Apple CEO Wary Of Phablets

Tim Cook says Apple won't introduce a large-screen device if it means iPhone users must make tradeoffs.
Apple iPhone 5S: The Hot Rumors
Apple iPhone 5S: The Hot Rumors
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Apple CEO Tim Cook apparently has no interest in the phablet or superphone market, which is expected to swell to 825 million devices annually by 2018. During the company's phone call with media and analysts on Tuesday, Cook expressed doubt that Apple would offer such a device anytime soon.

Cook's comments came in response to a direct question about his thoughts on phablets, or phones with large displays, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note II. "My view continues to be that iPhone 5 has the best display in the industry," said Cook. "We always strive to create the very best display." The iPhone 5's display measures 4 inches across the diagonal. It has 1136 x 640 pixels, with a pixel density of 326 ppi. Apple markets it as a Retina Display.

Cook noted that consumers use a variety of criteria to judge a phone's display. "Some customers value large screen size. Others value other factors such as resolution, color quality, white balance, reflectivity, power consumption, compatibility of apps and portability." These are all traits that Apple believes the iPhone 5 excels at.

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"Our competitors," concluded Cook, "have made some significant tradeoffs in many of these areas to ship a larger display. We would not ship a larger display iPhone while these tradeoffs exist."

In the past, Cook has referred to "one-handed use" as the major tradeoff with large-screen devices. He did not make that reference this time, but it remains a significant tradeoff. The iPhone 5 (along with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4) has a display that's small enough to allow users to reach the entire screen without adjusting their hand position or using their other hand. Devices with displays greater than 4.3 or 4.5 inches often require users to adjust how they hold the phone in order to reach parts of the screen with their thumb.

Tradeoffs or not, phablets are here to stay. According to a new report published Wednesday by Transparency Market Research, the global phablets and superphones market is expected to reach $116.4 billion by 2018. Shipments of superphones and phablets are expected to reach 825 million units by 2018. Much of that unit and revenue growth will take place in North America, with the Asia-Pacific region ramping up quickly.

Many of the iPhone's direct competitors have large displays. The HTC One's screen measures 4.7 inches across the diagonal. It boasts full HD (1920 pixels by 1080 pixels) resolution. The Samsung Galaxy S 4's screen measures 5 inches across the diagonal. It, too, boasts full HD resolution. By comparison, the iPhone 5's display is tiny and far less pixel-dense.

Such comparisons don't seem to bother Cook, though. With sales of the HTC One and Galaxy S 4 both kicking off this month, it will be a while before we see if consumers side with size or usability.

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