Apple’s next iPhone to have ‘at least’ a 4-inch screen: WSJ

iPhone 5 concept

If Apple rumors were songs, the Wall Street Journal would be Justin Bieber. (That kid’s still big, right?) The News Corp-owned financial paper is out with another hit today, this time reporting that Apple has placed orders with “Asian suppliers” for iPhone screens that measure “at least” 4-inches diagonally. All past versions of the iPhone have a 3.5-inch display.

Update: Reuters is now reporting the same details as WSJ, adding further credence to the possibility of a 4-inch iPhone coming later this year. Of course, Reuters also cites unnamed sources, so all of this could very well be coming from the same person/people.

According to WSJ’s sources, Apple has begun doing business with a number of different screen makers, including LG, which is based in South Korea, and two Japanese companies: Sharp and Japan Display, a newly formed company created by three other companies and the Japanese government.

Apple is expected to release the next version of its iPhone — whatever it will be called — sometime this fall, probably in September or October, which would match up with last year’s iPhone 4S release.

The jump in screen size — a move that many expected to have seen in the iPhone 4S — is said to be in response to stiffer competition from the likes of Samsung, which currently produces the most absurdly gigantic handsets on the planet, like the recently unveiled 4.8-inch Galaxy S3, and the hilarious 5.3-inch Galaxy Note smartphone-tablet hybrid.

Samsung recently surpassed Apple to become the world’s preeminent smartphone maker. (Though Apple remains the world’s most valuable company overall.) And many other Android handset makers also offer phones with 4-inch-plus screens.

Of course, anytime someone says that Apple is creating a product in response to its competitors, it’s time to put on your skepticism hat. As analyst Nobuo Kurahashi of Mizuho Investors Securities tells WSJ: “The smartphone market has become diverse, but the iPhone still sets the agenda.” Kurahashi adds that it is not simply the screen that makes Apple’s iPhone popular; it’s the entire user experience.

Regardless of whether the next iPhone has a 3.5-inch screen, a 4-inch screen, or a freakin’ Tupac hologram emulator, Apple needs to hit it out of the park. The iPhone is Apple’s cash cow, having played a primary part in pushing the company’s revenues to $46.33 billion for the quarter that ended in March. With many still watching to see whether Apple CEO Tim Cook can maintain the glory run started by Steve Jobs, there is no room for error with the iPhone.