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Apple CEO hints bigger iPhone screen may come when 'trade-offs' can be avoided

When asked about the popularity of smartphones with particularly large displays, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook admitted that some customers may prefer larger screens, but said his company would not ship such a product until the technology for jumbo-sized phone displays improves.

Cook said Apple's main goal in developing the iPhone's screen is to provide the highest quality display for users. That applies to quality, color reproduction, power consumption, longevity, and a multitude of other factors.

Mockup of iPhone with 4.94-inch screen, created by Marco Arment.

Competitors that are producing handsets with jumbo-sized displays are sacrificing many of those important factors, Cook argued. He said Apple would never cut corners to release a product with a subpar display, but hinted that the company could reverse course as screen technology improves.

"We would not ship a larger display iPhone while these trade-offs exist," Cook said during his company's quarterly earnings conference call on Tuesday.

Apple did increase the display on its flagship handset last year with the launch of the iPhone 5, adopting a taller — but not wider — 4-inch display. All previous generation iPhone models featured a shorter 3.5-inch display.

In unveiling the larger iPhone display, Apple touted that the handset could still easily be operated while being held with one hand. Competing handsets with larger displays make it more difficult for users to reach the corners of the display without two-hand operation, the company said.

Still, smartphones with screen sizes of 5 inches and even greater have found noteworthy success in the growing smartphone space. Leading the way in that market has been Samsung's Galaxy Note series, which includes a stylus.

There have been rumors that Apple is secretly working on a new iPhone model with a larger 5-inch display for launch as soon as this year. However, there has been no concrete evidence that the launch of such a product is impending.