Many critics have stated that Apple needs to branch out from its current device line up and toss variations of the iPhone into the mix, offering larger screens, different price points, and hardware variations. The logic behind such ideas is that more competitors than ever are emerging, and some consumers prefer larger screens and different hardware than the iPhone offers, driving them to different products. When asked about this at the D11 conference this evening, Apple's Tim Cook addressed the issue, but not before suggesting such devices could be in Apple's future.
The question initially started with using the iPod as an example, with the device having been offered in many different iterations at different price points, such as the Nano, Mini, Classic, Shuffle, etc. Why was Apple willing to produce such a variety of iPods, yet has never branched out in a similar way with the iPhone, with the only price point variations resulting from the subsidization differences between current and previous-gen models?
Before answering the question, Cook kicked off his response with a simple suggestion that such could be a reality for Apple in the future. "Well, we haven't [launched variations of the iPhone] so far, that doesn't shut off the future. But let me answer the question on why we haven't so far. It takes a lot of work, a lot of really detailed work, to do a phones right when you manage the hardware, software, and services around it. We've chosen to put our energy into getting those right, and have made choices in order to do that."
He went on to explain that with the iPod example, each iPod played a different role in some way over the others, with the Shuffle in particular getting heavy focus in his response. The Shuffle was different from the Nano, the Nano from the Classic, and each appealed to a specific type of consumer. The products Apple offers, he said, serve different needs, and the question is whether it is yet at that point with the iPhone.
He was also asked about phablets - devices with larger screens and possibly also styluses, and whether that is something Apple should pursue. Said Cook: "A large screen today comes with a lot of trade-offs. People do look at the size, but they also look at things like whether the photos show the proper color, battery life, brightness, longevity ... At this point, we've felt the Retina is overwhelmingly the best."