For months now, rumors have circulated that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is planning to replace the current iPhone 8 and 8 Plus with a singe iPhone model later this year. That single model will look similar to the current iPhone X, but it'll sport a cheaper construction and a slightly larger, though less advanced, liquid crystal display (LCD).
That display has long been rumored to measure 6.1 inches along the diagonal, though it seemed likely that this figure wasn't particularly precise.
For example, the current iPhone X with a "5.8-inch" display actually has a display that measures 5.85 inches along the diagonal, and the upcoming iPhone X Plus with a "6.5-inch" display will probably measure 6.46 inches along the diagonal of the screen.
Thanks to a new report from ET News discussing Apple's future iPhone plans, we now seem to have a more precise figure for how large the upcoming LCD iPhone's display will be.
Smaller than 6.1 inches
According to ET News, the display on the LCD iPhone will measure 6.04 inches along the diagonal. That should mean the physical footprint of the device will be closer to that of the current iPhone X, as well as the upgraded version that Apple is planning to launch later this year, than to that of the current iPhone 8 Plus or the upcoming iPhone X Plus.
Since this device is expected to be the best selling of the upcoming iPhone lineup, in terms of units moved, Apple has to pick a good balance of screen size and usability.
The reality is that smartphone customers do value increased screen real estate. Just look back to the super-cycle Apple enjoyed when it introduced the larger-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus back in 2014. But at the same time, many customers want something that isn't too big.
With the upcoming iPhone X refresh and the iPhone X Plus, Apple will give its customers two choices: something that's about the size of the iPhone 6 and something that's about the size of the iPhone 6 Plus, respectively.
However, since Apple is planning a single lower-end LCD model, and since that model has to appeal to a broad set of potential iPhone customers, who will probably be upgrading from both iPhone 6- and 6 Plus-class devices, it has to choose the appropriate screen size.
Were Apple to merely offer a 5.85-inch LCD iPhone, Apple would alienate customers who traditionally preferred iPhone Plus-type devices. If it were to offer a 6.46-inch LCD iPhone, it'd alienate those who prefer standard iPhone-type devices.
By choosing a value that's between the sizes of the displays on the iPhone X and upcoming iPhone X Plus, Apple finds a middle ground that could appease users of both types of devices that aren't willing to pay a premium for Apple's higher-end X-series devices.
At 6.04 inches along the diagonal, the physical footprint of the upcoming LCD iPhone should have a smaller physical footprint than that of the current iPhone 8 Plus and a slightly larger one than the current iPhone 8. In terms of usable screen area, however, it should dwarf the iPhone 8 and even come out ahead of the iPhone 8 Plus.
The coming iPhone lineup looks quite strong. It'll have great size options for those willing to pay a premium for Apple's best technology, and it'll also have a reasonably sized device for those who still want new, cutting-edge iPhones but don't see the value in the additional frills of the X-series models.
If there were ever an opportunity for Apple to gain market segment share in the premium portion of the smartphone market -- and the LCD iPhone is still very much a premium smartphone, even if it's cheaper than Apple's very top-end devices -- then the coming product cycle will be it.
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Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.