For as long as I can remember, there’s been chatter around the Internet from people claiming Apple is working on iPhones with larger screens. It’s picked up steam in the last couple years, especially since several of the high-end, best selling competing Android devices all seem to be going to larger displays. Samsung, Apple’s biggest competitor, hasn’t had a 4-inch Galaxy since the original Galaxy S in February 2011. Everything else in the last 2.5 years has been larger. Yet, Apple just bumped the screen size of the iPhone to 4 inches less than a year ago, and has continued with that size for the iPhone 5S and 5C.
There’s no doubt Jony Ive and the industrial design team at Apple have designed and developed prototypes of iPhones with screens larger than the current 4-inch size. They’re almost certainly hidden away, locked in the bowels of a workshop in Cupertino. There’s a lot to consider when changing something as important as the screen of a mobile device. The larger it is, the more power it draws from the battery and the more difficult it is to accurate display colors. These are two of the bigger issues to consider, but there are others.
One of the biggest (and ongoing) struggles Android developers have is ensuring that their apps are displayed as they intend across thousands of different display types, sizes and resolutions. On the contrary, iOS app developers know there are only two screen sizes (and three resolutions) for iPhones. Apple made it easy on themselves and developers when they changing the size of the iPhone 5 display by only increasing the height. Going back even further, they made it easy to adapt their apps to the Retina display by doubling pixels in both horizontal and vertical axes. Then, a 40 x 40 icon became 80 x 80.
Can Apple create an iPhone with a display larger than 4 inches without fragmenting the experience of developers and users? Of course they can. Although, doing so will require them to increase both the height and width of the iPhone, which gives Jony Ive pause. Wider devices are more difficult to use one-handed, after all. You’d be foolish to think Apple hasn’t developed prototypes of these larger models, but you’d be equally foolish to think we’ll see one before Apple believes they can provide the “right” experience for everyone.
Meanwhile, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, with it’s monstrous 5.7-inch display, will be available later this month.
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