iPhone 5 Will Sport a 4-Inch Display: Report

Apple has sold tens of millions of iPhones with 3.5-inch displays. However, the trend is moving toward smartphones with 4-inch displays, and a new report suggests Apple will go with a bigger screen when the iPhone 5 debuts later this year.

The Apple iPhone has been tweaked and improved in countless ways since its 2007 introduction. What€™s remained consistent throughout its many incarnations, however, is its screen size€”3.5 inches on the diagonal.

With the sixth-generation iPhone, which most industry observers are calling the iPhone 5, that is about to change.

Giving in to a trend for growing Gorilla Glass real estate, the iPhone 5 will feature a display that€™s at least 4 inches on the diagonal, the Wall Street Journal reported May 16.

Apple, says the Journal, is working with at least three screen makers, LG Display in South Korea and Sharp and Japan Display in Japan. People familiar with the matter told the Journal that Apple has ordered larger screens for the iPhone€”measuring €œat least€ 4 inches on the diagonal.

Samsung, following a very opposite strategy from Apple€™s with its popular Galaxy line of Android-running smartphones, has proven a formidable competitor. During the first quarter of 2012 it became the world€™s top-shipping phone maker, stripping Nokia of its crown and ending the Finnish phone maker€™s 14-year reign. In the tallies of smartphones exclusively, Samsung finished on leader Apple€™s heels, by IHS iSuppli€™s count, shipping 32 million smartphones to Apple€™s 35 million iPhones. By IDC€™s count, Samsung bested Apple, with shipments of 42.2 million smartphones to Apple€™s 35.1 million.

While Apple arguably strives for perfection in a single device, Samsung€™s strategy has been to offer a phone, and a display size, for every taste. Its Stratosphere Galaxy S phone features a 4-inch display, its Galaxy S II a 4.52-inch display and the Galaxy Nexus a 4.65-incher. Its popular line of Galaxy Tab tablets come in 7-, 7.7-, 8.9- and 10.1-inch models, and in February it stepped into the €œphablet€€”half phone, half tablet€”space with the introduction of the 5-inch Galaxy Note.

On May 3, Samsung pushed the size envelope again, putting on a tremendous production in London to introduce the Galaxy S III, which features a pocket-defying 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED (active-matrix organic LED) display.

There€™s no word yet that Apple plans to get into the options game and offer more than one display size, but its reported decision to move to 4 inches (at least) suggests Apple isn€™t evolving in the face of clear and not-disappearing trend. Indeed, while Apple€™s late CEO Steve Jobs was vehemently against the idea of 7-inch tablets, Apple is said to be preparing one for the year€™s holiday season.

IHS iSuppli, in a March 7 research note following the introduction of the newest iPad€”which defied convention by shunning, for no terribly good reason, the iPad 3 moniker€”reported that Apple wasn€™t yet finished with its 2012 introductions.

€œReports from component suppliers point to a smaller version of the iPad, which reportedly would use a 7.85-inch, XGA display,€ said the IHS report. "Apple has yet to confirm that such a product will be part of its product strategy, but suppliers anticipate its release in the fourth quarter."

Rhoda Alexander, IHS senior manager of tablet and monitor research, praised Apple in the report, pinpointing just how it makes up for what it might lack in size options.

€œApple constantly pushes the performance envelope, which is a key part of its ongoing success. While not always first to market with a particular feature, Apple engineers are careful to select new attributes that are sure to improve the overall end-user experience,€ said Alexander. €œThis design philosophy and capability to execute sets Apple apart from the pack.€

Global Equities Research analyst Shaw Wu, in a May 16 research note, anticipated that Apple€™s refresh of the iPhone is likely to take place in the €œSeptember-October timeframe.€