NOV 23, 2011

4 inches

For quite some time now rumors have been circulating about the next iPhone supposedly boasting a larger screen. I think that’s a ridiculous rumor, and I can’t believe so many people actually believe it. First, let’s have a look at Apple’s current lineup of iPhones in terms of screen resolution:

diag. ratio width height ppi
3.5" 1 320px 480px 163
3.5" 2 640px 960px 326 (retina)

Now, assuming Apple sticks to non-fractional scale ratios (more on that further down), a 4-inch display iPhone would imply one of the following:

diag. ratio width height ppi
4" 2 640px 960px 288
4" 3 960px 1440px 432

Both are foolish. Why?

  1. There’s no way Apple would ever release an iPhone with inferior ppi than the current one. 288ppi would also slip below the resolution at which it’s considered to be a “retina display” (i.e. we would start seeing the actual pixels if we look carefully enough). Apple typically doesn’t release new devices with downgraded specs, let alone an iPhone with an downgraded display.
  2. a 432ppi iPhone would be an upgrade compared to the current 326ppis. But what’s the point really? Around 320ppi is about as good as it gets for the human eye. A hundred more ppis will literally go unnoticed, and will only suck on more power.

So you ask: what about fractional scale ratios? Say, a 2.5 scale ratio?

I don’t think that’s gonna happen either:

  1. That would mean each point on the display would translate to 2.5 pixels (that’s 2 whole pixels and one that got blown to pieces and left some nasty stain on your screen). Half pixels look like shit. No way Apple is ever going to take that path.
  2. Fractional numbers look messy.

Now, these are technical reasons for Apple not releasing a 4-inch iPhone. But as we’re all aware, Apple isn’t the kind of company that let technical limitations block their way to innovation. So, let’s forget about scale ratios and ppis and imagine that a 4-inch display makes sense. I still have to wonder: why give the iPhone a larger screen?

I personally find my iPhone’s 3.5-inch display to be of perfect size. At times, I almost find it too big and if anything, I wish Apple made it smaller. “Too big” may sound like a subjective thing, but half an inch larger would undoubtedly make some areas of the screen much harder to reach. Dustin Curtis wrote an excellent piece about this which pretty much sums it up: your thumb can only reach so far.