Welcome to our bigger iPhone release date, rumours and leaked images article. Here, we'll be bringing you all of the latest speculation about Apple's rumoured bigger iPhone, dubbed iPhablet, iPhone 5L or iPhone Plus. We'll let you know as soon as we hear more about the bigger iPhone release date, and we'll bring you all of the juiciest spec rumours that are flying around the web too. Finally, we've got some bigger iPhone images that we'd like to show you.
UPDATE 10 February: We have added new concept images, information about Apple's sapphire plant and rumoured iPhablet specifications.
A bigger iPhone has been hot topic for a while now, especially as bigger smartphones with larger screen sizes such as Samsung's Galaxy S4, and the 6.3in Galaxy Mega, have grown in popularity. Plus, new 'phablet' devices, which fall half way between the smartphone and tablet categories by providing the functionality of a phone in a device closer to the size of a tablet, have begun to hit the spotlight. Samsung's Galaxy Note is an example of such device.
So the question on everyone's minds at the moment is: "Will Apple launch an iPhone with a bigger screen or a phablet device?"
Alternatively, the bigger iPhone could actually be the iPhone 6, Apple's next-generation flagship iPhone expected to arrive in September, rather than a whole new device. For more iPhone 6 rumours, check out our iPhone 6 rumour round-up.
We won't know for sure until we hear from Apple itself, but for now, we can speculate over the answer to that question by taking a look at the evidence and weighing up the likelihood.
Bigger iPhone rumours: Sapphire display
Apple's sapphire plant in Arizona could be used to manufacture 200 million 5in iPhone displays per year, according to new reports. Recently published documents have revealed that Apple and manufacturing partner GT Advanced Technologies are aiming to open the new plant in Arizona this month, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has confirmed that the plant is indeed for sapphire glass, as previously rumoured.
It's widely believed that the new sub-component will be a sapphire display for upcoming iPhones, and its durability and strength could mean it's perfect for a bigger iPhone that's scratch resistant and shatter-proof.
Following the release of the aforementioned documents, a 9To5Mac reported that analyst Matt Margolis claims GT Advanced Technologies has 518 furnaces that could be used to make enough sapphire for 103 to 116 million 5in iPhone displays. With an additional 420 machines reportedly waiting unassembled, production could eventually be even higher, at 200 million units per year.
What Apple has said about the bigger iPhone
Apple CEO Tim Cook hasn't ruled out the possibility of a bigger iPhone. In April, during Apple's quarterly earnings call, Cook said: "My view continues to be that the iPhone 5 has the absolute best display in the industry. We always strive to create the very best display for our customers."
"Some customers value large screen size, others value also other factors, such as resolution, colour quality, white balance, brightness, reflectivity, screen longevity, power consumption, portability, compatibility apps, many things," he continued.
"Our competitors have made some significant trade-offs in many of these areas in order to ship a larger display," Cook said. "We would not shop a larger-display iPhone while these trade-offs exist."
During the D11 conference in May, Cook repeated his thoughts about the bigger iPhone. "A large screen today comes with a lot of trade-offs," he said. "Customers are clearly looking at the size, but they also look at things like: 'Do the photos show the proper colour?' the white balance, the reflectivity, battery life, brightness, the longevity of the display. There are a whole bunch of things that are very important."
So, Apple could be hard at work trying to banish those trade-offs in order to be able to launch a top-quality iPhone with a bigger display in the future.
American businessman Donald Trump believes that Apple is losing business due to the size of the iPhone's screen.
On his Facebook page in April, Trump wrote: "Tim Cook must immediately increase the size of the screen on the iPhone. It should be slightly larger than the Samsung screen – and they better get it right fast because they will lose a lot of business. I like the larger screen."
In addition, Barclays Capital's Ben Reitzes has said that Apple needs to launch an 'iPhablet' because he expects the larger phone market to dominate smartphone shipment growth into 2015.
When Apple launched the iPhone 5 with a bigger display, Apple explained that the reason for increasing only the iPhone's height and giving the iPhone a 4in display was to ensure that it could be used with one hand. Reitzes says that the one-handed use of the iPhone 5 will be "less important since phone calls are coming less important than navigation, texting, videos, books and web access for many."
Bigger iPhone release date
Most reports predict a 2014 launch for an Apple phablet.
In January 2013, Digitimes cited "industry sources" who say that Apple won't be launching a bigger iPhone until 2014. Then, in September, reports from WSJ and analysts also suggested a 2014 launch for a bigger iPhone, so this could be the year Apple decides bigger is the way to go with the iPhone.
There has been some speculation to suggest that the bigger iPhone will arrive before the iPhone 6 does, possibly in the first year of 2014.
A note from previously accurate research firm KDB Daewoo Securities that was released in February claimed that Apple is working on two new iPhones, both of which will be significantly bigger than the current 4in iPhone.
Oddly, the report suggests that, rather than launching with iOS 8 installed, the devices will run iOS 7.2 at launch. Does this mean we'll see an iPhone launch earlier than the usual September time-frame?
Bigger iPhone rumours
In April 2013, Cook said that Apple is working on "amazing" new products in "exciting new product categories," sparking speculation that a 'phablet' could be on the cards.
Then, in an email sent out to Apple employees in September, Cook said that the company has "big plans" for 2014, which could be a cheeky that a bigger iPhone is on its way.
Further evidence from Tim Cook that suggests we're going to see a bigger iPhone this year comes in the form of a puzzling comment from the Apple CEO. When talking about his promise to introduce products in new categories, Cook said that any "reasonable" person would consider what's on the cards as a venture into a new category. If Cook was talking about an iWatch or Apple television, it's unlikely he would have felt the need to specify that not everyone will consider the new product part of a new category, which hints that it may in fact be a bigger version of Apple's iPhone.
Read on to find out more about what features that bigger iPhone could have.
Bigger iPhone display size
Some of the earlier rumours of a bigger iPhone suggested that it would be called 'iPhone Math,' but we soon decided that this must be a mistranslation of iPhone Plus. Those reports, however, said that the bigger iPhone could feature a 4.8in screen and an 8-megapixel camera.
In December 2012, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said that there were is an iPhone prototype with a 4.8in screen "floating around," and that this prototype has a Retina+ IGZO screen, a new A7 quad-core processor variant and a new form factor with no home button.
Since then, we've seen several reports that Apple's bigger iPhone will have a 4.8in display. Citi Research's Glen Yeung has said that an iPhone launching in the first quarter of 2014 could have a 4.8in screen.
In June, Reuters reported that sources at Apple have claimed the company is developing two new iPhones with larger screen sizes for release in 2014.
These screens will be 5.7in and 4.7in, although the source claims that Apple can't make its mind up. "They constantly change product specifications almost to the final moment, so you're not really sure whether this is the final prototype," the source told Reuters.
More reports, which emerged in September 2013, suggest Apple is testing various sizes of iPhone display before settling on the final size. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple's testing iPhones with displays between 4.8in and 6in. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo doesn't expect Apple to choose a display size bigger than 5in due to the importance of one-handed use for the company.
According to KDB Daewoo Securities, the iPhone 6 will have a screen size of 4.7 or 4.8 inches, while the even bigger iPhone will sport a 5.5in display, bringing it into the phablet market.
In addition to the size of the screen, KDB Daewoo Securities also provided what it claims are the resolution specifications for both of the rumoured iPhone models. It claims the iPhone 6 will have a 1,920 by 1,080 pixel display while the phablet will have a 2,272 by 1,280 pixel display.
Bigger iPhone will have NFC
Reitzes expects that the bigger iPhone will feature near field communication (NFC), which could be used to enable faster mobile payments and more. However, the introduction of AirDrop in iOS 7 suggests that Apple may be trying to avoid NFC in future devices.
Bigger iPhone leaked images
The first leaked image of a bigger iPhone (above) hit the web on 8 January, though many publications have rubbished the photograph, suggesting that it's unlikely to be a genuine leaked part. We're inclined to agree for several reasons, including the fact that it appears to be a midframe part that is no longer found in Apple's iPhones as the iPhone 5 uses a unibody design. You can see the image for yourself below.
Concept images of the bigger iPhone have also emerged, including the image at the top of this article created by Nikola Cirkovic.
A new concept spotted on ConceptsiPhone and created by Joseph Farahi includes several well-rendered images and a video that shows a 5.1in iPhone 6. It's thinner, has a higher-resolution display, and also has solar charging capabilities.