Apple Tests Larger Screens for iPhones, iPads

Even as They Seem to Go Downhill, Apple Marches On.


Maybe Larger Screens Will Be a Good Thing…


Apple Inc. and its Asian suppliers are testing larger screens
for iPhones and tablets, people at the company’s suppliers said.

Apple Tests Larger Screens for iPhones, iPads

Apple in recent months has asked for prototype smartphone screens larger than 4 inches and has asked for screen designs for a new tablet measuring slightly less than 13 inches diagonally, they said. The current iPhone 5 has a 4-inch screen, while the iPad has a 9.7-inch screen. The iPad Mini, a smaller version of the iPad tablet, has a 7.9-inch screen.

Whether the designs will make their way to market is unclear. The Cupertino, Calif., company routinely tests different designs for its products as it refines them during development. The company also changed its offerings of the iPhone and iPod last year to include larger screens, while adding the variant of the iPad with a smaller display.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

The tests with suppliers seem to suggest that Apple is exploring ways to capture broader customer needs when many mobile-device makers offer smartphones and tablets in various sizes. Its biggest rival in the tablet and smartphone markets, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co., has an “all things to all people” strategy, covering many different product sizes to capture as many customers as possible. The move has allowed Samsung to leapfrog Apple in the smartphone market even though Apple still leads in tablets.

Samsung was the leading smartphone maker with 33.1% of the market in the first quarter, while Apple trailed in second place, with 17.9%, according to researcher Strategy Analytics. In tablets, Apple is still the dominant player, but its market share fell to 39.6% in first quarter from 58.1% a year earlier, according to IDC. Samsung, which uses Google Inc.’s Android operating system, grabbed 17.9% of the tablet market, up from 11.3% a year earlier.

“In the long run, we will see touch screens in all sizes as the future vision of the technology industry is to offer the same user experience across all screens,” said IDC analyst Helen Chiang. “The key is to bring down the cost and introduce compelling applications for large-screen devices.”

Apple’s move, if adopted, would fit into a broader trend among mobile-device makers. Competitors including Samsung, Sony Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co. have launched smartphones with displays larger than 5 inches. The category is called “phablets,” referring to devices that cross over between a phone and tablet.

Apple and its suppliers also are preparing to ramp up production of a new iPad in coming weeks, according to people at component suppliers. The new version is expected to be the same size and have the same resolution as the existing 9.7-inch model, but with a lighter and thinner display structure, they said. The new display structure integrates touch sensors with a thin film instead of glass, which is used in existing iPads.

Suppliers started mass producing components for the new iPhone last month, people at suppliers said. A person said Apple told its assembler, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., to get ready to ship the new iPhones in late August.

As previously reported, the refreshed iPhone that is likely to be introduced in the second half will be the same size and have the same resolution as the current iPhone 5. Apple also has been working with its manufacturing partners in Asia on a less expensive iPhone that will likely use a nonmetal casing, in contrast to the aluminum casing of the high-end iPhone 5. The shells of both iPhone models will come in multiple color options, people at suppliers said.

Ian Sherr in San Francisco,  Juro Osawa in Hong Kong, and Min-Jeong Lee in Seoul contributed to this article