Asia calling for Apple iPhablets?

iPhone 6 mockup (Martin Hajek 004)

Flurry data told us that so-called phablets comprise only a minuscule portion of smart devices compared to mid-size phones and large tablets, such as the iPhone and iPad, but there’s no doubt that devices with five-inch or larger screens are gaining acceptance, largely thanks to Samsung’s willingness to experiment with a bunch of different form factors. Even Apple acknowledged the trend by making the iPhone 5′s four-inch screen the new gold standard for iPhones.

But with Samsung launching a five-inch Galaxy S4 soon and rumors of an upcoming Galaxy Mega line with 5.8 and 6.2-inch handsets making rounds, Asian suppliers are advising Apple to follow suit and blow up the upcoming iPhone’s display if it wants to capture the next phase of smartphone growth…

Business Insider relays a note by Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White has been on a tour of Asian suppliers earlier this week.

In a note issued to clients today, White wrote:

Our discussions this week in Taipei and China continue to highlight the need for Apple to launch a larger-sized iPhone to cater to the Asian market.

Essentially, we are being told that the minimum size needed by Apple is a 4.5-inch display on the iPhone; however, a five-inch to 5.5-inch would be optimal.

Before you discredit the report, remember that pundits used to be adamant that no, Apple will never bow to trends and increase the iPhone’s display.

larger iphone 6 mockup

Then the iPhone 5 came along with and Apple even aired a television commercial aiming to make the case for its four-inch display.

Interestingly enough, the commercial has been pulled recently from Apple’s YouTube channel, perhaps ahead of larger form-factor announcements?

A recent Samsung profile by Bloomberg Businessweek let us in on the company’s thinking, which basically boils down to throwing a bunch of form factors against a wall and see what sticks.

Apple’s approach is fewer models, each of them exquisitely designed. Samsung’s is try everything, and fast.

“When we released the Galaxy S III, our research showed that, for some people in some markets, the handset was too big,” says DJ Lee. “So we were able to create the same phone with a 4-inch screen, and we called it the Galaxy S III mini.”

Getting the smaller device into production took about four to six months, says DJ Lee. “We watch the market, and we immediately respond,” he says. The new Galaxy S 4 is coming out only nine months after the GS3.

“Samsung has taken differentiation to a new art,” says Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner (IT). “If I want something in between an iPad and an iPad mini, I can’t get that from Apple.”

Samsung, of course, can afford experimenting with different form factors that may not necessarily turn profit because it also produces display, memory, processors and other, giving it “a flexibility competitors can’t touch.”

Sometimes, the results are just plain funny.

Here’s Samsung’s eight-inch Galaxy Note phablet.

Making phone call on Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Various analysts are approving of phablets now.

Here’s IDC’s Francisco Jeronimo, via Bloomberg:

This is a trend that can’t be missed. People are using smartphones in different ways now, consuming media by streaming over faster mobile networks. A five-inch screen for a smartphone just feels right in the hand.

Though analytics firm Flurry Monday reported that phablets with screens between five and 6.9 inches diagonally account for only two percent of devices it saw during February, IDC said sales of handsets five inches or bigger soared to 29.7 million units last year from 1.2 million a year earlier.

A model poses with Galaxy Note of Samsung Electronics during a local launch event for Samsung's mobile devices at the company's headquarters in Seoul

One could indeed argue that more screen is better given today’s smartphones are basically computers.

As for Apple, it’s definitely worth remembering that the pretty accurate Japanese blogMacotakara reported back in March 2012 that Apple was working on a five-inch iOS gizmo with a Retina screen of either 1,600-by-960 or 1,280-by-960 pixel resolution.

The blog claimed Apple was shooting for a 2013 release.

Recent leaks from China suggest this five-inch devices is actually the iPhone 6 , with DigiTimes (I know, don’t start), China Times and iLounge all claiming that a near five-inch iPhone actually is in the works.