Why Apple needs (and doesn't need) a large, curved-screen iPhone

Why Apple needs (and doesn't need) a large, curved-screen iPhone

Summary: Rumors are circulating that Apple is working on an iPhone with a large, curved display. But would Apple risk its flagship cash cow in order to go chasing after Samsung and LG?

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TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, iPhone
33

The new iPhone 5s and 5c models have only been out a few weeks, but already the Apple rumor mill is churning up things that claim to be in the Cupertino pipeline.

This weekend the rumor that bubbled up to the surface was that Apple is working on, in the words of Bloomberg, new iPhone designs that include "bigger screens with curved glass and enhanced sensors that can detect different levels of pressure."

The new iPhones are rumored to have 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, dwarfing the current iPhone with its 4-inch display. Also, according to the "person familiar with the plans," they will feature glass that curves downward at the edges.

Sound familiar? Well, Samsung has both a smartphone with a 5.7-inch display – the Galaxy Note 3 – and as far as curved screens go there's Samsung's Round and LG's G Flex, both of which are currently only available in South Korea (although the G Flex is heading to Europe).

While the enhanced pressure sensors make sense, I see both pros and cons to going with a curved screen. Let's take a look at a few of the arguments for and against this rumor.

Why Apple needs large, curved-screen iPhones

  • Curved screens look futuristic and differentiate the iPhone from the majority of handsets on the market.
  • Apple is lagging behind in the large screen market, and adding a curve to the screen could still allow a large smartphone to be operated single-handedly, which is a feature that Apple promotes for the iPhone.
  • Curved screen, particularly if convex, minimize glare and reflections.

Why Apple doesn't need large, curved-screen iPhones

  • Curved screens are a gimmick and offer little in the way of demonstrable benefit.
  • Apple would be gambling its iPhone cash cow on a fad.
  • The screen could throw up nasty distortions that make it awkward to use.
  • The curved screen could make in-car use uncomfortable.
  • There's no proven market for a smartphone with a curved screen. Both companies that have released a smartphone with a curved display have limited availability to South Korea.

Personally, I don't think we'll be seeing iPhones with curved displays any time soon. As for a larger display, that's a possibility, but I doubt that Apple will compromise the usability of the iPhone just in order to chase Samsung and the rest of the Android pack.

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Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPhone

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33 comments
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  • Not really enough information

    To really decide just yet....

    Take the iPad 3: 'now with retina' - in reality screen a bit better, I pad ruined by weight.

    iPad air: 'thinner and lighter' feels like a totally different device.

    It's hard to make a call on form factors until they actually hit the hand.
    MarknWill
    • Do an experiment

      Maybe you already have.....
      I use an HTC One and an iPhone 5S ... yes, both.
      They are both great devices, great build and awesome hardware.
      For most daily use though I gravitate to the One.
      The driver is simply screen size with a dash of widgets.
      A bigger screen would be better. For me, anyways :-)
      rhonin
      • And on the other hand...

        And on the other hand...

        A smaller lighter device would be better. For me, anyways :-)

        Any fool can build a bigger device with a bigger screen. They generally cost less to build.
        Henry 3 Dogg
    • Hit the nail

      Your comment...

      "...in order to go chasing after Samsung and LG?"

      hits the nail on the head.

      These are engineered rumours, not chance comments.

      And in this case I strongly suspect that the purpose is to give the false impression that Apple feels that it is behind Samsung / LG and needs to catch up.
      Henry 3 Dogg
  • Jesus, Adrian you're starting to sound like Ken Hess.

    Curved screens are futuristic but gimmicky? It would differentiate the iPhone, but not from the two other phones that have curved displays? Whatevs.
    matthew_maurice
  • Working on?

    Working on and preparing for a release are two different things. Apple need to work on larger screens and curved screens to see if they are possible and viable.

    Personally, I am not at all sure about curved screens (folding ones most definitely and I would hope that Apple have a plan for those as well). Bigger screens are clearly popular in the Android world and an option around the 4.7 to 5 inch mark is needed because there is a proven market for this size of device and Apple aren't there.
    dcarmi
  • Apple have been chasing Android for a while now ...

    Everyone remember the late Mr Jobs saying an emphatic "No!" to an Ipad mini, right?

    Well he is gone and we now have an Ipad mini.

    Apple seem to have lost the ability to innovate. If they do bring out a curved screen, they are just hanging onto the coat tails of LG and Samsung. If they finally get around to an iwatch they are surfing the wave of Pebble and Google.

    Think of something new please Apple, or at least get back to doing it better than everyone else ...
    5hagg1
    • Oh look, I can parrot memes

      (With no basis in fact)
      .DeusExMachina.
  • Curved screen

    The only function I can see a curved smartphone screen performing is to annoy the *&%$# out of me when it's wobbling around on a table like a cassette tape that's been left on your car's dashboard on a hot Summer day.
    dsf3g
    • I thought that was an 8-track tape!

      Hehe, sorry...couldn't resist! But yeah, I melted more 8-tracks than I did cassettes.
      wizard57m-cnet
  • Apple doesn't do gimmicks (except Siri).

    Curved screens are a gimmick.
    Userama
    • Curved Screens

      Absolutely right. Who wants curved screens, how far are designers willing to go in the name of nonsense?
      kandella
    • ...except Siri

      For me Siri is the best hands free system that I've tried.

      Which is pretty much a legal requirement here.
      Henry 3 Dogg
  • Apple needs a 5 inch phone

    My last iPhone was the 3Gs. Until I can get a 5 inch phone I will never buy another iPhone.
    Retterdyne
    • Apple needs a 5 inch iPhone ?

      Ok, you wrote here YOUR opinion , but are you sure , that every Apple customer thinks like you?
      Maria Davidenko
      • I didn't see in Retterdyne's comment where they said

        "every Apple customer thinks like you"? You're a bit quick to criticise, almost to the point of being Apple's version of Loverock. Their comment is not spam either.
        wizard57m-cnet
        • Alright,then consider this

          “Until I can get a 5 inch phone I will never buy another iPhone.” . Seems like Retternyde points out, that everyone should think so.
          Maria Davidenko
          • What part of "I" are you missing?

            .DeusExMachina.
          • What part of "I" are you missing?

            It depends on time. :-)

            Funny, that the Retterdyne himself doesn't reply, though you defend him. :-)
            You want to think, I'm wrong - whatever.
            Maria Davidenko
          • Why would he...

            He never claimed to speak for the whole planet. Having said that, maybe he's gone to bed. We don't all spend ALL day reading ZDNet comments.
            DJL64