WSJ: 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhones coming, Apple tipped to produce 70 to 80 million units by year’s end

Ian Hardy

July 22, 2014 12:18pm

This story has been around the block a few times. A new report from the Wall Street Journal is citing Apple has requested its manufacturing partners to start producing larger sized smartphone displays, specifically 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays. “According to people familiar with the matter,” Apple is expecting them to produce between 70 million and 80 million units by the end of the year.

Until now, the iPhone has had a 3.5-inch or 4-inch display, but larger screens, mainly from Samsung, are what customers have been buying. Apple described the iPhone 5 and 5s to be “easy to use with one hand,” so it’ll interesting to see how they market a larger sized iPhone. The report indicated that both devices will use in-cell touch technology and employ a sapphire crystal display that will make the new iPhone not only thinner and lighter, but considerably more durable.

It’s also rumoured that Foxconn and Pegatron will start mass production of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 in August, with a release in September, followed by the 5.5-inch iPhone, exclusively built by Foxconn, in October.

A year ago, the WSJ also suggested that Apple would be launching and testing two new iPhones, one of which had a 4.8-inch display.

Apple declined to comment on the report.

  • BriniaSona

    Meh, nothing new here accept bigger screen and new material. Innovation comes from BlackBerry this year with the Passport.

    • Syaz

      I’m intrigued to see what the battery life will be like. The sapphire, from my understanding, would require a much stronger backlight/brighter screen. I agree otherwise, nothing really new until the 6S (which won’t be a big change either).

    • JTon

      Apple has never made battery life worse with a new device release. Can’t see them breaking that trend. It’s probably one of their mission critical tech specs

    • Syaz

      You’re probably right… at least, I hope you’re right, for the sake of the iOS users out there.

    • Andrew_notPorC

      iPhone has been lagging Android flagships on battery life for a couple generations, now.

    • JTon

      Wasn’t comparing to Android. Was comparing to previous version of the iPhone

    • MikeOxlong

      Sapphire is one of the clearest materials known to man. It will not require extra backlight power in order for it to be easy to see.

    • Syaz

      Perhaps… I did read a report from Corning themselves (who make Gorilla Glass), stating what I said. However, as they are the direct opposition, it could just be competition bashing one another again.

      EDIT: I found the quote directly from the corning site: How does sapphire compare to chemically strengthened Gorilla Glass?
      It is unclear if sapphire can compete with Gorilla Glass. Sapphire certainly is hard – harder to scratch than Gorilla Glass – but transmits about six percentage points less light and may introduce optical distortions. Sapphire is also 67 percent heavier than Gorilla Glass per unit volume, difficult to process (especially at the thinness of Gorilla Glass) and costs significantly more to produce. Based on Corning’s own durability tests, we believe that in normal mobile phone use, sapphire would break more easily than Gorilla Glass – especially if sapphire is used at the same thinness as Gorilla Glass.

    • It’s Me

      but transmits about six percentage points less light and may introduce optical distortions. Sapphire is also 67 percent heavier than Gorilla Glass per unit volume, difficult to process (especially at the thinness of Gorilla Glass) and costs significantly more to produce. Based on Corning’s own durability tests, we believe that in normal mobile phone use, sapphire would break more easily than Gorilla Glass – especially if sapphire is used at the same thinness as Gorilla Glass.

      As you said, they are direct competitors so FUD is expected from them about sapphire. But if you parse their statement, you get closer to the truth.

      All of their statements are premised on a sheet of sapphire of the same thickness of GG. But from almost every leak we’ve seen, the glass/sapphire that Apple is using will be much thinner (I think I’ve read as much as only 1/3 the thickness). They are as aware as anyone else that the thickness won’t be the same, so in that sense they are being honest while still being misleading.

      They also use words like “may”, as in may introduce optical distortions, but they are careful not to say it will. Similarly, one could claim GG may introduce optical distortions. It’s true, it may. But they can’t make the actual claim that it will because that might not be true. They leave it hanging for people to assume may means will

    • Syaz

      This is a very good point. Thanks for pointing that out. Ah rhetoric. Although usually I can spot the BS, looks like I missed it this time! Thanks!

    • FlamesFan89

      MKBHD has his hands on an actual display from Apple, as in official, as in the real deal.

      It’s clear, really really clear. The distortion and light transmission comments from Corning are definitely FUD.

      He tested it with metal and got no scratching, as you would expect as metal is relatively soft in the grand scheme of hardness. He then tortured it (and an iPhone 5s) with sandpaper of various materials and was able to scratch both the new display and the 5s. Obviously people don’t tend to walk around with sandpaper in their pockets, but I think the take away was that this new display is great, better than older displays, more resistant to damage, but not indestructible. In other words, it exists in reality. It’s better than what is currently on the market though, no doubt about it.

    • It’s Me

      Agreed.

      But, “better” can be subjective. For some, the lower cost of GG is “better”. And we still have not seen drop tests (or more scientific tests) that compare the shatter resistance. But for now, in most objective measures, it certain seems to be better than alternatives.

    • FlamesFan89

      Indeed. Logic would suggest it is more susceptible to shattering, but that’s with pure sapphire, which we know this is NOT. It will be interesting to see the final product.

      It would be nice if Apple did right by their faithful customers and ate the higher material costs and didn’t raise the retail price. Who knows what will happen.

    • It’s Me

      Could still be pure sapphire but treated. Just as tempered steel is still pure steel, Apple might be treating sapphire to increase its toughness. They have a patent on such a treatment using chemicals and/or lasers.

      Few companies would eat a 10X increase in cost. I can’t think of one that I think would eat a 10x cost increase. I’d agree that hopefully Apple is able to get their costs down through scale to a point where the increase doesn’t have an impact on price.

      They’ve held the line overall fairly well even with choosing to using more expensive options in the past.

    • Andrew_notPorC

      It’s only 10x cost for the screen (rumoured). The BOM cost will hardly change, if at all. Considering apple puts low end specs in their phones, charging $100 more for $10 more screen BOM cost would be outrageous. Sadly, you are probably right that they will use it to justify a price increase.

    • It’s Me

      An increase of $27 on the one part would be about a 10% increase overall, all by itself (assuming we believe the tear down numbers). That is huge. That’s a massive increase in costs, for the part and for the BOM as a whole. And that’s ignoring the hundred of millions, likely nearing billions, of dollars they’ve spend on R&D into sapphire improvements and securing manufacturing.

      How many other companies eat a 10% increase in total costs for their parts from just one component?

    • Andrew_notPorC

      How resistant it is to cracks and shattering will be interesting to see. I see way more cracked screens (especially iPhones) than badly scratched ones.

    • It’s Me

      Shattering and cracking is related to it’s ability to withstand force. From the videos out so far, it handles it pretty well.

      Apple has a couple patents on the treatment of sapphire to make it “tougher” (a measurable quality). In exactly the same way temper steel is tougher than untempered steel, their patents appear to show that the right treatments can toughen sapphire.

    • Andrew_notPorC

      The patents don’t really mean anything (patents don’t have to work well or at all). We’ll see in how the finished device performs in drop tests.

      I personally see the scratch resistance vs GG 3 to be more a hype/marketing thing since GG3 already has pretty solid scratch resistance in the real world. The biggest failure mode for screens is cracking, and I have my doubts that sapphire will perform much better in this regard. If Apple raises prices by $100 to cover the increase in BOM, they risk alienating people comparing against the sea of $700 android flagships.

    • It’s Me

      We’ve seen some evidence already of how well it works (perhaps).

      We’ll see if they raise prices significantly or at all. They’ve not done so frequently in the past when they’ve introduced more expensive components. Going by US pricing (from which our pricing is derived but influenced by other factors like exchange rate) they didn’t significantly raise prices, or at all, when the went to retina on the iPhone or iPad (but did for the iPad mini) or when they moved to customized processors. They might do so if they go to sapphire. We’ll see.

    • Anaron

      Definitely FUD? I wouldn’t dismiss the words of a materials science company so quickly.

    • Anaron

      Basically, it’s harder to scratch but easier to break. I’d rather go with Gorilla Glass and a tempered glass screen protector.

    • Andrew_notPorC

      Yup.

    • Nexzen

      Oh you saw the iPhone 6 already? Nice

    • 5Gs

      Well looking at their history. We all seen their iphone 6.

    • pomplamoose

      innovation that looks like a poptart? doesn’t matter what you think. apple will sell millions. blackberry will sell 100 phones – and 99 will be returned LOL

    • rick

      Not sure about the return rate and Apple has always been about refinement not innovation. Saphire glass is not innovation, it is refinement. That is not bad, but it is not innovation.

      BB is just being smart. Why try to compete where they currently cannot. NO ONE has a phone in the passports form factor……..NO ONE. NO ONE has a keyboard that doubles as a trackpad………NO ONE. Thats called targeting an untapped market. It is somewhat of a gamble, but at this point for BB, what is the definition of insanity. Why release yet another phone in a similar form factor to all the other 100’s of candy bar style phones on the market…… and expect different results than the other launches. Best way to get BB10 out there is to think outside the box and hit that untapped market segment. Who’s the Passport going to compete with……..likely alot of business users who are carrying a phablet or 7″ tablet so they can view and edit enterprise content. I think its pretty smart on BB’s part. Look at all the discussion and buzz its generated and there is NO ONE that they’re being benchmarked against. This is what BB needs. To be able to launch a device and have the consumers assess it for what it is – a BB, not an android or iphone wannabe knock off.

      Apple is successful at doing the same old same old. Innovators gotta innovate and haters gotta hate.

    • billybee

      lmao

  • JB

    If you buy this phone…simply put YOU ARE A SUCKER.

    • 5Gs

      But isn’t that the case with all other iphone since iphone 4?

    • barrist

      How can you make a definitive statement like that when all we have are rumours so far?

      Ah yes, delusion.

    • 5Gs

      Well he can because if you look at iphone’s history. Nothing has really changed except the way it looked.

    • barrist

      This is an unannounced phone with some vague rumours and some pictures leaked. To say we know that nothing has changed is asinine.

    • Syaz

      Possibly, but it comes down to personal preference. As much as I don’t prefer iPhones as my mobile choice, there is certainly an appeal to some.

    • M-Len

      +1

    • Nexzen

      You got the phone already though. You know the specs n everything.

    • Nexzen

      You were born a sucker

    • Nexzen

      Since you know how the phone looks n the specs before everyone else… It means you already got the phone :O sucker

  • grantdude

    It doesn’t matter that last time they said the 4 inch phone is easy to use in one hand. They’ve also said 3.5 is the best size, and small tablets are impossible to use unless you sandpaper down your fingertips.

    • barrist

      Right, companies never adjust their marketing …

      I remember when the guys from Microsoft and RIM were laughing when the iPhone came out, saying it would never work because it didn’t have a keyboard. By your logic all those companies should be held responsible to those comments.

    • Syaz

      Yeah, agreed… Both were rather stupid for doing so. Arrogance, particularly on the side of RIM. Although Apps are a gimmick, they’re a gimmick that sells and that people want.

    • Adam Amin

      That’s his point. For all the forward thinking and innovation Apple gets credit for they were not the ones to make larger screens a must have. With their arrogance they kept with their dated screen size in the hopes that people would continue to blindly follow them. Well, people are starting to bail. NO matter how good Apple iOS was/is if you want more screen size in a phone you needed to look elsewhere.

      I’m glad they are bringing out phones with larger screens. Not because I want one (which I don’t) but because they will continue competing. A major thing that advances technology is competition. Up until now, Android was competing with, lets face it, Android, for phones with greater than 4.3in screens. Apple is the best competition for Android. With both playing on the same playing field again I only see great things ahead.

    • 2cold

      Apple didn’t innovate with larger screens? Really? How big were screens before the iPhone? I specifically remember hearing Apple was doomed because the phone was deemed too large.

    • Sunny Lee

      Err, who said that exactly? Because they seemed to have missed the whole point of “touchscreen”. Unless you meant the phone’s physical dimension was deemed too large, which also doesn’t make sense, considering Blackberry Curve and 8800 series were around similar sizes.

    • 2cold

      Errr who said it? Samsung for one, heres a quote from an internal Samsung document from December 2008, the company acknowledged that the form factor of Apple’s 3.5 inch iPhone 3G “sets a new standard,” but it referenced “concerns expressed by users about its size and overall durability,” which it identified as issues “that can be exploited by Samsung in future releases.”

      The document cited a user in London who remarked that the original iPhone design was “quite monstrously large,” and a user in Singapore who said, “I prefer something that can fit into a ladies bag, but the iPhone is too big, it will bulge out.”

      At the time, most “smartphones” featured tiny screens, due to the cost and technical issues (including battery life) associated with bigger displays. The size of phone displays was also cramped by the virtual necessity of a physical keypad.

    • Sunny Lee

      Sorry, but I’m still not sure what the argument is about here. Are we talking about screen size or phone size? The first part of your quote mentions screen size, and the second only mentions phone size. Again, smartphones prior/similar time to the iPhone were very similar in phone size (Blackberry Curve, 8800), so the point of “the iPhone is too big, it will bulge out” seems more like a smartphone v. dumbphone debate.

    • Karl Dagenais

      Live in the now buddy. Jobs said that, what, 5 years ago?

  • M-Len

    A 4.7″ screen with a 1800 mah battery is a joke. No thanks.

  • frostythesnowman

    They seriously need to dump iTunes sync, or in the very least make it optional. As a Windows user the chance of me buying an iPhone continues to be zilch until then.

    • MikeOxlong

      Its been optional since iOS 5. It in other words, years now.

    • frostythesnowman

      When you plug it into your computer does it show up as a USB drive or MTP device?

    • Karl Dagenais

      Nothing to do with iTunes sync.

    • frostythesnowman

      It has everything to do with iTunes sync, last I checked the only way to transfer information by wire between iOS and a computer is through the iTunes sync service. No other mobile OS forces that crap on their users, they optionally or by default present a MTP or USB share in file explorers, giving the option to use a sync service if they want to and of their choosing.

    • It’s Me

      That last time you checked was years ago then. Try to keep up.

    • frostythesnowman

      What is this other way then, by wire.

    • frostythesnowman

      What is this other way then, by wire.

    • It’s Me

      You got me, if you have to restrict your argument to “by wire” so as to rule out the other options, then yes, the only way to sync by wire to your PC/MAC is to do it by wire via a USB cable and iTunes, by wire

      Otherwise, use wireless and skip iTunes if you want, since it’s another option.

    • frostythesnowman

      If by wireless you mean the LAN sync, that is still iTunes based and requires iTunes on the computer. It is literally called iTunes WiFi Sync. To go iTunes free, using the cloud exclusively is the only other option, which is still no better since direct manipulation of user files is again not present but this time the download is done over the much slower internet.

    • It’s Me

      You do have a point then. I don’t know how many people this is a real concern for. iDevices have been locked down in this way, even dedicated media device, since the early iPod days. Doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker for many.

    • frostythesnowman

      This is only empirical evidence I’ve gathered, so it won’t necessarily represent the general population well, but the most technical couple percent are the ones I know of who are likely to have an issue with the iOS file/sync limitations. I’m with you, I doubt a lot it’s a concern for many.
      But even ignoring those few percent of people’s issue with the sync business, Apple should care because those technical people are also the same people who friends will go to for tech advice and who work at wireless carriers and tech shops. If they’re annoyed with a product for various reasons, they wouldn’t bother trying to sell it.

    • It’s Me

      I guess we all see it differently. I work with developers and engineers, research scientists in AI and people with graduate degree in technical fields. I have a compsci degree and have been a software developer for many years. All of which I mention only to say, very few, if anyway, seem to care about that sort of thing and iDevices are well represented if not the absolute majority here. On the other hand, over in our tech support, IT and call centre areas, I’ve generally seen Android is by far the dominant choice. Which group is more technically educated or is overall more technical? Which group seems to be fine with their gadgets being easy to use and seem unconcerned about trivial matters like access to file managers?

      Among the real top few percentage of technically educated people, I don’t see the same that you do. But perhaps we have different perspectives.

    • MikeOxlong

      Thanks man. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Kids these days…

    • WatDah

      Long time Windows and iPhone user, and I don’t have any problems with it whatsoever. Perhaps the iPhone is just not for you, and you should choose something else.

    • frostythesnowman

      Of course, I’m sure a good percentage of their users don’t mind it just like yourself. But there are other like myself who want a easy way to manipulate my files directly like how other platforms allow. No doubt a part of the reason Apple would make a larger iPhone is to entice current Android/BB/WP users, so in light of that going all out by being more open with their file transfer options would be a good move along the same path.

    • It’s Me

      Except that, obviously, screen size has hurt Apple sales. They are huge numbers of buyers for whom screen size is a deal breaker. I don’t imagine this is the case for file system access.

  • wes

    Want to see the price. Not a buyer though.

    • Nexzen

      $699 off contract 5.5 inch prob $799 or $899

  • Eli_Vance

    Someone post some quotes from Jobs/Cook about how smaller phones are better

    • Karl Dagenais

      From 5 years ago, you’re right, so relevant.

    • MatroXX

      You’re talking about 1.5 years ago right? (iPhone 5 launch “it fits in your hand”)

    • Nexzen

      Someone post what year it is now.. Ppl used to wear gunit xxl shirts in the past n now wear European cuts.

  • pomplamoose

    i love how all the BB fan bois and android fan bois are coming out and trying to reason that apple doesn’t have anything “cool” or “innovative”. But when the phones fly off the shelves all these fan bois are hiding. where are the fan bois now? hiding in their parents basement LOLOLOL

    • AGoodM8

      Sorry, but I don’t quite follow that logic. Generating a lot of sales doesn’t mean you have an innovative product.

      Popularity is a rather imprecise measure of innovation.

  • Stalemate

    I’m a little curious how the current iOS interface will be manipulated on a 5.5″ screen, given that one of the main functions (back / cancel) occurs at the farthest spot the right-hand thumb can reach.

    Could this be Apple’s way of telling us we’re wrong, and should all be lefties?

    I smell a new fad coming along.

    • alphs22

      You can swipe left-right on apps that are optimized for iOS7 to go back.

    • Sunny Lee

      Yes, but there are still quite a few apps that do not have this function. Not to mention one handed typing, pulling down notification bar, etc.

      I’m assuming they’re gonna drop the whole “one-handed operation” marketing if the screen size rumours are true. I don’t think it’s feasible to completely operate a phone of that size one-handed. They’ll get crap for it, and people praising the iPhone’s one-handed usability will be pissed, but most people will forget and life will go on. Only the truly vain will bring it up in pointless pissing contests in the future for years to come.

    • alphs22

      One-handed typing and operation is doable on a 4.7″ phone without a case. I had no problems on the S3 or Nexus 4. Moto X also has beautiful ergonomics.

      If they release a 4.7″ and 5.5″ versions, personally I think they missed the mark. Sweet spot would have been 4.3″ and 5″. A 4.3″ phone with most cases is still operable with one hand, while a 5″ seems to be the perfect size for a flagship phone.

    • It’s Me

      I’m right handed and primarily use my left hand to hold/use my phone. Never paid attention to whether others similarly reverse use from their dominant hand. Guess it won’t be an issue for me.

  • ScooterinAB

    I’m have expecting a 7″ screen, with Apple screaming, “You wanted big, now deal with it,” in some insane frenzy.