updated 01:15 am EST, Tue February 15, 2011
Apple may fight Android with four-inch iPhone
Apple is looking at expanding the iPhone's screen size to four inches in what could be a battle with Android phones, component makers said Tuesday. Test production runs have reportedly gone to the larger screen area. The move as explained by Digitimes would help bridge the gap between the iPhone and the iPad.
The production schedule hasn't been outlined, but Apple usually starts making iPhones in earnest two to three months before they ship to stores, to build up stock.
Moving to four inches isn't certain for Apple. It has usually been hesitant to change the form factor of a device in a way that breaks compatibility with either accessories or apps, the former of which would be likely. The 960x640 resolution also wouldn't work as effectively on a four inch screen since it would be relatively wide, although not necessarily any bigger than a 4.3-inch phone using a narrower aspect ratio.
Pressure could still exist to move to the larger screen area to appeal to possible Android converts. Thanks largely to the Samsung Galaxy S, many high-end phones on Google's OS now use four-inch or larger screens. All of Verizon's new 4G Android devices, such as the HTC Thunderbolt, have four-inch or larger displays. Some are stretching the definitions of portable, such as the 4.5-inch Samsung Infuse 4G and the 4.8-inch Acer Iconia Smart.
Multiple rumors of a smaller, cheaper iPhone could be supported by a four-inch version, since it would more clearly separate the high- and low-end models.
Simultaneously, the company may be backing away from having Samsung manufacture iPhone and iPad chips. A second claim would instead have the A4 and future A5 made by TSMC, a Taiwan contractor best known for making NVIDIA graphics hardware. It had already been supplying A4s when Samsung couldn't handle demand, part builders said, and may have been used during the period to test its output volume.
The move would be meant to keep rivals from getting access to Apple's design secrets, which are more important now that it custom-designs part of the chip architecture. Samsung would be the most conspicuous concern, but it has respected others while smaller firms might be tempted to copy Apple technology being made at the same factories.
Although unconfirmed by any other source, the next iPad was said to be using just an upgraded A4 where the iPhone 5 would get a full dual-core, ARM Cortex-A9 based A5. Most have had the A5 or a chip like it shipping from the start.