-/

  • mjastudios

    I wanna 5.7 or larger! Currently stuck on Note 2 cause Apple has only been listening to one market segment.

  • Schryliam

    I really don’t understand
    Why you want a bigger screen in a freaking phone…
    It doesn’t fit in your pocket. And if it does it doesn’t feel nice and is irritating.
    Battery is dieng fast.
    If I need a bigger screen I have a computer, and you can’t hold it in one hand or control it with one hand. And that’s a must for me.
    4″ Screen is perfect for me, 4,5″ max.

    • appleyay

      so we can do more stuff on it and have better visibility since on touch screen you finger has to be covering aloft of the screen..

    • coowkeee

      agreed @appleyay:disqus, I cam from iphone 4 switching to Lg G2 and at first it was hard to handle, but when you get used on it, it’s alright and for me I can never go back to 4″ phones again. Lol. But will agree with you that 5.7 is a bit large. ^^

      • Schryliam

        Well true that, the visibility gets better. But for what? Playing games? Checking email? Web browsing? Watching movies on road?
        Sure, it makes that alot better, but I prefer a long lasting phone over a bigger screen, and I have a laptop and a tablet to do those sore of things, I don’t really care of those doing on my phone on road, and can’t really understand why others does.
        And I have a 4″ phone, Most of the times when I sit down it really irritates me in my pocket, it just don’t sit conformable. So I really wonder where you put such a phones.

  • ɑղժɾҽա

    4.7-4.9″ is a nice sweet spot for me. I currently think that the iPhone 5’s 4″ display is on the small and low-quality side of today’s smartphone screens. I’m looking forward to 500+ ppi and 1080 or 2k display on the next iPhone.

  • raschmin

    why change the ppi???

    i think it would be one of these:
    1600x900px. with 326ppi, 5.6inch
    1536x864px. with 326ppi, 4.8inch
    1280x720px. with 326ppi, 4.5inch ***my favourite one***

    now
    1136x640px. with 326ppi, 4.0inch

  • god forbid I’d have to occaisionally use two hands?

  • Truffol

    It’s a tradeoff between screen real estate and convenience. Samsung has proven that the one hand fits all rule isn’t golden as the Note 3 is getting even better reviews than the S4. In certain countries (e.g. Asian countries) where people are obsessed with watching clips, TV episodes and movies on the go, the iPhone 5s really hurt your eyes after a while with its 4 inch screen.

    Hence perhaps a phablet and a smartwatch (so you can leave your phablet in your pocket until necessary) is the way to go in the upcoming years?