Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs really hated the idea of bigger screens, famously telling the media three years ago that no one was going to buy phones so big that “you can’t get your hand around them".
Jobs’ implicit belief that Apple already possessed the perfect format is perhaps one reason why the device manufacturer has waited so long to potentially release an iPhone with a bigger screen and move into the so-called 'phablet' category.
The ghost of Jobs may not approve but it would seem that even the mighty Apple might finally be bending to the will of the masses.
The latest figures from analyst firm Telsyte’s Australian Smartphone Market Study paint a rather grisly picture of what the failure to act could mean for Apple.
According to the Telsyte report, 40 per cent of Apple’s customer base is at risk if it doesn't release a large-screen phone this year.
'Phablet' -- meaning a smartphone with a screen size of anywhere between 5.5 and 6.9 inches -- may be an odious term for many technologists but the Telsyte report is just the latest evidence as to just how much consumers are enamoured by the things. And much of the credit for instigating this mind-shift should go to Samsung Electronics, which was the first to experiment with bigger screen sizes.
Where Samsung led the way others have followed -- most notably Sony with its Xperia Z Ultra -- and Android is now well and truly ruling the roost as far as market share is concerned.
Steve Jobs once joked that 4-inch Android phones looked like skateboards. Well, now they are running rings around Apple when it comes to getting into customers' hands.
Here’s the latest data from IDC to illustrate the point.
The growing popularity of phablets has underpinned much of this success, and Telsyte’s managing director Foad Fadaghi says the way consumers use their smartphones has changed a lot.
“Phablet’s really hit the middle ground as far as mobility is concerned; people really watch their smartphones a lot more than they put them to their ears,” he says.
He adds that smartphones with bigger screens have essentially usurped the place that logically belonged to tablet devices.
Tablet devices are also very popular but by and large they are being used at home, not outside. Telsyte’s data suggests that 80 per cent of tablet device use in Australia happens indoors.
“Tablets have replaced PCs and laptops in the home,” Fadaghi says.
That leaves with consumers clamouring for more screen real estate as they go about their daily business.
But has Apple left it too late to join the party? We will have to wait and see if the iPhone 6 delivers, but Fadaghi says timing shouldn’t be an issue for Apple.
“Apple wasn’t the first to market with MP3 player or touchscreen mobile phones but it has always focused on better usability,” he says.
According to Fadaghi, if past history is anything to go by then Apple’s belated entry should still be enough for it to shake up the market.
Form factor is just one of the things that Apple and its rivals compete on and, if anything, the era of competing around things such as bigger screens and thinner bodies is swiftly coming to an end.
The accessories space (smart watches, fitness bands and smart home devices) is already shaping up as the next battleground and the smartphone is set to play a crucial role in that future.
The smartphone won’t be the central hub to a connected ecosystem but it will be the key interface which will enable a user to navigate a veritable web of smart devices.
“Our lives are already centred around the phone, this is just the natural progression,” Fadaghi says.
What better way to navigate this new world than a phablet boasting solid processing power, better battery life and -- of course -- a bigger screen?