What Apps Will Look Like On The 4.7-Inch iPhone 6

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In the past, when Apple has grown the screen of an iOS device — for example, with the transition from the iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5 — Apple has taken pains to keep the pixel density the same. The Retina Display on the iPhone 5 is 326 pixels per inch, just like the iPhone 4s. This makes it easier for developers and helps prevent the widespread fragmentation seen in the Android operating system.

With many rumors pegging the forthcoming iPhone 6 as having a much bigger 4.7-inch display, a practical issue presents itself: what would that mean for resolution and pixel-density? If Apple increases the display size, will they increase the resolution to compete with the likes of HTC and Samsung’s 1080p Android smartphones? And if so, what does that mean for app developers?

Over on the Verge’s Apple forums, a user has a pretty good theory on what will happen if Apple releases a 4.7-inch iPhone 6. Citing a report by reputable analyst Ming Chi Kuo that says the iPhone 6’s 4.7-inch display will boast a 1,334 x 750 pixel display, the theory is this: even though it will have a bigger screen, Apple will keep the iPhone 6’s resolution exactly the same as the iPhone 5.

Noting that in the transition to the iPhone 5, Apple has been pushing developers to use iOS’s auto-layout tools, Verge user Pi is exactly 3 notes:

Even though it’s technically a marketing term, Apple has stated their “rules” for what kind of display they consider retina. For the iPhone being held 10-12’ away, 300ppi and higher is “retina”. Sticking to 326ppi on a bigger display, which would ideally be able to be held even further away, and thus require a lower pixel density, would also then meet the “retina requirements”.

So, how Apple gets to 4.7’ is simple: add pixels to each side of the display, and keep the pixel density the same. Non-updated apps get letter-boxed on all 4 sides (instead of 2 like the 4’ screen), and developers are further pushed to use auto-layout to target all 3 display sizes. One of the big differences here compared to other theories is that, rather than everything just getting bigger, UI elements stay the same size, there’s just more room for additional content.

In this approach, Apple wouldn’t worry about increasing resolution, and instead “letterbox” apps that hadn’t been updated to support the iPhone 6, surround a 4-inch app with padded borders. This would be similar to handle the iPhone 5 and above handles apps that have not been optimized for a 4-inch display, or how the iPad works when running iPhone apps.

Here’s what apps would look like:

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The biggest danger here is that Apple would look behind-the-times compared to the competition, many of whom are boasting displays that put the Apple’s Retina Display to shame, at least according to pixel count. But there are other, more important factors in determining a display’s quality than just pixels, and Apple might even be able to make a marketing weapon out of it, arguing that their competitors are wasting battery life to power screens with pixels people can’t see anyway.

  • Carlos ⌘ Franco

    Going from 4 to 4.7 will be awesome. I like 5 but no bigger. 4.7 is very good also. I had an HTC One M7 and thought the screen size was great. Hopefully this one is true. 5.5 would be great for some but not for my girl hands. I’m good with 4.7-5in.

  • Z Odbuster

    Are Applelites too stupid to just look at another 5 inch smartphone for comparison?

    • Cletus

      You are rude.

    • stucktrader

      not any more stupid than your comment…

  • Kevin Peck

    “widespread fragmentation” – Android has been designed from the start for various screen sizes. Android developers have always used layout managers that support more than on size. Apple developers were spoiled by having one screen size that then doubled then one day got taller. Now they need to use a new layout manager called autolayout that while powerful it is still not the easiest thing to use. Autolayout usage in Xcode 4.x was pretty crappy, it has improved with Xcode 5.x.

    Fragmentation has been thrown in the face of Android developers for years. It needs to get tossed in the direction of iOS developers or it needs to be dropped. Face it developers have handled various screen sizes on desktops and laptops for years. It is stupid to dog Android developers for hardware flexibility.

    iOS developers will feel the pain of new phone sizes for sure. Since we will only be told about the new size as the hardware ships it makes it tough to update things for our users. Add to that Apple reviewing every release we make before it can appear on the store and it can take some time to get things into users hands.

    • DigitalBeach

      SENSATIONAL!!!

    • Mel Gross

      Except that it’s never worked all that well.

  • BrS

    I keep hearing how reputable this Ming Chi Kuo is, so where are the statistics on the number of accurate predictions?

  • BrS

    So Verge user Pi is expecting a 4.7′ phone? Seems excessive for a phone doesn’t it.

  • BrS

    Not really happy about Apple foisting these tablet phones on us.

  • RyanTV

    I completely disagree. A 1080p display scales almost perfectly to the current 5s (and 5) resolution. To me it makes a lot more sense that Apple would source a 4.7″ 1080p display. This resolution has become standard on high-end smartphones and it wouldn’t be much of a burden on developers to re-render their assets at 1080p and then they scale down on the older iPhone screens.

    It also makes creating and viewing media on the device much nicer as you are working in a native resolution.

    Not only that, I don’t think Apple wants to be in a spot where their PPI is SO much lower than their competitors. I mean, that has been one of their HUGE marketing points.

    • Mike Chu

      more PPI = brighter screen requirements, brighter screen = less battery time. Choose your poison, less PPI for more battery, OR more PPI for less battery?

      • RyanTV

        According to the supply chain, the new iPhone batteries are bigger. I’m guessing more PPI + Bigger battery = same time.

    • Brad Carey

      Isn’t the point that Apple hit the magic PPI number where pixels are no longer discernible at the expected viewing distance? If that’s the case, why go beyond 326ppi when it’ll cause sacrifices in other areas?

  • Damon N

    Where’s the Thumb button?

  • stenro

    @John- Not thrilled with the baiting headline of the article. It should not say “will” but “would” or “might” instead since it is pure speculation and not a definitive.
    I can’t see Apple making the larger screen just to letterbox everything and giving a horrible customer experience. (Not to mention the attack ads that will come from Samsung.)

  • monstermasten

    I still can’t believe that the whole tech world seem to agree that bigger screen is a step forward. Like a bigger screen is some sort of innovative advancement in technology? There were plasma TVs before the original iPhone.

    I get that people now spend so much time on their phone that you have to sacrifice to get a better experience, but they hit the roof (if that’s an expression, i have no idea) with the iPhone 5 imo. They can’t make it bigger than that. Remember that cute hipster girls are the ones who decide what’s “cool”, a label Apple apparently is worried about losing.. Do you want to know WHY, Mr Tim Cook? Because you listen to feedback from fat boardgameplaying computer programmers with neckbeards instead of cute hipster girls, who have SMALL HANDS!

    Work on making the iPhone 5S smaller without making the DISPLAY smaller, don’t make the whole thing bigger. Jesus christ…

  • shatner

    Anything over 300ppi is a waste of battery anyway, your eyes can’t see the pixels. Apple already won the retina race. Other phone makers are fighting over specs that no longer matter.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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