Apple is considering making iPhones with bigger screens, as well as cheaper models in a range of colours, according to a Reuters report quoting several people who are privy to the plans.
It is not clear if Apple will actually launch its flagship product in the larger sizes, but the fact that it is being talked about underscores how the firm that once ruled the smartphone market is increasingly under threat from its aggressive competitor Samsung.
The South Koreans have overtaken Apple in market share with their bigger-screen Galaxy “phablets” and by flooding the market with a range of products at different prices.
Apple is looking at introducing at least two bigger iPhones next year – one with a 4.7-inch screen and one with a 5.7-inch screen – said the sources, including those in the supply chain in Asia.
They said suppliers have been approached with plans for the larger screens, but noted it is still unclear whether Apple will actually launch its flagship product in the larger sizes.
“They constantly change product specifications almost to the final moment, so you’re not really sure whether this is the final prototype,” said one person with direct knowledge of the matter.
Not just black and white
For this year, Apple is expected to launch two new models, widely referred to as the iPhone 5S, with new fingerprint technology, and a cheaper version in plastic casing, supply chain sources have said.
Apple plans to dress up the cheaper phone in a range of five or six colours to differentiate it from the more expensive model that has traditionally come only in black and white.
The US firm has discussed a price of $99 for the cheaper phone, the timing of which could slip to next year, one of the people said. It is not yet clear what the final price would be.
Apple declined to comment on the report.
Asked at last month’s AllThingsD industry conference why Apple hasn’t launched different sized iPhones, CEO Tim Cook said: “We haven’t so far. That doesn’t shut off the future.”
He explained that the company’s range of iPods music players serve different audiences and needs. “On the phone, that’s the question. Are we now at a point to serve enough people that we need to do that?”
Cook noted a larger screen comes with trade-offs on features such as battery life, resolution and brightness.
Test production for both the standard and cheaper iPhone models aims to start next month, with mass production ramping up in August to meet a September launch target, two people said.
“Trial production was originally planned to start in June, but the mixing of colours is taking longer than expected as Apple has very high and idealistic standards,” said one source in Asia, adding 20 million plastic iPhones are expected to ship in the October-December quarter.