There's no denying that Apple has mastered the art of PR. They've got the kind of media profile that companies pay top dollar for, and they do it largely by strictly controlling the flow of information. Well, that and regularly creating new products that manage to be the exact thing you want, before you even know you want it.
With the kind of secrecy that cloaks everything that Apple does, the rumor mill responds with a fervor that few other companies can match. Everyone wants to know what the next blessed widget to come from Cupertino will be. As a long-time user of Apple products, and a tech journalist, I've seen and heard rumors of all shapes, sizes, and levels of credibility.
I've even had poorly-Photoshopped "spy shots" land in my inbox on the eve of product launches. While the constant speculation can be exciting—even when the rumors are patently ridiculous—it's usually wrong.
The same goes for the latest rumors of a forthcoming iPhone with a 4-inch screen. But even though this one has managed to go beyond the tech blogs into the pages of The Wall Street Journal, I'm not quite ready to believe it. Years of covering Apple has taught me a few things.
For starters, Apple likes a streamlined product line. They sell a few desktops, a few laptops, a few phones, and a few tablets. Rather than trying to appeal to every possible user with a million different variations on the same thing, they stick to a couple of options across a few product lines. Like the iPads and MacBook Airs themselves, Apple likes even their store inventory to be clean and streamlined. Not to mention that they like the user experience to be unified, a goal that wouldn't be served by introducing new screens in different sizes and resolutions (although they did it recently with the Retina Display on the third-gen iPad…so just maybe…).
When it comes to the 4-inch iPhone rumor, they already have a bigger iOS device. It's called iPad, and it's selling like gangbusters. And Apple has proved time and time again that they don't need "new" to move tons of units, just "improved." Every product cycle, Apple users, some bloggers, and journalists (myself included at times) have dinged Apple's latest device for not being compelling enough. Then doubters are proven wrong as the latest gizmo flies out the doors of Apple Stores all over the world.
So I'm not sure I'm ready to buy into this 4-inch iPhone, literally or figuratively. Apple doesn't compete on specs, and they're not the kind of company that moves a particular way because they have to keep up with the Joneses, or the Samsungs. I could be wrong—it's certainly happened before—but a bigger iPhone for the sake of a bigger iPhone just isn't something that Apple does.
The same goes for a smaller iPad. Those rumors have been circulating for years, and Apple has stuck by their 9.7-inch screens. They've improved the display—along with the rest of the iPad's components—in successive updates. But the form-factor remains more or less unchanged.
Apple is nothing if not mysterious, and they've surprised me before. But until I'm holding an iPhone mega (or an iPad mini) in my hand, these speculations are staying confined to the rumor pile. And if Apple does prove me wrong, I won't hold it against them. I'll be too busy poking around under the hood of their latest device.