Phablets, the giant phones that are already shaping up to be the breakout mobile product of 2013, are conspicuously absent from Apple’s lineup of products. And on today’s earnings call, when an analyst from Goldman Sachs asked Tim Cook whether Apple had plans to make one (he used the euphemism “a phone with a larger screen”), you could almost hear Apple’s CEO grind his teeth.
“The iPhone 5 offers, as you know, a new four-inch retina display, which is the most advanced display in the industry,” said Cook. “It also provides a larger screen size without sacrificing the one-handed ease of use that our customers love.”
This argument has been made before, sometimes with elaborate charts. The idea is that you can reach the whole of an original iPhone’s screen with your thumb while operating it with one hand. That didn’t stop Apple from making a phone with a slightly larger screen, but the impression Cook wants to give is that this whole expanding iPhone thing has gone quite far enough.
Steve Jobs was notorious for doing the opposite of whatever he had previously declared stupid or insane—from iPods that play videos to iPads that are designed for reading—but Cook has not been CEO long enough to establish a similar pattern. And in any event, given the attention its competitors pay to its every move and the importance the company places on surprising and delighting its customers, it’s never in Apple’s interest to reveal such plans early.
The iPad Mini, with a seven-inch screen size, would qualify as a phablet if it could make calls. For now, that’s as far as Apple is willing to go.
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