There is a long, proud lineage of Apple product rumors, reaching back to before the original iPhone. Some come true, most do not. The latest, from Bloomberg, seems likely to split the difference: Two new, bigass iPhones being developed in some Cupertino subbasement, ready for release next fall.
Let's start with the details of Bloomberg's scoop, which are understandably vague this early on in the rumored development process. There are three salient points:
- Apple is working on two new iPhone models, one 4.7 inches and one 5.5 inches. These would both be appreciably bigger than the 4-inch display sported by the iPhone 5 and 5C and 5S, although 4.7 inches does seem to be increasingly standard for Android handsets. That 5.5 incher, though, would be a certifiable Apple phablet. Phaaaabbbbblllleeeeeeetttttttttt.
- These new phones would have "glass that curves downward at the edges." Which, sure! It's really a question of degree, of if we're talking about a gentle Lumia 800-style slope (which, by the way, was terrific) or a more dramatic inverse-Galaxy-Round kind of deal. The former seems far more likely for manufacturing considerations/costs alone.
- Apple is also working on enhanced sensors, capable of detecting different levels of pressure. This technology isn't expected to be ready for next year's iPhone's, but would perhaps be a marquee 2015 feature. Presumably this would have manifold implications across gaming, arts, education, and beyond. Especially if paired with a phaaaabbbbblllleeeeeeetttttttttt.
There is absolutely no reason not to trust the Bloomberg report; it's a reputable newsgathering body that only publishes with ironclad sourcing. But it's important to remember that you can both believe Bloomberg and be utterly skeptical that any of these features will actually make it into next year's—or any year's—iPhone.
Apple, like any other company in the universe, invests very, very heavily in research and development. In fact, because it is sitting on Smaugian piles of cash, it was able to devote $4.5 billion to R&D in 2013. That's approximately how much revenue Yahoo! brought in the entirety of 2012.
Where we run into trouble is when we conflate "Apple is working on" with "Apple will sell." That's how we end up scrambling after reports about 3-inch budget iPhones that never come true. Was there a tiny budget iPhone floating around the Cupertino campus at some point? Sure! Is Tim Cook using a 5.5-inch iPhone as a doublewide coaster at this very moment? Probably! That doesn't mean you'll ever find it on the shelves at Target.
If you're looking for any more reasons not to get too hyped about two bigger iPhones—one of them much, much bigger—you needn't look much further than Apple itself. Specifically, than these iPhone prototypes that were outed during the company's nasty patent spat with Samsung:
Rumors floating about any of these designs would have been just as valid as Bloomberg's today. And just as far from the ultimate reality.
There will be a bigger iPhone someday; Samsung sells too many Galaxy Notes for that not to happen. The iPhone might have curved glass some day; it would be a distinguishing feature amidst an increasingly bland field of black rectangles. There's no question Apple—and everyone else—is scrambling to improve touch sensor technology, as we increasingly rely on our mobile devices for heavy-duty computing tasks. There are teams of people in Cupertino dedicated to figuring this stuff out.
But trying and doing are two different things. Planning for a release in the second half of next year is a far cry from releasing. Market demands change, manufacturing limitations fly up, better ideas surface. We might see a curved-display Apple phaaaabbbbblllleeeeeeetttttttttt next year. But the smart money's on not holding your breath. [Bloomberg]