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

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?

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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