Apple's Next iPhone: Big's In, Plastic's Out
Whatever the next iPhone is -- and rumor has it there may be two, both larger and both with a sleek metal finish -- it's clear that Apple needs to make a significant departure from the iPhone 5c. The brightly colored plastic phones that sell for somewhat less than the top-of-the-line iPhone 5s haven't cut it with consumers anywhere, and Apple investors aren't happy with the news.
iPhone rumors hit pretty much every week of the year, but some rise to the top -- with or without great sources. The latest bigger-screen iPhone 6 rumor comes courtesy of The Wall Street Journal in an article written by three authors who span the globe, writing together from Hong Kong, Taipei and San Francisco.
According to "people familiar with the situation," WSJ last week reported that two new iPhone models would be released in the second half of this year, both with larger screens than the current 4-inchers used with the iPhone 5s and 5c.
One model will feature a slightly larger screen at 4.5 inches, measured diagonally, while the other will span more than 5 inches. These new iPhones will not include a curved display.
The "people" also said that both new models were expected to feature metal casings similar to the current iPhone 5s -- and get this, that Apple was expected to "scrap the plastic exterior used in the iPhone 5c."
Apparently the smaller of the two models was further along in development and was being prepared for mass production.
As for ditching the colorful plastic case, this rumor seems plausible, because most analysts have seemed surprised at how well the more expensive 5s has sold against the 5c, which may indicate that consumer demand leans toward Apple's higher quality and the perceived durability of metal.
Does this mean Apple will ditch the plastic 5c altogether? Apple historically has offered an older model of iPhone for sale as a "low-end" option, and it seems likely that it would continue to do so in 2014.
The trouble with rumors is that Apple's supply chain is huge, it covers multiple continents, and telling secrets is inherently fun. As publications go, WSJ is usually credible, but rumors naturally aren't backed by the full weight of its reputation -- all bets are off.
These rumors are truly vague, in fact, mirroring the opinions and hopes of most every Apple-following writer, analyst and early adopter. There is clearly a sense that Apple iPhone users are interested in larger screens, but the WSJ article's assertion that "Apple is losing market share to rivals who offer bigger screens" is overblown at best and unsupported by meaningful data.
That is, it seemed so until Monday, when Apple released its quarterly financial report, shedding some light on how iPhone 5s and 5cs have been selling against the big-screen competition. That light was a decidedly sickly hue. Overall iPhone sales failed to meet expectations, and the 5c -- well, there's a lot of speculation on just why it's a dud, but it's now pretty clear that it is.
Meanwhile, according to a more detailed report AppleInsider published last week, Timothy Arcuri of Cowen and Company issued a note to investors Wednesday claiming that much of the design of Apple's next iPhone had been finalized, which seems to fly in the face of the WSJ report claiming two new designs with two different screen sizes are in the works, one of which is lagging development of the other.
"Checks within the company's supply chain" led Arcuri to believe the new iPhone 6 will feature a 4.8-inch display.
Another claim focuses on WiFi connectivity, speculating that the new iPhone 6 will feature Apple's latest 802.11ac connectivity available in newer Macs and the AirPort Extreme router. The iPhone 5s uses the older, slower 802.11n WiFi connection.
Is There Any Good News Here?
If there's any real takeaway from these rumors, it's that they seem to increase the possibility that someone has actually spoken to someone in Apple's supply chain who actually is certain that Apple has a larger screen size in the works.
These rumors may be pointing less toward hopes and dreams and more toward reality.