James Moore: Apple seems to have found itself playing catch-up with the iPhone

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The Independent Online

Outlook It's just about the time of year for Apple to start cranking up the hype machine. The iPhone 6, or should that be the iPhone 5X, or even the iPhone Air, is due to be launched in the autumn.

The famously secretive company is usually about as communicative as a Trappist monk with tonsillitis.

But its PR brains know how to stoke the hype machine by ensuring bits and pieces of information about new products filter out into the market to create a buzz, thus ensuring that at the end of the process everyone takes pictures of the fanbois queuing around the block wherever Apple stores can be found on the day of a much-hyped product's release.

So what's this year's earth-shattering innovation? Erm… Apparently it's a larger screen.

Not that this isn't a handy thing for Apple to be trailing. The market has been howling for it.

Worryingly for the controlling brains in its corporate centre, parts of that market have leapt upon products made by bitter rival Samsung, and others, because that's what they have. Particularly in Asia, a key market where the Apple brand might not necessarily be able to ride on the cachet it enjoys if it doesn't come up with something that puts the robo-cat among the electronic pigeons quite soon.

That it hardly did with the last lot of iPhones, which were fine as far as they went, but hardly set the world on fire despite all the fingerprint ID technology the posher ones incorporated (and which hackers managed to break in short order those kids!).

Still, the really exciting innovations only come every other year, right? Which means this is the year we can expect to see the real McCoy. The development worth waiting for by all those who passed on the iPhone 5 in the hope of a world beater coming around in 12 months.

If the early buzz is correct that amounts to a bigger screen.

Screens do seem to be the thing with Apple, what with its Retinas for MacBooks and iPad Airs, which sure do look pretty. Just not with the iPhone up until now.

It might take a bit more than a bigger one to generate genuine excitement for the new outing, although Apple has proved its doubters wrong before.

Still, what might concern the company's shareholders is that it did seem to be just a little behind the curve on this one to start with. That's what allowed Samsung in.

Confirmed Appleholics will probably always find a reason to love the company's kit. After all, it still offers a winning combination of form and function. But Apple seems to have found itself in an unusual place with the iPhone and its small screen: Playing catch up.

It needs to get ahead again. If it does have an ace in the hole we'll just have to wait until the next leak to find out what it is.