Apple: Behind the curve? Well, yes

November 12, 2013: 5:34 PM ET

Samsung and LG have announced phones with curved displays. Apple has not. So what?

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FORTUNE -- Only with Apple could a single-sourced article about something that might happen 10 months from now be news.

Bloomberg published a story Monday that said that, according to a "person familiar with the plans," Apple (AAPL) is developing larger-screened phones that use curved and flexible materials. Samsung and LG either already have such phones in the market or plan to, so this unleashed a torrent of talk around the notion that Apple has fallen behind the competition. The Daily Mail had as good a write-up as any on the subject, complete with an attention-getting headline wondering if "Apple is jumping on the bandwagon" driven by its peers.

My take is that these reports -- especially when they are published many months before the products in question are supposed to arrive to market -- are either early or wrong or both. (Remember the iWatch?) Micro-scoops can be fine journalism, especially when the subject is one of the world's most important companies. Every data point on Apple matters, both to enthusiasts and competitions. Wanna-be suppliers need this information, and even wrong information puts them on high alert for potential business.

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But it is silly to suggest that Apple is behind the curve or playing me-too on something that barely exists, much less at scale.

In fact, Apple always is behind the curve. (Let us remember that the "MP3 player" was a well-established product category when the iPod came along.) Jumping on the bandwagon? Guilty as charged. A me-too product? Not so much. Research in Motion (BBRY) and Nokia (NOK) had a robust business in smartphones when the iPhone came along. Tablet computers had been manufactured for years before the iPad made its entrance. In each case, Apple came out with its iteration when it decided it had something unique to offer.

Is it possible that Apple will jump on a bandwagon led by Samsung? Sure. And is it possible that Apple's days of breathtaking innovation are behind it? Yes again. But is an article that cites one "person" with knowledge of something nearly a year from fruition evidence of the apocalypse? I'm afraid not.

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Adam Lashinsky
Adam Lashinsky
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune

Adam Lashinsky is a San Francisco-based editor-at-large for FORTUNE, covering Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Lashinsky joined FORTUNE in 2001, after two years as a contributing columnist. Prior to joining FORTUNE, Lashinsky covered Silicon Valley for TheStreet.com and The San Jose Mercury News. A Chicago native, Lashinsky holds a B.A. in history and political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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