Speaking at the All Things D D11 conference on Tuesday, company CEO Tim Cook accepted that the future could bring different types of iPhones but rejected phablets as a "compromise."
As always, when an Apple executive is interviewed, answers are short on specifics -- Apple is the master of keeping secrets -- but Cook did suggest that the time was right to examine different smartphone models rather than offer all consumers a single device.
"Well, we haven't [launched variations of the iPhone] so far. That doesn't shut off the future," said Cook. "But let me answer the question on why we haven't so far. It takes a lot of work, a lot of really detailed work, to do a phone right when you manage the hardware, software, and services around it. We've chosen to put our energy into getting those right, and have made choices in order to do that."
The response has added intensity to existing rumors that the company will be launching a cheaper version of its iPhone.
However, when All Things D journalist Walt Mossberg asked Cook about the growing popularity of phablets and whether Apple would be following suit, Cook responded: "A large screen today comes with a lot of trade-offs. People do look at the size, but they also look at things like whether the photos show the proper color, battery life, brightness, longevity ... At this point, we've felt the Retina is overwhelmingly the best."
Throughout the keynote interview and Q and A session, Cook returned to the point that Apple is focused on building the best products and not on what its competition is doing, and that it defines a good product as one with the best user satisfaction.
"Apple has always had competition to focus on. However, our North Star has always been focusing on making the best products. The best phone. The best tablet. The best PC. The best MP3 player. More important than me thinking this, our customers think this," he said.
To support his point Cook quoted usage statistics and satisfaction surveys to show that the iPad and the iPhone are the best products in terms of how they work and how they make users feel. "Our customer satisfaction rates are off the charts, unprecedented," he added.