Apple is looking at various changes to its iPhone lineup over the course of the next year, according to a new report from Reuters, including two sizes of larger smartphone devices, in both a 4.7-inch and 5.7-inch flavor. The “phablet” plans are also being considered alongside a less expensive iPhone model, which is slated to begin production next month, according to Reuters’ sources, after a brief delay as Apple attempts to get the colors right for the new plastic-backed device.
The cheaper iPhone would be launching in September following full production kicking off in August, according to some of Reuters’ sources, with an initial shipment target of around 20 million low-cost devices for the holiday quarter next year. The report details echo what we’ve heard from other sources recently, including from fairly accurate analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who previously shared reports of multi-color options for the cheaper iPhone, with a thin plastic case and the same 4-inch screen as the iPhone 5. Reuters adds that it should cost around $99 when it launches, and that its release timeline might be pushed back by as much of a year.
Reports of the low-cost iPhone have been making the rounds in more or less reliable circles for a while now, which is the more interesting component of this new report. Other sources have reported that Apple is looking at bigger-screened devices, so-called “phablets” to compete with similar offerings from Android smartphone manufacturers, including the Galaxy Note line from Samsung. But even Apple’s flagship smartphone, the iPhone 5, lags behind most competing general-purpose non-phablet devices like the HTC One and Galaxy S4 in terms of screen size at 4-inches.
Apple’s big-screen iPhone plans are less evolved than those for its low cost device, the report claims, with one of Reuters’ sources suggesting that we could still see the plans shift considerably before anything reaches a production stage. Apple has discussed the idea with production partners, but has not set any kind of timeframe for test production or launch as of yet. Reuters says that Apple is considering the different screen sizes comes as there’s increased pressure to field more than one device a year.
Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested that we might see a larger iPhone when the trade-offs of battery life, screen quality, color reproduction and other failings brought about would be possible to counteract, speaking at the recent AllThingsD D11 conference. He did admit that some consumers are interested in those devices, however, so it’s likely that these reports come from Apple’s attempts to overcome those limitations with engineering. Plenty of Apple products don’t make it past the testing phase, however, so while you can be sure Apple is experimenting with big displays for iPhone, you can’t be equally sure we’ll ever see one. Still, Cook’s guidance to consumers and media that they can look for big product launches in the fall and through next year specifically do line up with the timing of possible iOS phablet launches reported by Reuters today.