The Problems With A 4-Inch iPhone

The Problems With A 4-Inch iPhone

Do we really need a bigger iPhone?

Many started speculating about the possibility of a 4-inch iPhone when a guy named Colin made a very interesting argument for such a device one week ago. The rumor mill has been saying for months that a larger iPhone is coming, but no one had really thought about how it would actually work. Colin proposed that Apple would need to simply change the aspect ratio from 3:2 to a stretchy 16:9. Brilliant, right?

Not so fast. There are multiple reasons why an elongated iPhone screen would not work.

Dan Provost, co-founder of Studio Neat, presents a succinct breakdown of the problems with a 4-inch iPhone on his blog, The Russians Used A Pencil. He points out the obvious problem of holding a 4-inch smartphone in one hand; it’s very difficult to move your thumb to all four corners of a 4-inch screen while it rests in your palm. The iPhone as is feels perfect in one hand, and that’s a comfortableness that Apple is not likely to forfeit for a larger screen (see Samsung Galaxy Note).

From a developer’s point of view, “there would need to be at least some minimal intervention to have the app function properly on a 16:9 screen.” Remember when the iPhone 4 came out with the Retina display and it took months for all of your favorite apps to get updated? The same type of experience would happen all over again. As Provost notes, Apple has done it before though.

If the next iPhone had a taller screen, Provost says iPhone-only apps wouldn’t be able to run at 2X on the iPad. The argument has been that Apple would add more pixels vertically to fill a longer iPhone screen, and such a resolution wouldn’t be able to scale properly on the iPad’s 9.7-inch display.

The most convincing argument Provost makes against a 4-inch iPhone is that apps would be unable to function properly in landscape mode:

I have designed apps for 16:9 mobile screens before. If the app needs to be designed for both portrait and landscape orientations (like Mail, Messages, most standard UI apps) it’s really, really hard to make the landscape orientation look good. Taking a list view and stretching it that far looks real stupid. It’s just an awkward ratio to work with. The virtual keyboard on a 16:9 screen is awkward as well; if scaled properly it takes up the majority of the screen. All of the (non game) examples in the Verge post look at the apps in portrait mode, and it works great. Rotate to landscape, not so much.

If you look at the concepts Provost is referring to, they do seem to work in portrait. The only time we see landscape working is for video, when you would actually have less black space on the side of the iPhone’s screen.

When you factor in the fact that the human hand was not made to hold a 4-inch phone, it seems problematic that Apple would release such a device. The only possible reason would be something like increased hardware size to accommodate LTE networking. The rest of the industry continues to play with different screen sizes, thereby creating a very fragmented experience for developers users. Apple has stuck with the same screen size since 2007. You know what they say,”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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  • Blake Beavers

    I really wish people would stop writing these posts that all have the same information in them. The iPhone needs a bigger screen to maintain it’s popularity, and I just want one. But it seems like Im the only person who actually likes the Galaxy Note anyways.

  • johnibr5

    A 4 inch screen would definitely work I think. If you have an iPad please download and iPhone-specific app for it, like instagram. Look at the size of the app, which measures at around 4.1″, the iPad’s OS automatically renders it to a comfortable size to use. Why couldn’t apple do that to the new iPhone’s OS to automatically render the app to fit perfectly on the new screen? Just my opinion.

  • Jairo Gomez

    Of course a bigger screen is necessary. Its becoming a pain to play apps on my iPhone. Having to squint at all the little details. Besides, this will be a great way to introduce a higher resolution to the iPhone.
    Pardon my french but Apple would be retarded to keep the iPhone the current size.

  • WardC

    I say Apple should just discontinue handheld iPhone handsets altogether and release the iWatch 5 already!

  • OmarHassanA

    I guess with th oopularity of iPads and iPad mini on its way, no need for a larger iPhone.
    Just my opinion

  • Michael

    I have been thinking this too since the elongated design was proposed. It’s hideous, a bitch for developers and just wrong. Keep the same aspect ratio and increase the screen size. Was that so hard? No! Won’t fuck with blowing it up on iPads, keeping developers happy, higher resolution screens, just a whole lot better. We can hold a just over 4 inch or just under 4 inch phone with ease and use it!

  • francescoMunich

    I think that a larger screen is absolutely necessary. Do you remember the 2007 when the first iPhone was launched? It had the largest mobile screen ever! However, we don’t need for sure a 7 inch display or a 5 inch display, but a 4 inch (at least) is strictly recommended. Just take a look on the success of Galaxy Note..not a great device, I think, but people really like it screen and this might be a point of reflection for Apple. iPhone’s current screen has become a too small screen for this times, they have to change something and I think that they know that for sure and for this reason they will show us a full restyled “insanely great” device. Is useless to think how they will do that, how will be possible to convert an iPhone app in an iPad app etc etc.. they will do this, for sure, making a great job like always.

  • John Howell

    When I think “what I really need now is a phone with a larger screen” is ….. USE MY IPAD. I like the iphone just the size it is. sure if I REALLY need to watch an HD movie Right Now on it, it gets letterboxed. Uless I zoom it in. It cuts of the sides a little, but so freekin what. Its a PHONE! I really prefer portability over screen estate size for a phone.

  • drlove0109

    It doesn’t matter…At least raise it to 3.7 or 3.8! Even that would make a difference! They can’t use the excuse of not being able to provide the retina display if they raise the screen size because of the new iPad’s retina display! So that lie is out…doesnt matter if it ain’t broke…it’s time for a change! I’m tired of this small ass screen and yes I have an iPad but it’s ain’t the same as having bigger screen realistate. I shouldn’t have to grab my iPad everytime I want to play a game or something because the screen is so damn small….

  • drlove0109

    I swore the 4S would be my last iPhone if they continued to deny those who are ready for more! Make TWO iPhones that would be genius! A 3.5″ and a 4″ I guarantee just the fact of having the option to to bigger would sale sale SALE waaaay more than apple anticipates because it actually IS something new instead throwing new software on it raising a few specs and calling it a Day!!! That’s weak. The 4S has already left a bad taste in my mouth but I cannot see myself without an iPhone so I keep buying them like a dummy! But seriously after this no bigger screen then htc one x here I come…

  • Jvmxtra

    Multiple freaking size is what apple need to do. Hello? Keep 3.5 screen? What they need to do is fire ALL iphone designer who has been doing NOTHING for past 3 years if that is the case. FIRE them. Freaking Kidding me.

    Reason bigger screen necessary is extremely simple. Smart phone today is far more capable than 2007. Simple as that.

    This move needs to happen. I don’t get it. I don’t know why this article was even written. Unintelligent.

  • Jvmxtra

    IN fact, multiple size or bust apple!.

    Make the damn phone 3.5 4.0 4.6 Why not? (Build a sandbox based on 3.5 incher and have them run inside of box for 4.0 and 4.6 until developement decide to write for specific phone size).
    Average people’s hands might not have grown that much from 2007 but phone’s capability have grown by tenfolds. Count me in for another person leaving iphone if they stay at 3.5 incher.

    It used to be droid’s way for people to upgrade is sucking in current production to piss people off to upgrade again to droid. With their “BETA” barely works siri(along w/ stupid way to need internet connection to it’s db to make simple stuff as “call gf”) as THE feature, w/ OLD 3.5 incher same screen since 2007, iphone 4s already pissed off lot of people.

    I really hope apple don’t let their flagship phone(flagship product in their company) suck at what it does and just sell based on their popular brand.

  • Brandon Dillon

    Those that are saying Apple should have multiple screen sizes are fools. That is a complete confliction with Apple’s mentality of not fragmenting hardware. Also, there will not be an “iPad Mini” or any other version of the iPad that is smaller. It fills absolutely no void. There is no legitimate demand for a smaller iPad.

    Those that are saying bigger iPhone and smaller iPad need to grab a Galaxy Note and an Amazon Fire and shut the hell up and stop tainting the iPhone user perception with your stupidity.

  • Tallest_Skil

    Reason bigger screen necessary is extremely simple. Smart phone today is far more capable than 2007. Simple as that.

    Once you start using actual logic, you’ll have a point. As it stands, you’ve proven nothing. And your first point is incorrect on the face of it.

    Of course a bigger screen is necessary. Its becoming a pain to play apps on my iPhone. Having to squint at all the little details. Besides, this will be a great way to introduce a higher resolution to the iPhone.

    iPad. There you go.

    Pardon my french but Apple would be retarded to keep the iPhone the current size.

    Yeah, they’re certainly not selling more 3.5″ phones than the ones with larger… OH WAIT. Well, at least their nearly 3 year old 3.5″ phone isn’t outselling those phones with larger… OH WAIT.

  • Jvmxtra

    I strongly disagree.

    Staying w/ yesterday’s concept for far too long despite changing market and what consumer really want is no innovation.

    Do you know why Steve Job was so great? He would be the first one to say screw 3.5 incher and no fragmentation. Now w/ superb hardware, we go multiple size.

  • Shameer Mulji

    Multiple freaking size is what apple need to do. Hello? Keep 3.5 screen? What they need to do is fire ALL iphone designer who has been doing NOTHING for past 3 years if that is the case. FIRE them. Freaking Kidding me.

    Reason bigger screen necessary is extremely simple. Smart phone today is far more capable than 2007. Simple as that.

    This move needs to happen. I don’t get it. I don’t know why this article was even written. Unintelligent.

    So what you’re saying is you want to fire Jony Ive? O..kay.

  • Shameer Mulji

    IN fact, multiple size or bust apple!.

    Make the damn phone 3.5 4.0 4.6 Why not? (Build a sandbox based on 3.5 incher and have them run inside of box for 4.0 and 4.6 until developement decide to write for specific phone size).
    Average people’s hands might not have grown that much from 2007 but phone’s capability have grown by tenfolds. Count me in for another person leaving iphone if they stay at 3.5 incher.

    It used to be droid’s way for people to upgrade is sucking in current production to piss people off to upgrade again to droid. With their “BETA” barely works siri(along w/ stupid way to need internet connection to it’s db to make simple stuff as “call gf”) as THE feature, w/ OLD 3.5 incher same screen since 2007, iphone 4s already pissed off lot of people.

    I really hope apple don’t let their flagship phone(flagship product in their company) suck at what it does and just sell based on their popular brand.

    So you’re saying that the iPhone 4S, which is Apple’s best selling iPhone so far, and on the trajectory to being the best-selling single smartphone model ever is a best? If I were Apple’s competitors, I’d be very afraid once they come out with a successful model.

  • wchoreo

    The only reason the iPhone sells with a 3.5 inch screens sells is because it’s the only model they will put out. We want a bigger screen already. The 3.5 is too small for many things we need to do, but do we have a choice…? aaarghh!!!

  • Allan Cook

    I’d rather see Apple improve what’s in the box. The size and shape are dead-on perfect. Have you ever really watched someone grappling with a 4-inch phone?

  • ddevito

    When Apple releases a 4+ inch iPhone this year this site will rave about it and tell us all how genius a move it was.

  • CFLOREZ

    the iphone is perfect the way it is

  • mr_bee

    “Colin’s” 4 inch phone argument was stupid from the start. The proposal essentially says … “Let’s change everything about the aspect ratio, pixel density and physical size of the best selling iPhone to accommodate those who only want to watch wide-screen action movies on it.”

    All other uses of the phone, except wide-screen movie watching, are deprecated or made more difficult with the proposed 4 inch design. This doesn’t make sense at all obviously.

  • Gabriel_Forlani

    Haha, funny yeah keep it 3.5 a watch iOS markets hare drop even more. Even Apple fanboys r saying they’ll consider Android if Apple keeps small screen. I know I will. The thumb argument is so retarded. 4″ is the sweet spot, not too big but not too small like it is now.

  • Ali Vaseghnia

    3.5 inch screen is great for a mobile phone, I can’t always use both hands to text people or do other things with my CELLPHONE so I don’t want big screen on a mobile phone.

  • Ernesto R Pereira

    The screen size of the iphone is what has kept me from switching from Android all this time. It just feels way too cramped. The thumb can’t reach argument only holds sway if you are stuck with childs hands. I can use my incredible 2 with one hand with 0 issue. It’s a shame really, because I do enjoy iOS.

  • davelol

    I use a 4.65″ Phone. The Galaxy Nexus. Let me tell you, at first it seemed way too big, but after a couple days I’m used to it. Yes, reaching the TOP LEFT CORNER requires you to balance the bottom of the phone on your pinky, but I NEVER have to switch to using two hands EVER. FOUR INCHES WOULD NOT BE A PROBLEM GUYS. Quit whining, holy shit. Don’t let anything disrupt your tiny little world. In my opinion, 4.5″ would be perfect, but I like my 4.65″. 4.3″ is probably where the iPhone should end up, if not 4.0″. Quit crying and try using a bigger phone for 2 days, tops. You’ll change your minds. Don’t be afraid of change, and give something a chance. I can’t believe how close minded some of you people are–why don’t you go vote against gay marriage too while you’re at it? It’s different, right?

  • Haley Gossett

    I think a big screen could possibly be better for certain reasons… but I like it the way it is…also it would be hard to fit it in small spaces…

  • Haley Gossett

    @ Brandon Dylan…i agree,a smaller iPad would be an iPhone JD a bigger iPhone would be an iPad,there’s not an in In between…iphone is very successful so to those who say they don’t do what the consumers want are stupid! If they didn’t do what the consumers want then they wouldn’t be so successful now would they?

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath has been a staff writer at Cult of Mac for three years. He is also a co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by places like 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. All DMs excepted.

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