By the time pictures of the as-yet-unreleased iPhone 5 began to leak onto the Internet last summer, Apple's biggest competitor, Samsung, had already launched a well-received phone with a much bigger screen: The Galaxy S4.
When Apple officially launched the iPhone 5 last fall, the company argued that the iPhone 5's screen size was the "right size," because it was the only size that allowed the phone to be held comfortably in one hand.
What this meant was that, after five years of dominating the global smartphone market, Apple had finally lost its lead.
Because the hyper-growth in the smartphone market had already shifted to price-conscious emerging markets, where most consumers cannot afford to pay $600 for a phone (and there are few carrier subsidies)--and because Apple missed much of this growth by not offering a cheaper phone--Apple also rapidly began to lose global smartphone market share.
So that brings us to today.
The iPhone is still Apple's most important product--by a mile.
In addition to generating about half of Apple's revenue, the iPhone also likely generates well more than half of Apple's profit.
The iPhone, in other words, is directly responsible for Apple's astoundingly high profit margin.
To regain its mojo in the stock market--and its halo of invincibility and superiority with consumers--Apple needs to regain its mojo in the smartphone market.
Specifically, Apple needs to once again leapfrog competitors that, over the past five years, have finally caught up to it.
There has been hope in some circles that Apple's next iPhone model, a big-screened version described as the "iPhone Maxi," as well as the launch of a cheaper iPhone model, would help it do that.
For those holding on to this hope, one report from earlier this week was not encouraging.
Specifically, reports BI's Jay Yarow, Misek says that Apple wanted to launch the larger model in October. But its screen suppliers were not able to manufacture enough screens in that timeframe:
Apple's iPhone uses a technology called "in-cell," which essentially meshes the touch screen with the glass screen into one thin display. Its partners can't get good enough yields making those displays bigger to launch the iPhone 6 this year.
If Misek's report is accurate (no guarantees, obviously--and given the steady stream of often-inaccurate reports about Apple's future products, it's best to regard it as a rumor), this is a major setback for Apple.
Samsung is currently gearing up for the launch of its next version of the Galaxy phone, which is expected this spring.
This timing suggests that Samsung may have as long as 9-12 months to market and sell a new phone that many consumers will consider obviously superior to Apple's iPhone before Apple is even in the market with a big-screened phone.
If that happens, it will seem to many consumers as though, in the space of a few years, Apple has gone from having a year-long lead over all competitors in the smartphone market, to being a year behind.
For a company that is as dependent on the iPhone and iPhone profits as Apple is, that would be devastating.