Hey, Apple! Go Bigger iPhone or Go Home

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Lots of Apple watchers are throwing up their hands over the company's stock slide after the announcement of record iPhone sales. We're talking $13.1 billion in profit. And yet that wasn't enough to satisfy investors, who have become accustomed to Apple blowing past its own conservative estimates. While analysts projected Apple to move anywhere between 43 million and 63 million iPhones, the actual 47 million sold was on the lower end of that range. What Apple needs is not a cheaper iPhone but a bigger handset to battle the latest Android superphones -- despite the CEO's state of phablet denial.

During Apple's first-quarter earnings call, CEO Tim Cook was asked whether he would release a phone with a larger screen, but he dismissed the idea: "The iPhone 5 offers a new 4-inch Retina Display, which is the most advanced display in the industry," Cook said. "It also provides a larger screen for iPhone customers without sacrificing the one-handed ease of use that our customers love. We put a lot of thinking into screen size, and we believe we picked the right one."

I'm sorry but it's time for Apple to stop thinking different and start thinking bigger.

There's no question that the iPhone 5's display is one of the best on any smartphone. It's bright, offers superb viewing angles and impressive sharpness for the size at 326 pixels per inch. But there's no ignoring the fact that more and more shoppers are choosing larger handsets. According to IHS iSuppli, shipments of smartphones with screens that are 5 inches and larger will more than double this year, surging from 25 million units to 60 million.

Not only are do these 5-inch and larger screens provide more real estate for enjoying games, movies and the Web, many of the handsets offer higher pixel densities than the iPhone 5. The Droid DNA, for instance, packs a full 1080p screen in a 5-inch design, resulting in 440 ppi.

MORE: 7 Things Apple Must Do in 2013

Samsung goes a step further with its 5.5-inch Galaxy Note II. Its multi-window feature allows users to run two applications on the same screen simultaneously. The device also supports pen input. These benefits allowed Samsung to sell more than 3 million units in a little over a month. Meanwhile, Huawei is definitely encroaching on tablet territory with its monstrous 6.1-inch Ascend Mate for China.

Do I think Apple should go that large? Absolutely not. Although it has some advantages, I find the 5.5-inch Note II unwieldy, despite the fact that Samsung includes a one-handed operation mode that shifts things like the keyboard and dial pad to one side of the screen. And having held the Ascend Mate, I don't believe the masses are ready for something quite that large. However, Apple could probably go up as much as an inch in size without sacrificing ease of use.

If Apple proved anything with the iPhone 5, it's that it can craft a device that feels nearly weightless while retaining a premium vibe. (Scratches on the black model not withstanding.) I believe Jony Ive and the rest of Apple's design team can create a 4.8- to 5-inch iPhone that doesn't feel the least bit awkward by going edge to edge with the display and shrinking or even nixing the home button.

Recently, rumors surfaced of an "iPhone Math" (don't worry, it's just a code name) with a 4.8-inch screen that would launch in multiple colors this June. Not only would a bigger iPhone prevent more people from jumping ship to the Samsung Galaxy line -- including the upcoming S4 -- it would allow Apple to add a $299 premium tier to its lineup at a time profits are relatively flat. Plus, Asian customers have a preference for phablets because their larger screens enable easier character input.

You could also expect a longer-lasting battery with a bigger iPhone, as the Note II lasted longer than 10 hours in our tests. The iPhone 5 lasted a little over 7 hours. That's a huge difference in endurance.

Tim Cook's comments would seem to throw cold water on a bigger iPhone, but it's possible he was just trying to defend the iPhone 5 and keep customers from holding out for a newer device. My gut tells me Cook was making a statement about his company's product philosophy, and that we may just see a souped-up iPhone 5S with the same screen size come this spring. For Apple's sake, I had better be wrong.

Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark’s SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter and .

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
Add a comment
  • geekmee Says:

    Apple has nothing to worry about.... Clearly their competitors don't GET IT. They think its a "Muscle Car" war....It's not about a bigger engine or the most horsepower.

    While Apple's competitors keep focusing on "giving MORE"... Apple keeps "Doing More"... with less.

  • musa Says:

    I to am a die hard apple user some would say i am the spokesman for apple. While apple still makes better everything, imac, lapto tablets. Phones . I switched from my iphone to a note 2 . I never thought iwould but i did. I miss the whole sync process from my iphone to mac and ipad but once i saw this big screen I knew this phone would be the one I needed for displaying
    y graphics and etc. I guess its what you use your phone for . For Me to have a bigger screen. So until apple increases its screen size. I will continue to use my note. Or until the os in this thing p,s me off and i decide its not worth it and go back to my reliable iphone os.

  • aydell Says:

    I switched from a ip 4s..to a note 2...n wholy krap!! I was blind but now I see....I can do so much more...the customization s..free music...ip sales slid cuz of bigger n better phones by samsung.htc etc

  • Joseph Says:

    >We put a lot of thinking into screen size, and we believe we picked the right one.

    There's that "We know better than the customer" attitude that I'd hoped ended with Steve Jobs.

    > It really looked stupid to talk on the phone with a large pizza close to the ear.

    People today use Bluetooth earpieces and don't need to take their phones out of their pockets at all when talking. Did people look stupid using cordless phones, which are a lot larger than a 5" smartphone?

  • Santiago Says:

    I agree with the article. It's the only reason I switched over to the Galaxy note 2. Screen size matters now. Reading books, Internet browsing, etc. is much more enjoyable on a bigger screen. I was an diehard iPhone user since the first one came out. The iOS after awhile gets boring and apple should revamp the whole os. Jailbreaking helps but slows your iphone down. Android allows all kind of customization, but right now the only thing I miss about the iPhone is the quality of the apps. Hands down apple has the best apps!!!! Googles apps are just water down buggy apps. Until apple releases a bigger iPhone (5inches would be perfect) I'm staying with android.

  • Steven W. Says:

    Their stock price sliding has nothing to do with not having a 5-inch iPhone. You are missing the point if you think this. The phone size is fine. In fact, Apple sold more iPhones then ever before last quarter. The problem is reaching new customers. They have saturated the market in the US and are having a hard time offering an affordable product to emerging markets.

  • Phil T Says:

    Having a phone with a larger screen makes almost all things more convenient, most importantly web browsing, texting, and video viewing. Saying that we do not need to hang on to technology "like a gorilla" may be a valid point to some, but this (laptopmag) is certainly not the place to express those ideas. To the current iPhone users= once you have used a phone with a larger than 4 inch screen it will be very difficult to go back, everything is just much simpler. If you use your phone primarily to make calls then I could see why you would not want a large phone, but again, this is laptopmag and generally the people who go on this site use their technologies to the fullest.
    *Bigger the phone, the more enhancements you can make to it (bigger components generally mean better components, take Nokia's 41 mp sensor for instance.)

  • Ross Says:

    Who says we need a bigger phone? The size now is just fine. If you want a bigger phone, I wonder where would you like to put it in the busy life, like while you are driving. Anyway, I don't want to hold the phone in my hand all the time like a gorilla never letting go his banana. Man we need a life that won't really depend on technology once for a while.

  • ReyMatt Says:

    Are shopper choosing bigger handsets because of the size, or is it because non-Apple products are generally cheaper? I don't want a phone that barely fits my pocket. I prefer the size of the iPhone 4, but with much better specs...

  • wiclee Says:

    Hey, it's a phone. I don't need a tablet or Phablet to carry around whole day. iPhone 5's 4in screen is a perfect size and lightweight, which fits nicely into one's pocket and easily handled with one hand. What's the point having a larger screen size? It really looked stupid to talk on the phone with a large pizza close to the ear.

  • Stardawn Says:

    I don't care about more cpu or graphic power, bigger screen, or stuff like that. My iphone 4S is totally enough for what I need.

    I want a phone with much MUCH longer battery life and more features customization options.

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