Is the iPhone 4S the last iPhone to have a 3.5-inch display? That’s what Japanese Apple tracking blog Macotakara is reporting.

Citing an unnamed source, the site says that Hitachi and Sony have already started shipping 4-inch LCD panels to Apple for use in “new iOS devices.” The two companies are also said to be providing panels for Apple’s next iPad, which is said to be “changed fundamentally.”

If true, the move would suggest that Apple has not just decided on the design for the followup to the iPhone 4S, which was unveiled and released just last month–but is beginning to collect parts and produce units.
Yet the 4-inch display rumors ahead of that unveiling were numerous. In February, a snapshot out of China depicting the front screen of what looked like an iPhone with a larger and wider display cropped up. Just weeks before, component industry tracker DigiTimes claimed that Apple was eyeing bigger screens, in part to better compete with Android and Windows Phone devices.
Then, in March, something a little bit more interesting happened. Purported “mold engineering” drawings made the rounds, depicting a device that looked like an iPhone 4 but with a noticeably larger screen. This was followed in June by blog This Is My Next, claiming that Apple was working on an iPhone with a 3.7-inch display, and a slew of cases that hit store shelves designed for a slightly larger, but thinner iPhone, based on an alleged prototype device leaked from a manufacturing facility.
Alternatively, a report by our own sister site CNET France near the end of September loosely claimed Apple would use a qHD (960×540 pixels) screen that measured about 4.2 to 4.3 inches diagonally. That’s compared to the iPhone 4 and 4S’ 3.5-inch display that runs at a higher 960×640 pixels.
One of the most recent reports ahead of this came last week from iLounge, which laid out several rumors about Apple’s product changes during 2012. On that list was an iPhone with a 4-inch display, alongside metal casing and a summer launch.
Apple currently maintains three basic sizes for apps to fall into: non-Retina Display iPhones and iPods, Retina Display iPhones and iPods, and the iPad. Changing dimensions with two additional configurations would mark another step for developers when designing their software, be it utilities or games.