Look Out Apple Haters, Android’s Monopoly on Large Screens Will End

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iPhoneFor many Apple haters and even more reasonable Android fans, the rallying cry for the last couple of years has been that Android is the better platform because you can get a larger display.

To be sure, there are many other reasons why one might prefer Android, but for those who want a larger screen, Apple's refusal (so far) to release a larger screen iPhone—let's call it an iPhablet for fun—has been the one objective reason to say that Apple lags behind Android OEMs.

iPhone aficionados can say they don't need or want a larger screen on their smartphone (that describes me, by the way), or that Apple's quality and ecosystem are more important than screen size, but the fact remains that the one thing Samsung and HTC offer that Apple does not is a larger screen.

In the world of tech partisan pissing contests, it's this one inarguable fact that I've seen trumpeted near and far. It has been offered as proof that Android is better and proof that Apple can't innovate by many folks with questionable skills in critical thinking. My question is what will those partisans rely on when Apple finally addresses this segment of the market later this year?

I imagine at first we'll hear that Apple is copying Samsung once again, and that this is proof Apple no longer innovates. Don't get me started on how utterly insane such claims are—I've addressed them many times in the past, but you can count on hearing just that echoing throughout the tech blogosphere.

Never mind that the lack of an iPhablet is proof today to some people that Apple can't innovate, when Apple releases an iPhablet later this year, it will be heralded by many of those same folks as proof that Apple's days of innovating are behind it.

After that knee-jerk reaction, though, what talking point will partisans turn to? Samsung's Galaxy S line has entered an era of meh. The Galaxy S4 and S5 are both fine devices, but neither has sold all that well and both got reviews that were far from glowing. The Note 3 has its fans, but devices that big are little more than niche products.

Update/Edit: Samsung claimed that the Galaxy S5 sold better than the S4 during their respective opening weekends, but the company provided no specific figures, and that's even pretending that Samsung's figures should ever be taken at face value.

Be that as it may, the S4 supposedly sold 10 million units in its first month of availability, or a little more than Apple sells in the opening weekend of an iPhone launch. Of course, we then learned Samsung overstated S4 sales numbers, so what does "S5 sold better than S4" even mean? Probably not all that much.

The real point I was attempting to make is no one is excited about Samsung's Galaxy S product line. As Steven Kovach wrote for Business Insider, "The [S5] doesn't offer enough to make it worth upgrading last year's model or switching from iPhone."

Samsung has tried to claim a mantle of software relevance by introducing a number of features that no one cares about, but the reality is that the only thing Samsung has done that people do care about is the large screen form factor.

What happens when Apple erases that gap? Apple CEO Tim Cook has been telling us in Cook Code™ for at least a year that will release a larger screen iPhone when it can do so without making any compromises. Based on a combination of logic, reason, and leaks coming out of Apple's supply chain, I am personally convinced we'll see Apple deliver on that promise this fall.

I am sure the device will sell well, and I am also sure there will still be Apple haters. What I am not sure about is how those Apple haters will express their bizarre conviction that the one company that has consistently disrupted markets is the one company that doesn't innovate.

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Comments

Randell & Koko

“It’s less than a year after Samsung’s landmark Galaxy S4 Android superphone went on sale, and already the follow-up Galaxy S5 is in the wild and reportedly selling like… not hot cakes, exactly; more like… an iPhone.” - Forbes
Just curious where you got your info? Everything I read says GS5 sales brisk(Forbes,CNet,Mashable,etc)

Bryan Chaffin

Thanks for the note, Randell & Koko. That passage should have been more specific and clear. I added a section to the piece with some links to address it.

RonMacGuy

Verizon offering Buy One Get One Free Samdung S5s.  If that doesn’t cut through Samdung’s lying BS about how great sales are, I don’t know what does.  Buy One Get One Free on their brand new flagship?!?!?  Are you kidding me?!?!?

geoduck

SJ famously said something to the effect of how that the iPhone was the perfect size and how few people wanted a larger screen. Despite what you read from many in the Android camp he wasn’t wrong. At the time. iPhones were used differently. BlackBerry was the dominant phone at the time, and it was mostly a communications device.  Being able to type with one hand was more important than real estate as iPhones were also primarily communications devices; calls, FaceTime, IM, Skype, etc. Initially there wasn’t even an app store. When apps came along they were simple and of limited functionality.

Now iPhones are much more powerful and people use their phone for much more. People take photos and now want to edit them too. They play music and now a surprising number want to record and edit audio too. They play games that are a quantum level more complex than solitaire or minesweeper. They control things from their furnace and lights to RC cars and helicopters, with their phone. They write and paint and create on their phones. Communication is becoming almost a secondary function. NOW a larger screen makes sense.

But a larger screen isn’t innovation, it’s simply a response to a changing market, to how phones are used. Maybe Apple should have gone larger earlier. I don’t know, but the smaller screen doesn’t seem to have hurt sales.

Lee Dronick

What ever size is settled upon I still want to be able to work it one handed. My thumb is just long enough reach most all of the screen on my iPhone 4S. That doesn’t mean that I don’t use both hands with it, just that there circumstances when I only have one hand handy.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I can’t wait for Pope Gruber’s coming encyclical embracing fragmentation.

Blissmonkey

I get Apple’s move to a larger phone.  It makes sense as there’s obviously a market for it.  Moreover, no one should ever pretend it’s an “innovative” move: it’s the exact opposite, and I’m happy this is brought up in the article. 

What I’m still stuck on—if anyone can explain (and my apologies for introducing a totally different subject)—is what the heck was Apple thinking with the 5C?  I simply cannot wrap my mind around how Apple can possibly justify that as a premium product.  With Apple being famous for saying “no” more often than “yes” to new products, how did the (godawful, imho) 5C come into existence?  Who was it for?

RonMacGuy

With Apple being famous for saying “no” more often than “yes” to new products, how did the (godawful, imho) 5C come into existence?  Who was it for?

I am sure there are many answers to the two questions you asked, but the simple answer to the question of ‘Who was it for?’ is the tens of millions of customers who bought it.  I personally think they created it to focus on the younger generation who for years had iPods in bright colors with cool cases.  Also, with the copy-cats focusing on copying the look and feel of the top-end iPhones, the iPhone 5Cs enabled teenagers to get nice colorful yet powerful smartphones with a more unique and personal feel to them, which also stood out to their friends who saw them, went home, and begged mommy and daddy for one in their special color.

That being said, Bissmonkey, so why do you feel they are ‘godawful’ in your honest opinion?  My daughter has one - She loves it and thinks it is a great phone.  My only failing is that I went for the holiday extra cash off the 16 gig model (I typically get 32 gig versions to avoid the constant ‘my iDevice is full’ complaining) and guess what?  Her iPhone is full, yet she wants all pictures, videos, music, and apps immediately available on her phone all the time!!

What don’t you like about the 5C?  The colors?  It’s basically an iPhone 5, which was also a great phone.  Do tell - I am curious.

 

John Dingler, artist

I imagine that Samsung acolytes and chelas already know that Samsung has patented the “larger screen,” but in secret of course, and will strenuously tout this patent if and when Apple increases the iPhone’s screen size to popular acclaim.

John Dingler, artist

Hi Blissmonkey,
Generally speaking, I feel that the iPhone 5c was Apple’s attempt to appeal to societies, cultures, and sub-cultures that value a variety of colors in their art and craft which would include what people wear and home decoration. As such, that appeal was based on a wrongheaded interpretation of what the significance of color means to them so, by going overboard, especially by matching a hot pink cover to a hot pink iPhone, for example, it talked down to those segments. And overplay and marketing cynicism comes to my mind.

Blissmonkey

Firstly, I found the colours to be quite tepid and vanilla.  Think of the anodized (sp?) aluminum of the 5th gen iPods: bright, electric, and bold.  Think of the distinctive white iPod headphones (and the bold, splashy ads along with them): these colour elements were challenging, distinctive, and attractive—they had a purpose. Although a very subjective feature, the 5C colours really put me off.  Like a Starbucks coffee blend created to please as many as possible, the flavours are adequate but unremarkable.

Secondly, the plastic.  Oh, the plastic.  A plastic phone just isn’t a premium phone—it doesn’t say “iPhone” to me.  I suppose there are a few reasons why this is the case, and it’s difficult to be specific, but I’ll try.  When reading about Apple stores, for example, the materials used and the care that went into their use is always remarked upon, i.e. the Italian tiling in the first stores, the patented glass in the New York store, the new Apple spaceship in Cupertino (SJ said, “There’s not a straight piece of glass in it.”)—can you imagine any part of these being “unashamedly plastic”? Not even close.  Yes, they are buildings—but they, like the phones, represent the brand.

When I think iPhone I think premium, gorgeous materials, cutting edge design, and lead-the-pack innovation.  This is what Apple wants me to think and because this is what they deliver.  “Plastic” has never participated in this vocabulary for phones, because plastic isn’t premium.  Period.

As you say, it has its fans.  It has appeal to a certain demographic, but that’s different from the experience Apple strives to deliver.  Apple prides itself on all the things it’s said “no” to in the past, and plastic phones have always been one of those things.  So, the 5C “feels” like an abandonment of the premium principle that is Apple’s signature.  So, deciding now to say yes to plastic feels less like a cheap cash grab (but it looks that way) than it does a move away from its core philosophy, which to deliver the best possible product.

I guess, in conclusion, I’d have to say it’s a good product that diminishes an insanely great brand. 

freediverx

Blissmonkey wrote:
“With Apple being famous for saying “no” more often than “yes” to new products, how did the (godawful, imho) 5C come into existence?  Who was it for?”

If I were to guess, I’d say that the 5C was meant to replace “last year’s model” as a lower priced option for iPhone shoppers. It offered the same internals (display, performance) but the polycarbonate body is no doubt less costly to manufacture, providing Apple with higher margins.

Considering the both the 5S and 5C outsold the Galaxy S4, the real question is why you think this was a bad move.

FlipFriddle

The “Why the F doesn’t this stupid thing fit in my pocket?” segment of the market. No thanks. I still don’t get the phablet thing. I want the phones to get thinner, lighter, and maybe flexible, not something that will force baggies to come back in style.

wab95

Bryan

The tone of your article almost gives one the impression that you’re casting aspersions on Samsung’s truthfulness, or heaven forbid, their integrity. But then, I stilled my palpitations by realising that such a suggestion would be as absurd as claiming that Samsung steals other companies’ designs, or lies about their device performance specs, or blatantly copies competitors’ device features (with internal documentation of said copying), or plays fast and loose with court documents. Preposterous. Laughable. Samsung is a company that is the very epitome of industrial virtue. An icon of uprightness. [wab95: You are instructed to release this statement on the TMO website between Saturday 19 April 2014 and Monday 21 April 2014 before 2100 hours GMT - signed Samsung HQ]

Now that we’ve got that behind us, of course Apple releasing an iPhablet will be taken as Apple following Samsung’s lead and an innate inability to innovate and Apple’s impending doom; but so too would Apple not releasing an iPhablet. This is because Apple really are doomed.

It all goes back to John Browett and Apple’s missed opportunities. Don’t you see? Hiring him away from Dixons was pure genius of Newtonian proportions, I tell you. Why? Because Apple customers are just too happy. Apple customer satisfaction is simply too high, and that’s a problem. Such euphoria is the enemy of success and innovation, which stem from serious-mindedness and misery. When customers are miserable, a company is compelled to innovate such wonders as the Surface, the Zune, and beauties like the Galaxy Gear - none of which have sprung from the labs in Cupertino, mind you. Yessir! With Browett, and the Dixonification of the Apple retail experience, Apple customers could have become as miserable as the rest of the lot of the tech-buying community, certainly those Android-besotted wretches graced with a cheap handset that won’t update to the latest OS version, or anyone of the three MS-kateers still carrying around a Zune. The Apple community would have disbanded as quickly as a gaggle of Galaxy Gear clients leaving the orthopaedics clinic after getting their dislocated shoulders reset. Yep. If only Apple had hung onto Browett, we happy Apple users today could have been up to our arses in misery and innovation. 

Starting today, I say we Apple lot start a campaign: ‘Bring Back Browett!’


@Blissmonkey:

I think another reason that Apple developed the 5c, apart from the reasons that already been cited, particularly in relation to youth, was in response to having a solution for the middle and lower income countries where Apple are trying to capture emerging markets. The early 5c adverts clearly depicted users in a diversity of middle income countries. I think this is one area where Apple, not simply in response to analyst criticism, which did not stop BTW, with the release of the 5c given its price point, but in an empirical experiment set this free in the wild to see where it might thrive. What they have found, at least in Asian emerging markets, is that the Apple-buying consumers want high end. The gold iPhone 5s is the hot item in India, followed by the rest of the 5s line up. Without those hard data, how was anyone, including Apple, to know if a somewhat lower configured and priced device would sell in those markets better than their standard device? It will be interesting to see the data on where this device sold, and how it shapes updates and distribution of Apple’s next iPhone iterations.

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