This Could Be The Key To Apple Creating A Larger 4-Inch iPhone

This Could Be The Key To Apple Creating A Larger 4-Inch iPhone

Now that's a tall drink of water...

Whispers have been circulating for months about Apple releasing a larger iPhone later this year. Since the original iPhone launch, Apple has kept the iPhone’s essential dimensions intact, and we still have the same 3.5-inch display size Steve Jobs demoed at Macworld in 2007. While the rest of the smartphone industry has been experimenting with all kinds of crazy screen sizes and aspect ratios, Apple has stuck with a simple 3:2 aspect ratio and 3.5 inches.

There have been plenty of arguments made for why Apple will release a 4-inch iPhone in the future, but one smart forum user has put together an argument that trumps the rest.

Over at The Verge’s forums, “modilwar” presents a very compelling case for why he thinks the next iPhone will have a 4-inch display. He starts by mentioning the obvious problem that LTE radios have caused for device size — you need a bigger device to house a bigger battery to fuel power-hunger LTE circuitry. Case in point: the LTE variant of the new iPad is 0.6 millimeters thicker and 0.11 pounds heavier than its older counterpart. Modilwar argues that Apple won’t want to increase the physical footprint of the sixth-gen iPhone — no matter how slightly — so that would leave LTE on the cutting room floor. In his mind, Apple would need to increase the iPhone’s overall size, and thus the screen size, to accommodate LTE networking.

This Could Be The Key To Apple Creating A Larger 4-Inch iPhone

Modilwar’s curiosity was sparked when another reader of The Verge named Colin recently suggested how Apple could make a 4-inch device without losing the iPhone’s general form factor or pixel density:

Change the aspect ratio. As I mentioned above, all iPhones (and iPod touches) have had an aspect ratio of 3:2. Could Apple change the aspect ratio to increase the screen size while maintaining the same 326 ppi? What aspect ratio would need to be to hit that 4 inch mark? And most importantly how could app fragmentation be avoided?

Colin’s idea was to keep the shorter side of the iPhones screen the same, i.e. 640 pixels at 1.94 inches. With that in mind how much would the longer side need to increase so the that diagonal measurement was 4 inches. The answer, derived using simple algebraic rearrangement of Pythagorus’s theorem, 1152 pixels and 3.49 inches. That leaves the the diagonal length measuring a little over 3.99 inches, I’m sure Apple PR could round this 4.

For those of you who are good with numbers I’m sure you’ve noted that 1152 x 640 has an aspect ratio of 9:5 and the 1152 pixels is and increase of 192 from 960 and that’s 20% more than on the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Modilwar continues his presentation with mockups of how Apple’s stock apps would look at the new aspect ratio. He notes that there are some instances where the new dimensions wouldn’t work as well. For example, game devs would need to rebuild certain UI elements for a 4-inch display with a 9:5 ratio. However, video playback would actually leave room for less black space around the edges of the video frame, creating a better experience than what the current iPhone displays.

Admittedly, it’s a pretty brilliant solution to what’s been making the rest of the tech industry scratch its head for the last few months. A trick like Modilwar and Colin explain would be something smart enough to come from Apple itself. Well-connected Apple pundit John Gruber chimed in saying, “Methinks “Colin” wasn’t merely guessing or idly speculating.” Sounds like we may have found the key to a 4-inch iPhone.

  • Erik N

    If Apple can make the screen edge-edge the same form factor fits a 4.5″ 720x1280px at 326px/inch density and a 16:9 aspect ratio for better HD video playing, most web HD videos are in 720p, and with the built in camera sporting full HD video recording the phone should offer better replay.

    This would require killing the home button or making it a different size/shape. But then, a gesture could replace the home-button, pull down in the current app to reveal a top menubar with the familiar x symbol to close the app.

  • Joshua Clare

    Why not just change the screen to a 4″ 4:3 Ratio screen at 1024×768
    This would keep the pixel density well over the “retina” level 300ppi threshold and would be familiar to developers, as it is what is already used on the iPad.
    It would make for an unusual form factor for a phone initially, but if Apple did it, you can be sure as hell that every other manufacturer would follow suit sooner or later.

  • Daniel Celeste

    This is ridiculous. Apple would never allow fragmentation this high. Changing to the retina display was bad enough of a transition, now we are going to stretch out apps or leave the, with black bars on the sides? Some things are meant to be unchanged because they are perfect the way they are, and that’s how the 3:2 is. In 9:5, portrait mode is too narrow and landscape is too wide. I’d say DO NOT change the resolution, and bump up the screen size to 3.8″ leaving it at about 305ppi. It’s still retina and it will be a noticeable difference. Or just leave it the way it is and stop wining.

  • Tallest_Skil

    No. This is absolutely hideous and idiotic.

    It’s a solution looking for a problem. Stretching is pointless.

  • Barton Lynch

    What’s the point of a bigger screen if it’s only taller…?

  • tedcranmore

    Nein..an aspect ratio change is less likely than pigs growing unicorns out their asses.

  • Miki Matkovcik

    Apple won’t change the aspect ratio of the iPhone. What they may do is make the screen slightly larger but anything bigger than 4 inches would make it uncomfortable to use for most people. What i would do, is make an iPhone 5 with the same 3.5″ screen, and possibly a larger iPhone pro version with a 4″2 inch with more storage or something like that. People have to remember that it’s in apple’s best interest not to fragment it’s own user base by changing the aspect ratio among other things to keep third party apps 100% compatible and keep customer satisfaction as high as possible. a change in aspect ratio would be a disaster though.

  • Deepak K Tibrewal

    Apple; Do not change the size of phone please. it is perfect at the moment. It would defeat the basics of designing concepts if you change the screen size one way or another. Any one if so desires, can use an iPad / MBA for bigger screen.

  • Miki Matkovcik

    Or why not make an iPhone HD with a 9:5 aspect ratio and a 4.5 inch screen, with the entire front of the phone a giant glass screen (no home button) and any apps that can’t take advantage of the larger aspect ratio iOS will simply make a virtual border and virtual home button to compensate. but then again a virtual border and virtual home button may be a little awkward.

  • Alfiejr

    i can see Apple adding this additional 0.6″ screen height, and increasing the overall length of the iPhone by about 1/4″. to keep nearly the same space for the Home button (never remove that!). it would definitely be an improvement for TV/video/movie watching (and recording video) , and that is important to Apple’s media plans. plus the extra space for a bigger battery for LTE is another good reason. the slightly larger hardware size wouldn’t really be noticeable to most people.

    i don’t think this amounts to “fragmentation.” all of Apple’s own apps would be updated somehow to take advantage of the space on these new models. existing third party iPhone apps would work just fine – the same size, so what if there are two small pillar box black spaces (or the menu bar) too? and developers could offer a new group of “+” apps that take advantage of the extra space somehow in a “universal app” like they do now for combo iPad/iPhone apps. and they would love to have us spend another $dollar or two to “upgrade” the apps we already purchased.

    so … the iPhone 5 could be named “iPhone+.” i like that. lots of good reasons listed here. i give it a 50/50 chance.

    the iPod touch would get the same screen increase, which would keep it going good. and the 4S will certainly remain on sale @ $100 less for those that don’t want the new + screen for some reason. why not?

  • Wbeaudot

    As explained here a while ago, a 4? display with a 1080 x 720 resolution (same aspect ratio & same density as the retina display found in the iPhone 4/4S) makes much more sense…:

    http://www.kybervision.com/Blog/files/iPhone5_RetinaDisplay.html

  • oliverterrisse

    at least, I did this 2 years ago :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nDd7A4BAYc&feature=related
    maybe in 2 years, we will see a MacBook Touch :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R92jQtQuhuA

  • bernhardush

    i can see Apple adding this additional 0.6″ screen height, and increasing the overall length of the iPhone by about 1/4″. to keep nearly the same space for the Home button (never remove that!). it would definitely be an improvement for TV/video/movie watching (and recording video) , and that is important to Apple’s media plans. plus the extra space for a bigger battery for LTE is another good reason. the slightly larger hardware size wouldn’t really be noticeable to most people.

    i don’t think this amounts to “fragmentation.” all of Apple’s own apps would be updated somehow to take advantage of the space on these new models. existing third party iPhone apps would work just fine – the same size, so what if there are two small pillar box black spaces (or the menu bar) too? and developers could offer a new group of “+” apps that take advantage of the extra space somehow in a “universal app” like they do now for combo iPad/iPhone apps. and they would love to have us spend another $dollar or two to “upgrade” the apps we already purchased.

    so … the iPhone 5 could be named “iPhone+.” i like that. lots of good reasons listed here. i give it a 50/50 chance.

    the iPod touch would get the same screen increase, which would keep it going good. and the 4S will certainly remain on sale @ $100 less for those that don’t want the new + screen for some reason. why not?

    This is just stupid! If the iPhone were 1 inch taller, it would be just too big and akwardly long.

    The aspect ratio change is not just not going to happen either. You say that two small pillar box black spaces would be fine. That would be attrocious! Apple just would not allow that to happen! As an iPhone/iPad app developer I can also tell you that it would be a nightmare to maintain an app so that it would run on these two different aspect ratios.

    Why should hardware force us to build a bigger phone? With enough time the hardware will become small enough (as hardware does over time) and it would not be necessary to build a bigger phone to fit it.

  • Toughstuff

    Apple could implement the above solution using a flexible oled panel to create a physically clickable screen as home button, couldn’t they?

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  • Lane Jasper

    I’m all for a bigger phone, but Apple REALLY should shrink their icons down a bit. I use springtomize on my jailbroken phone to do this. They are unnecesssarily big imo, and I also use five column springboard with the icon reduction to 70% and it gets MUCH more sreen estate. The stock icons are way too big….imo. I know there are people with bad eyesite, but they probably wouldn’t buy an iPhone over a 4.3″ + Android probably if that was a concern. They’d opt for bigger device alltogether.

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a senior writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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