In last week’s Friday Night Fights, Cult of Android’s Vincent Messina and I argued about what was superior: the iPhone’s 3.5-inch display versus Android’s 4+ inch superphones. In my argument, I posited that one reason Android phones had such huge displays was because it allowed them to cram more battery into the device, but as it turns out, there’s a better reason: Android sucks at scaling UI elements.
Over on his blog, Jin Kim posits:
Android OEMs and Google responded to the 3.5-inch 960×640 Retina display by improving the pixel format to 1280×720. But because Android renders text and graphics like Windows or OS X, increasing resolution above 320 ppi means smaller UI elements. The display had to grow in size to compensate for shrinking UI elements.
In other words, Android phones got bigger because it was the only way Android can scale to compete spec wise with the Retina Display. Even then, Android phones usually have far less ppi than a Retina Display.
It’s an interesting point, and rather metaphorical for the difference between Apple and the rest of the industry as a whole. Apple’s whole purpose is to make technology clearer and more precise, while the competition just wants bigger.
On that note, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber suggests this alternative suggestion on why Android phones are so big: LTE.
Currently-available LTE chipsets are physically bigger (AnandTech made the case months ago that none of them would fit in the iPhone 4/4S case design), and because they’re so power-hungry, they require bigger batteries. Thicker phones aren’t going to fly. Thus: wider and taller phones with displays expanding to fill the surface.
Android: always disguising design compromises as a matter of “choice.”