What size should Apple make the next iPhone?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: April 11, 2012

Leading up to the official iPhone announcement from Apple every year, speculations and rumors come out of the woodwork. Expectations soar. And this year is no exception. In fact, the way things are shaping up, it may be one of the worst years for Apple and iPhone rumors. In many ways, the iPhone is facing much more heat from the competition than it has in the past, leaving some pretty big shoes for Apple to fill to make their loyal fans happy with the sixth-generation iPhone.

If the new iPhone comes with everything consumers are asking for, the sixth-gen iPhone, unlike every iteration before it, would be a major upgrade over last year's model. Expectations are for 4G LTE connectivity, a larger display, new design and a handful of other features. But none of these can come in a single package without some sort of sacrifice.

Let's take the larger display, for example.

As the average size of smartphones is quickly growing, Apple's iPhone has remained roughly the same size for over five years now. Android phones initially started around the same size as the iPhone, yet there are now models ranging from iPhone-size to giant-sized 5.3-inches. The only change that has been made to the iPhone's display is the resolution. Graduating from the 480 by 320 pixel resolution (165ppi) display of the iPhone 3GS, Apple introduced the Retina Display (960 by 640 pixels, 326ppi) in the iPhone 4. For consumers, this was an amazing improvement. For developers, it was bittersweet. At four times the resolution of the old display, almost every developer had to either rewrite the interface for their app or update it to include high-res graphics. The same happened with Apple introduced the iPad and once again with the new iPad.

If Apple decides to change the display size, they will face two problems: lose the Retina Display title or double the resolution and force every developer to support yet another resolution. Not to mention, a bigger display with a higher resolution would require extra horsepower to push the added pixels. And more horsepower would warrant a larger battery to keep the device powered.

If Apple were to bump the screen size of the next iPhone to 4-inches – which is commonly considered the "sweet spot" for smartphone displays – without changing the resolution, the pixels per inch rating would drop to roughly 288. One rumor, however, suggests the next iPhone will feature a 4.6-inch display. At 960 by 640 pixels, a 4.6-inch display would sport 250 pixels per inch. It's a rather safe bet to assume Apple will not want to sacrifice the clarity of the display. They have set very high standards in display technology, especially with the new iPad and its Retina Display.

But continually forcing developers to cater to new display resolutions isn't exactly a good practice either (Google constantly gets hounded for this with Android), though you rarely hear developers complaining. So how could Apple increase the screen size without totally changing the resolution?

One interesting concept comes from The Verge's forums by reader modilwar. He says that by changing the aspect ratio from 3:2 to 9:5, Apple could keep the number of horizontal pixels (640) and the width of the display the same while simply making it taller and only adding 192 vertical pixels, totaling to 1152. This would allow Apple to keep the same chassis (cutting some of the unnecessary margin) as seen in the iPhone 4 and 4S while enabling them to increase the display size and place minimal work on developers.

There's no question that modilwar's solution would answer several problems that Apple will face if they actually decide to increase the display size. However, it seems like a haphazard workaround, like they would be cutting corners. And if there is one thing I have never witnessed Apple do, it's cut corners or release a haphazard product.

That said, it did make me realize that, just as important as display resolution, is size. After using numerous, gigantic Android devices, I have come to find anything below 4.3-inches uncomfortable to use. Sure, I carry an iPhone 4S now, but it is entirely too small. I don't browse the Web on it, I do as little typing as possible from it and really only keep it around for the awesome camera.

The question is: what size should Apple make the new iPhone?

Frankly, I would like to see a 4.7-inch iPhone. While I prefer the absurd size of the Galaxy Note, the HTC One X and EVO 4G LTE are a very comfortable size. If Apple doubled the display resolution (1440 by 960 pixels) and made the display 4.7-inches, it would carry a higher density (368ppi) than the current iPhone display and would land it right smack dab in the middle of where all of the latest and greatest Android handsets are.

However, there are a lot of people happy with 3.5-inches. And likely just as many find 4-inches to be perfect, possibly borderline too big. Jumping a full 1.2-inches could upset a lot of people, particularly those with tiny hands. So not only does Apple face a possible redesign of their phone and upsetting developers, they could also make a lot of loyal customers angry, as well.

While I would love nothing more than to see Apple bump the iPhone to the giant scale that Android has introduced us to, I don't think Apple would go with something that radical. I imagine they will play it conservatively, possibly only bumping to 4-inches, if at all.

What size do you want the next iPhone do be? Will you still buy it if Apple decides not to adjust the display size? What if they sacrifice display quality for an Android-sized iPhone?

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