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Apple needs larger iPhone to counter Android rivals: analyst

2013/05/12 15:24:22

Taipei, May 12 (CNA) American electronics giant Apple Inc. will need to launch a larger iPhone to compete against large-screen models from handset makers using Google Inc.'s Android platform, according to Canalys, a market researcher.

Smartphone shipments totaled 216.3 million during the first three months of this year, showing a year-on-year growth of 47.9 percent, Canalys said in a report on May 9.

Android handsets accounted for 75.6 percent of total smartphone shipments, while South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. increased its volume by 64.3 percent year-on-year and maintained its dominance in the market with a 32 percent share, the report said.

By contrast, Apple saw modest annual growth of 6.7 percent in its smartphone shipments during the first quarter -- the lowest level since the launch of the original iPhone back in 2007.

"Despite its slowing growth, Apple still shipped over 37 million iPhones," said Pete Cunningham, principal analyst at Canalys. "But HTC and Samsung have raised the bar with their latest handsets, and Apple needs to respond with its next iPhone."

The analyst was referring to Taiwan-based HTC Corp.'s 4.7-inch HTC One and Samsung's 4.99-inch Galaxy S4, both of which are equipped with a full-HD 1080p display. The current iPhone 5 features a smaller 4-inch screen.

Cunningham said the iPhone user interface "is now six years old and badly in need of a refresh," while Apple also faces "the biggest dilemma" in deciding the size of the display on the next iPhone.

"It cannot afford to ignore the trend for larger displays in premium smartphones. We expect an increase on the iPhone 5's 4-inch display but are not anticipating a 'Phablet'-style iPhone," he noted.

A phablet is defined by Transparency Market Research, a global market intelligence company, as a handset that has a screen of between 5 and 7 inches and features a 1-gigahertz or faster processor.

Around 21 million Android-based phablet devices were sold globally in 2012, and the numbers are expected to exceed 150 million units by 2018, according to Transparency Market Research.

The growing usage of mobile phones for different purposes, such as viewing images and videos, accessing the Internet and gaming with other people, has resulted in a need for devices with larger display sizes and superior quality, the research firm said.

In the second half of 2012, smartphone owners were most likely to be interested in devices with a screen size between 4.2-inches and 4.7-inches, up from 4.3 inches in 2011, market researcher Strategy Analytics said in a report published on May 10.

The report also found that nearly all respondents showed a preference for their next phones to have a larger screen size than their existing handsets.

"As screen size increases, the way in which consumers interact with the device also needs to be considered," said Kevin Nolan, vice president for the user experience practice at Strategy Analytics.

"Larger devices are harder to interact with one-handed, and so it is important for user-interfaces -- especially on-screen key placements -- to be designed to allow for easy interaction," he added.

(By Jeffrey Wu)