As Android widens its lead in the smartphone and tablet marketplace, Apple is starting to look a little frightened. The company that once answered to nobody (but Steve Jobs) seems to be cowering in the shadows of folks like Samsung and HTC. Instead of doing its normal trick of breaking conventions, Apple actually looks like it's going on the defensive with the latest designs for the iPhone and iPad and changing the specs of their flagship devices to match those of its competitors' gadgets. It's beyond mere imitation, though. Apple is also fighting hard to keep Android devices out of consumers' hands with patent infringement lawsuits. Altogether, we don't get the impression that Apple's trying to compete more fiercely. They're simply trying to hold on to their cachet in any way that they can.
Let's start with the iPhone. The Wall Street Journal's Lorraine Luk and Juro Osawa pushed iPhone 5 speculation from rumor territory to somewhat confirmed status on Wednesday with details about some activity at the screen manufacturer. According to the Luk and Osawa's sources, the next iPhone will feature a 4-inch screen instead of the 3.5-inch display that's been on every generation of iPhone so far. Apple's making the change not necessarily because consumers want bigger screens, but because all of its competitors offer bigger screens. The screen on Samsung's latest model is a healthy 4.8 inches, and the new HTC One X measures 4.7 inches. Other rumors claim that the next iPhone will also be thinner and possibly wider, both characteristics of iPhone competitors.
Then you've got the iPad. The fanboys seem united in the belief that Apple will release a smaller iPad. Per Business Insider's Steve Kovach, Barclay's even went so far as to release a note to its clients about a 7-inch tablet hitting shelves later this year, citing e-textbooks and gaming as the key uses for the smaller device. This would put make the smaller iPad exactly the same size as both Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Amazon's Kindle Fire. Just two years ago, Steve Jobs said on a conference call, "The 7-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad." Of course, he's no longer in charge of the company, and Apple's current leaders now appear to have plans to compete with those successful 7-inch devices.
We won't know exactly how Apple is responding to increased pressure from the Android army until the next product release, but we do know that they're responding in other ways. Apple's long been pursuing patent infringement lawsuits in an attempt to block the sale of similar, competing devices around the world. They saw some success last year in delaying the sale of Samsung devices in Germany, and lately they've been waging the same war on U.S. soil. Most recently, Apple's successfully blocked the new HTC phones -- the ones with the bigger screens -- from making it past customs. The lawsuit says it's because of patent infringement, but doesn't it seem like Apple's just a little bit scared?