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Is Apple testing a plus-sized iPhone 'phablet'? (+video)

The iPhone 4 had 3.5-inch screen. The iPhone 5 got 4 inches of real estate. Now is Apple aiming even bigger? 

By Matthew Shaer / September 6, 2013

A man tries Apple's iPhone at its showroom in Beijing September 5, 2013. Apple is rumored to be testing iPhones with screens as large as 6 inches.



If you pay even passing attention to the tech world, you undoubtedly know that later this month, Apple will almost certainly release a new flagship smart phone, most likely called the iPhone 5S. (The debut of a budget handset, identified in the press as the iPhone 5C, is also considered likely.) 

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Numerous rumors are circulating online about the features that may be included in the new iPhone, expected to be released in the near future.

But according to the Wall Street Journal, in the meantime, Apple is working on prototypes for a few larger devices – including smart phones with displays between 4 and 6 inches. Apple, of course, has already upped the size of its smart phone, from the 3.5-inch display on the iPhone 4 to the 4-inch display on the iPhone 5. But a 6-inch screen would be another beast altogether. In fact, it would bring the iPhone squarely into phablet territory. 

"[P]eople familiar with the company's internal deliberations and plans indicate it appears more willing to move ahead [with a larger iPhone] than in years past," the WSJ reports. "Component suppliers say Apple already began testing larger screens for iPhones in recent months. Apple has been particularly interested in recent tests for a 4.8-inch screen, these people say." 

Unsurprisingly, Apple isn't talking. 

But we certainly believe that Apple has at least considered the possibility of upping the screen size on the iPhone. After all, phablets are a growing market, especially in Asia. The analytics firm IDC recently published a report indicating that Asian device vendors shipped 25.2 million phablets in 2013 Q2, compared with 12.6 million tablets, and 12.7 million portable PCs. In other words, in that part of the world, phablets are more popular than laptops or tablets. 

"Phablets first started as a trend driven by mature markets like South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore – and these markets continue to rise," IDC's Melissa Chau wrote. "What's changed now is the added pick up of phablets in emerging markets like China and India, not just the plethora of big-name vendors competing head-to-head with Samsung, but instead the low-cost local players who have swooped in to offer big screens for less money." 

For Apple, that's a particularly attractive market. 


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