The iPhone maker is exploring launching its devices with bigger screens, as well as adding a range of colours, over the next year, four people familiar the matter said today, as it takes a cue from rival Samsung Electronics.
The new features which are being discussed now, demonstrate the company that once ruled the market is falling under threat from its aggressive South Korean competitor.
Samsung has overtaken its rival in smartphones market share through the popularity of its bigger-screen Galaxy “devices” and by flooding the market with a range of products at different prices.
The Californian tech giant is rumored to unveil at least two bigger iPhones next year – one with a 4.7-inch screen and one with a 5.7-inch screen.
The sources, familiar with the matter, told reporters that suppliers have been approached with plans for the larger screens, but mentioned that it is still unclear whether the company will actually launch its flagship product in the larger sizes.
“They constantly change product specifications almost to the final moment, so you’re not really sure whether this is the final prototype,” said one person with direct knowledge of the matter.
The iPhone 5 introduced to public last September was the first Apple phone with 3.5-inch screen, which Jobs famously deemed “the perfect size for consumers” and had been used in every iPhone since the iconic device was unveiled in six years ago.
Apple’s latest model of iPhone franchise has one of the smaller screens among the best-selling smartphones in the mobile market, where consumers spend more time surfing the internet and streaming content. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 2 have 5-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively.
For this year, the Cupertino firm is expected to launch two new models, widely referred to as the iPhone 5S, with new fingerprint technology.
Apple is also predict to unveil cheaper versions in plastic casing. It plans to dress up the cheaper phone in a range of 5-6 colours to differentiate it from the more expensive model that has traditionally come only in black and white.
Some sources claim that the cheaper version of the extremely popular smartphone will go on sale at $99 and will be release even next year. However, it’s unclear what the final price would be.
While Apple only produces a single phone model, it has offered a series of the iPod music players and its iPad also comes in different sizes and at varying prices.
Asked at last month’s AllThingsD industry conference why Apple hasn’t launched different sized iPhones, CEO Tim Cook said: “We haven’t so far. That doesn’t shut off the future.”
He went on, adding that the range of iPods serve different audiences and needs: “On the phone, that’s the question. Are we now at a point to serve enough people that we need to do that?”
Job’s successor revealed to reporters that a larger screen comes with trade-offs on features such as battery life, resolution and brightness.
Test production for both the standard and cheaper iPhone models is repoertedly scheduled to start next month, with mass production ramping up in August to meet a September launch target, two people said.
“Trial production was originally planned to start in June, but the mixing of colours is taking longer than expected as Apple has very high and idealistic standards,” said one source in Asia, adding 20 million plastic iPhones are expected to ship in the October-December quarter.