This is the time of year when rumors about new iPhones run rampant, but 2014 is shaping up to be especially interesting for Apple (AAPL). That’s in large part thanks to recent speculation that AAPL will release not one, but two new iPhones — both bigger than current offerings, no less! — instead of a single iPhone 6.
And with yet another report claiming the new iPhone will consist of 4.7-inch and 5.5 inch models, it’s looking more likely than ever that going bigger and doubling down is the route AAPL plans to take in 2014.
So … why two new iPhones?
I think it comes down to three has reasons: market demand, hedging bets and wanting to avoid looking like a follower instead of an innovator.
#1: Market Demand Calls for Bigger!
Smartphone display sizes have been steadily growing for years. In 2007, when AAPL launched the new iPhone, its 3.5-inch display was described as “giant.” Which, sure it was next to competing devices from the likes of BlackBerry (BBRY).
However, smartphones kept growing, and Apple didn’t keep up. AAPL did eventually move to a 4-inch display with the iPhone 5, but the company has fallen further behind as smartphones running Google’s (GOOG) Android, Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Phone and even the BlackBerry Z30 have reached screen sizes of 5 inches or greater.
And Samsung (SSNLF) took things to extremes, popularizing a new category of super-sized smartphones — phablets — that are close to tablets in size.
Documents made public during the latest Samsung vs. AAPL court battle show that Apple recognizes smartphone growth is happening in big-screen devices, not the 4-inch category where the last three new iPhone models have remained.
Bottom line: AAPL has to go big with its new iPhone 6 (or 6s) if it wants to stay at the forefront of mobile.
#2: Apple Can Hedge Its Bets With Two New iPhones
Releasing a big, new iPhone 6 alongside another new iPhone 6 version that’s just a bit larger than the current iPhone 5s lets AAPL hedge its bets.
With a 5.5-inch iPhone 6, Apple would be bigger than most flagship smartphones and competitive in the phablet market at the same time.
Meanwhile, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 still would be significantly smaller than 5-inch Android flagship smartphones. But that would give Apple access to demographics that might find the big phones to be too much.
Manufacturers have tried software and user interface workarounds to accommodate smaller hands, and many have quietly released smaller versions of their flagship devices: the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, HTC One Mini and the Sony (SNE) Xperia Z1 Compact — a CES 2014 standout.
Clearly the demand is still there. And AAPL would remain a key player in this segment with a new iPhone that isn’t too big,