What Size Screen will the Next iPhone Have?

Posted on April 10, 2012

The size of the next iPhone’s screen is once more up to debate with The Verge releasing a post about how a 4inch screen size could be accommodated. The screen would effectively be stretched.

Digital Possibilities’ position so far has been that the iPhone’s physical screen size will not change in the near future because it would be very disruptive for developers having to accommodate the new screen size.

Why Apple will Keep the Current Size

There are two principal reasons for Apple to keep the current size of the iPhone. One, with a thumb you can access all parts of the screen; and two there will be a cost to developers to create apps particularly for the new screen format.

Imagine if Apple adds more screen sizes to its line up. A development team will have to create for:
– iPhone
– iPhone Retina Display
– iPhone 4inch
– iPad
– iPad Retina Display
– iPad Junior

That would suddenly become a lot of different devices to take into account and would be quite some fragmentation.

Also, it’s important to take into account Apple’s development processes. The 3.5 Inch screen size was not arbitrary. Apple decided that, after testing many other screens that this was the best one for any number of reasons: ability to reach with thumb, pocket sized, right cost per inch etc… Many of those reasons for the initial choice remain valid.

Why Apple may Change the iPhone Screen Size

In a word: competition. All of the Android and Windows Phone 7 vendors released devices with larger screens than the 3.5inches of the iPhone. This was one way for them to differentiate themselves from the iPhone, with a bigger screen.

Apple may feel that to be competitive it needs to react to the marketplace. Yet here’s the thing: iPhones are still selling like hotcakes, so are users really demanding a bigger screen size, or is it just the technology press?

The Inelegance of the Verge Solution

The Verge has suggested that the 4inch screen will be made possible by enlarging the screen. Gruber has also suggested that he feels this is a credible solution by someone who is in the know. Now Apple can implement this in one of two ways:

By making the screen longer – this would have the huge disadvantage of making the top left hand corner of the phone (where the back button is usually found) inaccessible to the thumb.

By making the screen start lower on the Phone – if Apple were to have less colored glass on the face of the phone, a larger screen could be accommodated. This could also be a good moment for Apple to remove the hardware home button and opt for a software solution, or put the home button elsewhere. It could allow them to introduce a really revolutionary design for the next generation iPhone.

Marco Arment has already suggested that he feels the screen will not work well with this aspect ratio; and indeed it looks odd.

An almost-16:9 aspect ratio looks weird in portrait orientation, like the many 16:9 Android tablets. And the iPhone is primarily used in portrait.

Accommodating standard apps on a bigger screen

The Verge shows standard apps and video on a larger screen being bounded by an extended border. If this is the solution to current apps, why not just bite the bullet, make a 4 inch screen with a standard aspect ratio and out a black border all around each app, not just on each side?

What we can Expect

Given all we can see, and especially given the constraints and need for a new screen, at Digital Possibilities we don’t see Apple introducing a larger physical screen on the next generation iPhone. The media may like to discuss it, but there doesn’t seem to be a big enough need for the inevitable pain it would cause.