Skip to main content

Apple's Big Problem: Third of Smartphones Now 5+ Inches

Call it rise of the phablets. New research indicates that a third of all smartphones sold worldwide now sport screens that are 5 inches are larger. And Samsung owns nearly half of this fast growing segment at a time Apple is reportedly prepping a larger iPhone 6. Will it be big enough?

According to analyst firm Canalys, smartphones with 5-inch and larger displays grew a whopping 369 percent during the first quarter of this year compared to 2013. Overall, these handsets accounted for just more than a third of overall shipments (34 percent) shipped, but it's an even higher 43 percent in Asia Pacific. 

MORE: 15 Best iPhone Apps That Aren’t on Android

According to reports, the iPhone 6 will likely come in two sizes, one 4.7 inches and the other as large as 5.5 inches. But some industry watchers are saying that Apple's supersized model may be delayed beyond September. This would give phablet makers like Samsung, HTC, Lenovo, Huawei, LG and Sony more time to penetrate the fastest growing market segment.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said repeatedly that Apple won't make a bigger iPhone unless the company is able to so without compromising on display quality. This is what he told The Wall Street Journal in February:

"What we’ve said is that until the technology is ready, we don’t want to cross that line...We want to give our customers what’s right in all respects – not just the size but in the resolution, in the clarity, in the contrast, in the reliability."

Despite the fact that the iPhone 5s  and 5c measure only 4 inches, Apple moved a very impressive 43.7 million units during its second quarter, up from 37.4 million in the year ago period. Bringing the iPhone to China Mobile was an important ingredient for that growth, but Apple will need to keep up with consumers' growing appetites for larger displays.

Samsung has certainly benefitted from going big in the smartphone market, as the company now holds about 31 percent overall market share, nearly double Apple's 16 percent. If executed well, a larger iPhone 6 could narrow this gap significantly, but it remains to be seen whether 4.7 inches will sway shoppers from the 5.1-inch Galaxy S5 or even larger 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3. It may take a 5.5-inch iPhone 6, too, to win this new war.