Round Up: The Real Reason the iPhone 5 has a Bigger Screen Edition

by JT McGee

I have a conspiracy theory. Actually, it’s not much of a conspiracy. Apple made the iPhone 5’s new screen size bigger to sell more units.


That’s obvious. But let’s break down the marketing.

Apple Users in the Wild

I know plenty of iPhone users. I don’t know of any that are unhappy with the current screen size. It’s a small minority at best.

Have you ever seen a group of people talk about their phones? When iPhone users talk to other iPhone users about the amazingness of the iPhone, they talk about how much they love the iPhone. But then they ask one another which iPhone they have. This conversation starts with the person with the newest iPhone.

A good percentage of iPhone users put their phone in some protective case. This obscures the shape and thickness of an iPhone, but it doesn’t hide key identifying features. For example, the iPhone 3G or 3Gs does not have a front-facing camera, so people who see it can immediately tell it’s not an iPhone 4 or 4s.

The iPhone 5 is 7.6mm thick. The iPhone 4 is 9.6mm thick. All else being equal, the thickness (obscured by a case) is impossible to see.

Apple understands how iWant works. Having the newest iPhone is a status symbol. Apple wants the differences between each generation to be visibly obvious. The only way for the iPhone 5 to be visibly different from the iPhone 4 or 4s, all else being equal, is a bigger screen size and bigger form factor. The iPhone’s front-facing camera made it visibly different from the iPhone 3G and 3GS.

Prior to the 3G and 3GS, thickness reductions were large enough to be distinguishing differences. The OtterBox wasn’t yet popular, so thickness was easy to see.

And there you have it: Apple had to do something to the front of the phone to make it look different to continue the cycle of iWant. Giving the iPhone 5 a bigger screen was an easy way to do it. I can guarantee that this generation will sell many more units because of the bigger screen. Not because Apple users want a bigger screen, but because no one wants to be that guy with the outdated iPhone.

Furthermore, I’m willing to wager that the next iPhone generation has another distinguishing difference on the front face of the phone. The newest iPhone is the most valuable when other people can tell that you have the newest one, hence why the 4S wasn’t nearly the rockstar that it could have been if it were visibly different from the 4.

Links this Week

Stuff I wrote elsewhere

Why Leveraged ETFs Don’t Match Market Performance at The College Investor

What are Business Development Companies at Investor Junkie.

A post on Brokered CDs at Darwin’s Money.

A review of the SuperDividend ETF at ETFBase. (8-9% yields!)

How to pick a stock at 20sFinances as part of a short series on investing.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

PK September 13, 2012 at 09:55

I’m so jealous of Cameron!


Cameron Daniels September 14, 2012 at 10:13

Obviously. Great read on the Sears article. Their entire business model has changed from when I was younger and it seems the only thing that is keeping them (barely) alive is their Auto Center and Appliance sales. That probably won’t be enough, especially with WalMart going after those markets.

It, still, is disappointing when I take my friends through Chicago and tell them there is the ‘Willis Tower’.


JT McGee September 14, 2012 at 10:33

The business model changed with their new CEO, who was head of an auto parts retail company (can’t remember which.) After that switch, Sear’s stores were run less like big retail and more like auto parts stores – ugly, dusty, boring.

I think demographics are their largest concern. Every obituary is a lost Sears customer. Every birth is an Amazon customer. And of course there’s the fact that Walmart and others can tear into Sear’s last remaining profit drivers.

My family makes frequent trips to Chicago. Agreed on the name; Willis just isn’t as cool. Not nearly as iconic.


krantcents September 13, 2012 at 18:13

I disagree, I think they increased the size because of perceived competition. They may have changed for your reasons as well.


JT McGee September 14, 2012 at 10:34

They could have done it a long time ago, though, but never did. At any rate, this new size is going to bring in the upgrade maniacs!


Dominique Brown September 15, 2012 at 15:34

I think that the iPhone has taken over the smartphone market. They release a new model each year and though the appearance and other upgrades are usually very minor, people still tend to buy their new models. In my opinion, it is the best phone in the market today as it caters to a wide range of users – from students to business executives. With that said, I’m biased and I jumped on the IPhone 5 train. I’m turning my 4s into a ipod touch.. don’t judge me!


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