D11: Tim Cook on multiple iPhones, larger screen

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Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher are currently interviewing Apple’s CEO Tim Cook at the AllThingsD’s D11 Conference.

Walt Mossberg asked Tim Cook whether Apple plans to launch a range of iPhones like the iPod.

When you guys did the iPod, Steve joked it was good to have products that was above five percent share. One of the things you did was to create a range of iPods, not just last year’s model. In one famous moment, that you probably were involved in, you killed off the mini. You just killed it and brought in the nano. You wound up with this whole range of things. You haven’t done that with the iPhone.

Tim Cook said that while they haven’t launched a range of iPhones so far, one cannot rule out the possibility in the future.

It takes a lot of really hard work to do a phone when you manage the hardware and software and services in it. We’ve put our focused on doing that right. We haven’t been focused on working multiple lines.

Think about the evolution of the iPod over time. The shuffle didn’t have the same functionality as other products. It was a really good product, but it played a different role — it was strikingly different. The mini played a different role than the classic did. If you remember when we brought out the mini people said we’d never sell any. The mini proved that people want something lighter, thinner, smaller.

My only point is that these products all served a different person, a different type, a different need. For the phone that is the question. Are we now at a point that we need to do that?

When Walt interrupted him and told him that a number of people like smartphones with a lot bigger screen and devices like the phablets that sit between the smartphone and the tablet. Tim Cook had this to say:

At a macro level, a large screen today comes with a lot of tradeoffs. When you look at the size, but they also look at things like do the photos show the proper color? The white balance, the reflectivity, battery life. The longevity of the display. There are a bunch of things that are very important. What our customers want is for us to weigh those and come out with a decision. At this point we think the Retina Display is the best.

In a hypothetical world where those tradeoffs didn’t exist, you could see a bigger screen as a differentiator.

There have been rumors that Apple will launch an iPhone with a larger screen to compete with Android based smartphones.

Excerpts of the interview courtesy of The Verge who are live blogging the event.