While its main rival, Samsung, offers a broad array of screen sizes, Apple has stuck to its "smaller is better" design philosophy, touting the superior one-handed usage of the 4-inch screen of the iPhone. Apple has gone cheaper with the forthcoming iPhone 5C, and the company can continue to improve the components inside and the iOS software, but larger is the next frontier.
TrendForce estimated that Samsung sold 71 million smartphones through its distributors in the second quarter of 2013, including 23 million Galaxy S4s with a 5-inch screen. Apple sold 31.2 iPhones in the same quarter, including a good portion of the aging iPhone 4 and 4S models with a 3.5-inch screen.
In an informal survey, CNET asked readers what size screen they would want in an iPhone. Just 21 percent of the respondents were satisfied with the current 4-inch screen, and 60 percent preferred screens larger than 4.7 inches.
"My view continues to be that the iPhone 5 has the absolute best display in the industry," he said. "And we always strive to create the very best display for our customers...Some customers value large screen size; others value also other factors such as resolution, color quality, white balance, brightness, reflectivity, screen longevity, power consumption, portability, compatibility with apps, and many things. Our competitors had made some significant trade-offs in many of these areas in order to ship a larger display; we would not ship a larger display iPhone while these trade-offs exist."
Apple's engineers have had enough time to figure out how to eliminate the unwanted trade-offs in having a bigger screen. And there's plenty of market demand to go bigger in the second half of 2014, when the next round of iPhones is likely to debut.