One of the main complaints about Apple’s mobile ambitions over the years has been a lack of variety. For quite some time, we’ve had our shot at one submission in each category. A single phone, a solo tablet, and not enough variety to keep many users engaged. That’s been changing, and if rumors are true, will continue to. Is Apple finally getting the hint? If they are, let’s hope they’ve learned from past mistakes.
The iPad was the first tablet to really grab the attention of mobile enthusiasts. It wasn’t first to the market, but it was immediately better, and backed by Apple’s intense iOS ecosystem proved an easy sell to consumers. At 10-inches, the screen was one Steve Jobs felt to be perfect. He famously laughed off smaller tablets, calling them inferior. At the time, he was right — the technology didn’t catch up on smaller screens until a few years later.
When the iPad mini was released, the screen was limited — terrible, even. It sold well due to the form factor, but was behind the curve. The form factor was perfect, but it was more like a toe-dip into the smaller tablet pool. Apple seemed to be feeling the market out, and the mini was received warmly. A follow-up mini with Retina display has been dubbed by many the perfect tablet.
Several rumors of admittedly suspect reliability suggest Apple is working on not one, but two new screen sizes for the iPhone. A 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone are said to be accompanied by the now tried-and-true 4-inch version. Three options for an iPhone, at the same time. We’ve seen Apple make screen size changes before, leaping to 4-inches from 3.5-inches with the iPhone 5, but never offering more than one new screen size at once.
This variety is also said to be making its way to the incoming iWatch, where Apple is said to be considering — or maybe actually delivering — several screen size options. An initial report suggested a 2.5-inch rectangular option was heading our way, but that could be accompanied by several other options as well.
Has Apple heard us all the way in Cupertino? Variety has long been Android’s trump card, something Apple refused to encounter. A common commentary from iOS converts to Android is that they enjoy a larger screen. Often times, they miss the robust iOS ecosystem, but increased screen size is hard to turn a nose up at.
Larger phones and smaller tablets are the order of the day for mobile. Android has long held sway over that realm, but the iPad mini proved Apple can compete when they try. The highly believable rumor of a 4.7-inch iPhone suggest Apple has paid close attention to the trends, and feels comfortable making the leap.
Will consumers care, though? If the iPad mini is any indication, a 4.7-inch iPhone would likely provide enough synergy to bring many users back, and entice current ones sitting on the fence to stay. The iPhone 5C was an exercise in futility; the goal there was likely marketing, as it was/is little more than a repackaged iPhone 5. It gave Apple something to talk about, instead of a single new device. Also, Apple customers aren’t fond of plastic, no matter how good it is.
The new Apple is more comfortable, too, with WWDC showing a very relaxed vibe from chiefs on stage. It may just be time for Apple to explore new boundaries, and give consumers what they clearly want. Larger phones, different wearables, and a reason to stay put instead of deciding other offerings on different ecosystems are right.