Apple: make an iPhad or get ready to iPhail

Apple: make an iPhad or get ready to iPhail
No phablet = no fans

I don't mean to sound alarmist, but 2014 could well be the year that Apple makes its biggest mistake in recent history.

No, I'm not talking about the iWatch - I still think that could actually be rather good - no, Apple has to, HAS TO, bring out a large screen version of the iPhone or it's going to really struggle to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.

This isn't a cry for a phablet based on the screen being too small (although anyone that's tried a Galaxy S4 or HTC One and gone back to an iPhone will realise that 4-inch displays are cramped) but more that if it sticks at its current size, Apple will be missing out on market share and, ultimately, revenue.

The phablet, like it or loathe it, is here to stay. Stats from IDC last year showed that one in five smartphones were a large screen option - that's 20% of the market that Apple is unable to capture.

Sure, that segment ranges from 5 to 7-inch devices, so will include things like the Galaxy S4 and LG G2, but in markets like China the larger screen device is becoming a real must-have handset, and with lots of potential subscribers there, Apple has to throw away its pride (having maintained for years that 4-inch displays are big enough) and start playing in the big-screen leagues.

A phablet isn't about a phone that you can use with one hand. It's a 'happy' (I use that word loosely) medium between a smartphone and tablet. It's the best of a bad situation. But one that the world is getting on board with.

The fact is that the Android bandwagon is careering out of control, and all of those that are nabbing even a modicum of profit after Samsung has snaffled it all up have at least one phablet in their portfolio. The One Max, the G Pro, the Oppo N1 - these are all well-respected devices (mostly) that at least give these companies a foothold in fast emerging markets.

Cash incentive

And if you need any more incentive, Apple, here's one: you can charge more for a phablet. The average selling price of a smartphone is dropping year on year as the consumer realises that you don't have to fork out hundreds just to have a half decent experience, a fact that's forced Apple to try and at least nod towards the budget market with the iPhone 5C.

The phablet commands around a 33% premium on a 'standard' smartphone, thanks to the larger screen and generally better internal specs. So, given that this is a vibrant market sector and a chance to make a little cash, what's stopping Apple?

Well, the good news is it seems possibly nothing. The rumours of a 6-inch iPhone have been around for a while now, and today we're greeted with the news that Apple is thinking about raising the size of its screens to 4.7- and 5.7-inches.

This would solve a lot of problems for a company haemorrhaging users looking enviously at their Android counterparts with a more expansive and generous display to type into, watch movies on and generally get a better browsing experience from.

I'm not saying Apple should lose the 4-inch option - this is something that I'm happy to see on the market, as we should have choice as consumers. I can't count the amount of people moaning at me that 'phones are getting too big these days'.

But the clock is ticking. If Apple doesn't end 2014 with a phablet in its ranks, then all its efforts to crack the Asian markets, as well as ticking the box of power users looking for an upgraded experience, will be for nothing.

The only question is what to call it... iPhad doesn't seem right, somehow.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.