Apple has reportedly been requesting prototype displays for iPhones and iPads that are larger than the displays the company currently uses. The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple has been working with displays larger than 4-inches for the iPhone, and iPad displays just under 13-inches.
My initial response to this story is that there isn't a lot of meat on the bone. Apple tests prototype components frequently and often. While this story comes from The Wall Street Journal, as opposed to Taiwan site DigiTimes, it's essentially the exact same kind of story that would be met with skepticism if it had come from DigiTimes.
I have little doubt that the kernel of this report is accurate—Apple has requested larger screens for testing—but they definitely aren't for updated iPhones and iPads expected this fall, and there's no evidence offered that Apple is even close to picking one of these components for a product that will ship.
Making Mountains out of Reports of Pebbles
I also take exception to The Wall Street Journal's conclusion that these prototype requests suggest that Apple is exploring ways of taking a Samsungian approach to the market of providing many different screen sizes to address as much of the market as possible.
It's always conceivable that Apple will broaden its product line. For instance, I am calling a 100 percent chance that Apple will release a less expensive iPhone model aimed at broadening its appeal in emerging markets this fall. Apple also seems likely to address the phablet market at some point, and the company could release an iPad larger than 9.7-inches (the size of the current large-size iPad).
That is a far cry from Samsung's model of releasing hundreds of models (including carrier-specific models) to capture market share for the sake of market share. Suggesting that Apple is interested in such a thing betrays a basic lack of understanding on how Apple does business.
As most long time Apple observers know, the company goes after the profitable end of the markets it enters using a focused product line. In the case of the iPhone, a phablet model could just as well replace the main model—currently the iPhone 5, which is expected to be replaced by the iPhone 5S—rather than augmenting the iPhone with a third model.
Such a strategy would leave the less expensive model that Apple will release this fall to fill the high demand for smartphones you can fully operate with one hand.
Our point is that reaching conclusions about Apple's strategy based on leaks of component prototypes is absurd.
About that 13-inch iPad
All that said, I do find the idea of an almost 13-inch iPad intriguing. Internally, TMO's John Martellaro has long argued that Apple will release larger iPads at some point. It's possible, but I don't see such devices as general-purpose consumption devices. Think of it as more of an iPad Pro aimed at content creators.
Whether or not it sees the light of day, it's zero surprise that Apple is testing different form factors. Just as with DigiTimes, don't make too much of this story.