It's the story of our time. Smartphone displays are slowly getting bigger. Phablets abound. Apple seems to be holding back. The question is, do we really need larger iPhone displays? I believe the answer is "yes."
The way I look at smartphone displays is that historical thoughts about how a smartphone should be designed come from the earliest days of development. Steve Jobs thought a smartphone should always fit in the shirt pocket. Processing power, display technology and cost dictated a certain size of 3.5 inches diagonally. The things we did on an early iPhone were 1) make phone calls, 2) access a few cool apps like calendar and contacts and browse with Safari when needed.
In time, technology advanced. Now we have a 64-bit processor in the iPhone 5s. The demands on the iPhone for maps, weather apps, watching videos, shopping, banking, calendaring and even reading books has grown dramatically. The iPhone has gone from being a great phone + music player + internet access device to the Star Trek tricorder of our times.
Accordingly, because of the demands we make and the performance delivered, a larger display is called for. I think it's that simple.
In some cases, the arguments for retaining a smaller screen boil down to individual preference or sheer speculation. A larger iPhone would weigh more. It wouldn't fit in the shirt pocket or pants pocket as conveniently. It's expanse of (perhaps) sapphire display would cost too much or draw too much power. I see these things as secondary to the steady development of the quintessential smartphone as a critical, visual part of our technical lives. Mobility has pushed battery technology, and that, in turn, opens doors.
We'll all figure out how to carry a larger iPhone. For women, the purse is usually available. For guys, the transition to a belt holster instead of a front pants pocket may be necessary. These problems can be solved. On the other hand, squinting at a small screen for the considerable breadth of activities we do on a modern iPhone is something that's just no longer desirable.
That technical vision is manifesting itself in concepts that whet our appetite. "Visions of a larger iPhone 6 are stunning." Plus, I've reviewed and handled a Galaxy Note II, and I'm here to tell you, larger smartphone displays are necessary and desirable for the mainstream. How fast Apple gets on board, and whether they'll offer a spectrum of size choices, we don't yet know.
What I do know is that simply pooh-poohing something new and obviously better because what we had in the past was good enough and personally handy is not a good enough technical reason to hold back.
Tech News Debris for the Week of February 3
John Gruber has written a nice article on Microsoft's history and how it relates to having missed the technology boat recently. It's longish, but must reading. "Microsoft, Past and Future." After reading the article, the bigest question in my mind was why Microsoft may have seen the mobile revolution coming but didn't have the institutional capacity, expertise, or vision to execute. I won't surmise that I know all the answers, but my gut instinct says that it was the difference in the street smarts, technical experience and wisdom of Steve Ballmer compared to Steve Jobs.
Jim Cramer, of The Street, when asked about if he's "OK" with $AAPL replied "The funny thing is that Apple's pretty much the opposite of "scary" these days." See: "These Apple Jitters Are for Naught." As with most things, there is a sane, sensible middle ground, and Mr. Cramer nails it. Unfortunately, the scare tactics of many writers would have us believe that Apple is on the ropes. That's not true, but perhaps Apple is also not in a position to zoom into the stratosphere again.
As for the treatment of Apple, Rocco Pendola tries once more to remind us that Apple's goal is not to be the volume leader and that those who argue that Apple is doomed because it doesn't destroy the competition with volume and share are just being fear-mongers. "Horribly Unfair Treatment of Apple Continues ."
This isn't strictly tech news, but here are two fantastic tip articles from Macworld. Chris Breen writes, "How to drag items to your hard drive without being challenged for a password." James Galbraith writes, "Fact or fiction: What does (and doesn't) actually speed up your Mac."
The debate about whether to hire a new CEO, with a fresh perspective, from the outside or whether to develop from within is ongoing. This Havard Business Review article looks at the new Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, and concludes that in modern tech times, it takes too long for an outsider to come up to speed. In the span of a year, which is about how long it takes for an outsider CEO to come up to speed, essential battles can be lost if the outsider fails to respond properly. Plus, the track record of outsider CEO's isn't that great. HBR takes the view that it was smart for Microsoft to tap the experience of a 20+ year Microsoft veteran, engineer and insider. "Microsoft and the Case for the Insider CEO."
Has Apple lost its appetite for a crusade? Back in the PC vs Mac wars, there was a palpable sense that Apple was fighting the man, the suits, and the holy war of the dreamer: self- expression, excellence and individuality were instilled in everything Apple did with Macs.
Nowadays, one has to ask how visibly Apple represents its crusade not just in cool TV ads but in every aspect of its products and Tim Cook's messaging. I think it's there, but it seems to get drowned out at times. Along these lines, a former WSJ reporter who covered Apple has written a book about Apple after Steve Jobs, and here's an excerpt that isn't very encouraging. "Former WSJ Apple reporter has a dreary take on life at Apple after Steve Jobs in this excerpt."
I recently approached this issue from a different angle. "Apple’s Tim Cook Should Develop More Investor Patience." Whether he likes it or not, part of a CEO's job these days is to, in addition to running a tight ship, set the tone for the public's feelings about the company. I wrote: "Hope and enthusiasm automatically confer [investor] patience." Curiously, Mr. Cook does seem to be doing more of that, in his own low-key way. "Tim Cook: Apple Working on 'Really Great Stuff'"
Apple has transitioned from fighting a war of survival with excellence to delivering excellence for its own sake. If some feel that Apple is no longer in a holy war, must we, in turn, hastily conclude that the war must be lost and Apple is doomed? Perhaps the pursuit of excellence for its own sake and for the benefit of the customer, without a war mentality, is all we need now. I'll leave you to ponder it all in the comments.
On mobile devices, there is this whole thing about native app vs HTML 5 driven by a server. It has seemed that ever since Apple opened the iPhone to native apps, the million or so of them out there has vindicated that approach. Even so, Matt Assay at ReadWrite has some thoughts about how HTML 5 could be a dark horse in the long run. "HTML5 Catches Up To Apple." I'm not especially endorsing this article, but the researched charts and data are worth pondering.
Several times in the past, in my writing about Apple's presumed next generation TV project, I have suggested on-screen facial recognition. One could turn on a feature that links to IMDB and calls out the names of actors seen on the screen. It looks like Google has had the same idea, but has carried it one step farther. I don't know if this could get Google into trouble with the altering of copyrighted material. Plus it's just a patent application. Still, have a look: "You Could Purge Shatner From Star Trek With Google’s New Video Magic [Patent]."
Finally, is Apple falling behind in display technology? Of course, there is always deeper background on this kind of stuff, but to first order, Brooke Crothers reports that it seems that Apple is falling behind. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this. "Apple needs to catch Samsung, Amazon in displays, researcher says."
Fighting the monster via Shutterstock.