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Even Steve Jobs Didn’t See this Coming

The new iPhone 6 is a hit. Apple’s (FRA:APC) latest smartphone is flying off shelves, and contract manufacturers can’t seem to make the iPhone 6 fast enough. There is an even more prominent supply vs. demand disparity with the iPhone 6 Plus, as customers can’t get enough of the largest — and most expensive — iPhone ever.

Customers aren’t flinching at the high price. The iPhone 6 Plus starts at $299 with a two-year contract, maxing out at $499 for the same model with 128 gigs of memory. iFans craving the iPhone 6 Plus without the two-year contractual strings are paying as much as $949.

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The iPhone 6 Plus is a huge success, but there’s one person that didn’t see this coming.

Steve Jobs was a tastemaker and a visionary, but he didn’t always get it right. In fact he belittled tablets and smartphones that were larger than the original iPhone and smaller than the iPad. Given the iPhone 6 with its 4.7-inch screen and the iPhone 6 Plus with its 5.5-inch display, it seems as if Jobs probably wouldn’t have been impressed.

„We think the current crop of seven-inch tablets are going to be DOA, Dead on Arrival,“ Jobs said in one of his final quarterly conference calls at Apple. „Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the seven-inch bandwagon with an orphan product.“

He was talking about 7-inch tablets — not 5-inch smartphones — but the message was the same. If you’re a „tweener“ you’re doomed.

The rise of the tweener
Jobs may have seemed to have made the right call at the time. Dell discontinued the Streak — initially the 5-inch model, but eventually the 7-inch phablet — a year after his comments. That was also the same year Jobs passed away.

He probably thought he was right, but was he? Apple rolled out the iPad mini with its 7.9-inch screen a year after his passing. Now — less than two years after the iPad mini hit the market — we’re seeing an iPhone 6 Plus smartphone with a 5.5-inch display. The iPhone is getting bigger. The iPad is now available in a smaller configuration. It may be just a matter of time before the two product lines meet in the middle.

Apple is the one putting out the mid-sized gadgetry that Jobs thought was „dead on arrival,“ but it doesn’t have a choice. It’s seeing Samsung, LG, and other makers of Android and Windows Phone handsets move to smartphones with larger screens. Consumers have spoken. At a time when iPad sales are starting to slip and Android phones outsell iPhones worldwide — two things that Jobs never experienced — Apple needs to embrace the changing trends. The market is building for phablets that offer the functionality of a smartphone with the form factor of a smaller tablet, and Jobs isn’t wrong just because he didn’t see it coming.

You don’t need to be right every time to be a successful visionary. Henry Ford thought that everyone would be fine with the black Model T. Reed Hastings thought that subscribers wouldn’t mind having their DVD queues serviced at Qwikster instead of Netflix.com. Warren Buffett acquired Dexter Shoes.

It’s OK to be wrong. Just make sure that when you’re right — and Jobs was often right — that you’re really, really right.

Was Jobs wrong about the phablet? History suggests that he was wrong. It was an honest mistake, and thankfully for Jobs and Apple investors it was a rare mistake — and one that’s now being corrected with the hot iPhone 6 Plus.

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The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple.

This article was written by Rick Munarriz and originally appeared on Fool.com on 24.9.2014.

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