About Those “iPhone Math” Rumors

January 21, 2013 (6:15 pm)

Late last night, reports surfaced alleging that Apple would introduce three new variations of the iPhone during 2013. The first is the iPhone 5S, expected to be released in late Spring or early Summer. This would include a slight refresh and upgrade of the iPhone 5 hardware. The second is likely to be the iPhone 6, which would come out about a year after the initial iPhone 5, and just before the 2013 holiday season (likely mid-October). The third variation is where the rumors are swirling.

The “iPhone Math”. The report describes a new iPhone, dubbed the “Math” (we’ll discuss the name in a moment), which is rumored to have a 4.8″ screen. The iPhone 5, after much consternation, included a larger screen than all prior iPhone’s (previously they had 3.5″ screens before introducing the huge 4″ screen). Apple did not take this step lightly. They carefully selected the screen size that would fit easily in our hands. They prepared developers and made it fairly straight-forward for them to redesign their apps to fit the new taller screen. If the new device has a different resolution than either of the previous iPhone’s (which it would need to in order to keep the ‘retina’ moniker), developers would yet again need to tweak their apps. Would Apple, who plans years in advance and carefully selects the appropriate time to release a new product, really make developers go through the process of redesigning their apps only nine months after the last go around?

“Math”… Really? As for the name iPhone Math, it smells like a bad game of telephone. It’s not hard to imagine somebody saying iPhone “Max”, which the person on the other end hears as iPhone “Math”. For a bigger design, Max makes more sense to us. That said, even iPhone Max doesn’t make much sense. You’d think iPhone Pro or another adjective Apple already uses in their product line would suffice.

Reasonable Rumor? So where does this product fit in? In our view, Apple needs to introduce a larger iPhone. While this is anecdotal, we’ve heard through a variety of sources that the Asian markets (primarily Asian men) tend to prefer bigger phones. The Samsung Galaxy SIII is reportedly doing very well in those markets. Since China is likely the fastest growing, and soon to be top selling, market for Apple, it’s important for them to address this market. More and more of the average user’s time is spent checking email, browsing, and using apps. All of these functions are made easier with a larger screen. But how can they do so without causing developers the heartburn of redesigning their apps? The same way they did with the iPad mini…

The iPad mini does not yet have a retina display – even though its larger sibling (iPad 4) and smaller counterpart (iPhone 5) do – and it will likely soon outpace the traditional iPad in terms of sales. Clearly the lack of the retina display did not drive away as many consumers as we initially expected. Apple could easily come out with a 4.8″ iPhone Pro with the same resolution as the iPhone 5. The display wouldn’t be quite as perfect, but a majority of users likely wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It would also keep the cost down. And, more importantly, its loyal developer base would continue to view iOS as the easiest mobile OS to design and maintain apps for. We hope Apple does choose to go down this path. There is no reason to limit the size of its most popular device, except for concerns regarding developers and the app development process. If they’re able to keep developers happy, they should absolutely explore this market opportunity.

Let us know your thoughts.

  • ChKen

    Check Daringfireball. Gruber most likely had the naming correct. He posited that the Chinese translated iPhone +, into iPhone Math symbol, leaving out the word symbol. Thus, iPhone Math. Get it, a “plus” sign is a math symbol.

    • Thanks, ChKen. That sounds more plausible. However, in the case of “+” or even “Max”, I still think its only a code name for now. They tend to be consistent with “nano”, “mini” and “pro”. Not sure why they’d change their naming strategies now.