By Reiji Murai
TOKYO (Reuters) - Apple Inc plans to use a larger screen on the next-generation iPhone and has begun to place orders for the new displays from suppliers in South Korea and Japan, people familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.
The new iPhone screens will measure 4 inches from corner to corner, one source said. That would represent a roughly 30 percent increase in viewing area, assuming Apple keeps other dimensions proportional. Apple has used a 3.5-inch screen since introducing the iPhone in 2007.
Early production of the new screens has begun at three suppliers: Korea's LG Display Co Ltd, Sharp Corp and Japan Display Inc, a Japanese government-brokered merger combining the screen production of three companies.
It is likely all three of the screen suppliers will get production orders from Apple, which could begin as soon as June. That would allow the new iPhone to go into production as soon as August, if the company follows its own precedent in moving from orders for prototypes for key components to launch.
Apple's decision to equip the next iPhone with a larger screen represents part of a competitive response to Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.
Samsung unveiled its top-of-the line Galaxy smartphone with a 4.8-inch touch-screen and a faster processor earlier this month.
With consumers becoming more and more comfortable using smartphones for tasks they once performed on laptops, like watching video, other smartphone manufacturers have also moved toward bigger displays.
AESTHETICS AND DESIGN
A likely shakeup in the design of a larger-screen iPhone could go a long way in boosting its "wow" factor, convincing fans to trade in their old iPhones for new ones, said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee.
"Not only do users pay for features, but they also pay for aesthetics and design. That's as important, or more important, than features," Wu said. "People love the current design -- but it's 18 months old."
The latest iPhone 4S was introduced in October of last year and essentially has the same form factor as the iPhone 4, launched in 2010.
Samsung, which this year became the world's largest cell phone maker, sold 45 million smartphones in the first quarter, and sales of the Galaxy phones outstripped the iPhone.
Apple was not immediately available to comment.
Apple's move toward a larger display for the next generation iPhone was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal.
In addition to being Apple's rival, Samsung is also a major components supplier to the U.S. computer, tablet and phone manufacturer.
The share of the production of new screens that go to each of the three manufacturers working with Apple has not been determined, one source said.
Sales of the touch-screen iPhone now account for about one-half of Apple's total sales, and the phone has been a key source of growth for the company in Asia.
A report in March by a South Korea business newspaper said Apple would use a "retina" display on the next iPhone, the same technology in its latest iPad that enhance image quality.
(Reporting By Reiji Murai and Mari Saito; additional reporting by Noel Randewich in San Francisco; editing by Kevin Krolicki, Ron Popeski and Jeffrey Benkoe)
Boomshakalaka! We're back with <strong>This Week In Apple Rumors</strong>, and the week has been jam-frackin-packed with speculation, presumption, wild rumormongering and probably outright lie-telling! Let's get going! First, let's talk about the iTV, the television set that Apple is probably working on <em>as we speak</em>. Steve Jobs <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-20124761-37/apple-tv-did-steve-jobs-crack-the-code/" target="_hplink">told his biographer</a> he had "cracked it"; Jony Ive is <a href="http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/01/04/designer_jony_ive_reportedly_has_a_50inch_apple_television_in_his_studio.html" target="_hplink">rumored to keep a prototype</a> in his labs; and last week, Foxconn executive Terry Gou <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/11/itv-confirmed-apple-television-production_n_1509796.html" target="_hplink">either did</a> or did not <a href="http://thenextweb.com/apple/2012/05/11/foxconn-chairman-confirms-company-is-to-build-apples-new-televisions/" target="_hplink">confirm that his company</a> is gearing up for its manufacture (uh, probably not). The biggest "news" of the week, however, <a href="http://www.cultofmac.com/164917/ive-seen-the-apple-hdtv-with-facetime-and-siri-claims-source/" target="_hplink">came from Apple site Cult Of Mac</a>, which claims to have a source who has actually <em>seen</em> the thing! It doesn't say who the source is, or how he might have seen a prototype -- just that the source is to be "trusted." Good enough for me! Let's absolutely believe everything he says without any scrutiny whatsoever! So, what does the source say about the iTV? Well, a lot of stuff we already expected: It's partially controlled by Siri and has a camera for FaceTime video-calls. Also, it looks like one of <a href="http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC007LL/A" target="_hplink">Apple's cinema-display monitors</a>, except a little bigger -- that's a mock-up you see. Groundbreaking. So, to wrap up: It has Siri, it has FaceTime, and it looks like an external monitor but bigger. Thanks, Anonymous Source We Have Very Little Reason to Trust! Hey, speaking of untrustworthy: Did you hear the other HUGE Apple television rumor of the week? This is a good one, and just a tiny little microcosm of everything that is stupid about the way Apple rumors originate and are spread on the Internet.
In an apparent move to bolster its efforts to build a television, Apple is set to acquire German HDTV manufacturer Loewe, <a href="http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/05/12/apple_reportedly_in_talks_to_acquire_german_hdtv_maker_loewe.html" target="_hplink">according to AppleInsider</a>. The Apple blog claims that Loewe is expected to accept Apple's GIGANTIC offer any moment now, which will give Apple a...oh, hold on a sec. What's that?
Oh no! Turns out <a href="http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Loewe-dementiert-Bericht-ueber-Kaufangebot-von-Apple-1574417.html" target="_hplink">someone actually went to Loewe</a> to find out if the story was accurate, and a Loewe spokesperson said that the rumor has "absolutely nothing to it." Oops! Keep calm and carry on, and ignore all previous analysis and reports of an acquisition! Party on, irresponsible Apple rumormongers!
In other hyperbolic Apple hysteria, the cool Cupertino company is apparently readying a new Maps for iOS that will "blow your head off," <a href="http://allthingsd.com/20120511/apples-coming-map-app-will-blow-your-head-off/" target="_hplink">according to a typically understated Apple employee</a> talking to John Paczkowski. Apple <a href="http://www.slashgear.com/apples-iphone-5-maps-app-technology-previewed-by-c3-11227887/" target="_hplink">bought some patents from C3 Technologies</a> -- you can see what that company does in the accompanying video -- back in 2011, and it is apparently getting ready to unveil the fruits of its labors at June's Worldwide Developer's Convention. That will include the "mind-blowing" 3D city maps you can see in this video demo, as well as a re-designed Maps experience for day-to-day use of your GPS. Yes, iOS 6 is widely tipped to be shown off for the first time at WWDC, and the killer feature will be a total redesign of Maps, <a href="http://9to5mac.com/2012/05/11/ios-6-apple-drops-google-maps-debuts-in-house-maps-with-incredible-3d-mode/" target="_hplink">according to 9to5Mac</a>. If you care about such a thing (MAPS!), do head over to 9to5Mac. If you want the short version: Well, Google Maps is being phased out, and Apple's own in-house mapping technology is in. That means iPhones and iPads upgraded to iOS 6 will get these nifty little Puzz 3D maps, but more importantly, it means that iDevices could <em>finally</em> be getting voice turn-by-turn directions, a feature that rival Android has had since 2010. Will Apple totally overhaul its Maps app at WWDC? It takes place in about a month, so let's all be patient, shall we? No? "Shut up," you say? Okay then. On to the next rumor.
iPad Mini rumors just won't die: <a href="http://www.imore.com/2012/05/10/7inch-ipad-mini-track-october-release-200-price-point/" target="_hplink">iMore has 1more of them</a> (GET IT?), claiming that Apple is readying a smaller, 7.85-inch iPad for release in Q3 2012, for somewhere between $200 and $250. That's similar to what we've heard from many analysts, though the $200 price tag is lower than most guesses (think $299, not $199). Here's the question: If you already have an iPad, do you also buy an iPad Mini? What level of Apple fanboy would that make you? It's gotta be at least a 9 out of 10, right? Speaking of cheap gear that Apple is supposedly launching this year...
This one's from DigiTimes (which <em>Time</em> <a href="http://techland.time.com/2012/05/14/digitimes-apple-rumors/" target="_hplink">points out in a Monday morning column, is about as reliable</a> as a very unreliable geyser): DigiTimes is claiming this time that Apple is preparing to release a very, very cheap MacBook Air in the fall, to the tune of a $799 price tag. Nobody thinks this is going to happen, because it doesn't make any sense. <a href="http://gigaom.com/apple/apple-making-a-799-air-in-fear-of-ultrabooks-nope/" target="_hplink">GigaOM explains why</a>. Computer shoppers on budgets cry a single tear and hope that, just this one time, Digitimes might be correct. We wouldn't hold our breath. The cheapest MacBook Air is "just" $999. All about the Benjamins, baby. And FINALLY: Would it be a week of Apple rumors without some unverified iPhone 5 nonsense? No, of course not! Onward to iPhone 5 Crazy Town!
First, yeah: Apple is apparently <a href="http://fusible.com/2012/05/apple-files-dispute-over-iphone5-com/" target="_hplink">trying to buy the domain rights</a> to iPhone5.com, which TOTALLY means that the next iPhone will be called iPhone 5 and that it's going to come out soon (NOPE!). Also, DigiTimes (yes, DigiTimes!) is <a href="http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20120509PD209.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter" target="_hplink">claiming that Apple</a> has placed orders for parts from supplier Pegatron to start building the iPhone 5. Is this verifiable at all, and does it mean anything? NOPE! Next. Finally, the busy beavers at iMore (hey, a reliable source!) <a href="http://www.imore.com/2012/05/11/iphone-5-design-finalized-big-screen-metal-track-october-release/" target="_hplink">have a little more info on the iPhone 5</a> (or whatever it's going to be called): Apple hasn't decided on screen size -- 3.5 inches, the current size, is still possible; the home button stays; 4G LTE is coming; an October release date is likely. Given that the release has always been tipped for October, and that the iPhone is already a year behind on 4G, and that "Apple hasn't decided on a design" is as good as saying "I know nothing about the next design" -- well, sure I'll go along with these rumors. A 4G iPhone of unknown shape and size will likely come out in October. BANK ON IT. That's all for This Week In Apple Rumors. Make sure to check in next week, when Apple will be rumored to buy The Home Depot for some reason. Until then, you can <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/gilbertjasono" target="_hplink">follow me on Twitter</a> for all the latest Apple rumors, if that tickles your funny bone.