Wait a minute, is a 4-inch iPhone 5 even necessary?

As you’re probably aware, there’s been a lot of talk about a future iteration of the iPhone getting a larger display dating back for a few years now. So far, it has yet to happen. Apple clearly has never seen a need to keep up with the gigantic Android phones on the market. Plus, any rumors of moving to a larger display are normally shot down because Apple would then have to sacrifice pixel density and apps would have to be rewritten. Blah blah blah.

Every time these rumors have flown around, I’ve remained relatively silent about them. I always just dismissed them as bullshit Apple rumors yet again that don’t have any logic. That is until today when one person took to The Verge forums to post his idea of how an iPhone 5 with a 4-inch display would be plausible. To my knowledge, it’s the first the time in the history of the 4-inch-display rumors that someone has come up with a system that actually makes sense.

Don’t be fooled by my enthusiasm, though. I’m still not convinced. It brings me to the question I’m certain the folks at Apple who work on new features in upcoming iPhone models ask themselves every day: is this even necessary?

Just because Android devices commonly incorporate displays of four inches or larger does not at all mean Apple is feeling pressure to do the same.

Apple Simply Doesn’t Need to Make the Display Larger

That’s always a good reason to not do something. Apple doesn’t need to make the display larger. Oh, but Android devices have larger displays so obviously Apple needs to follow suit, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. The fact of the matter is the iPhone is selling way better than any single Android phone. The sales figures aren’t even in the same league. No matter what Apple does or doesn’t do in the next iPhone, they will still sell like hotcakes.

If Apple made the sixth-generation iPhone out of cow manure, the extreme Apple fanboys would find a way to explain how the stench is revolutionary. Sales aren’t a problem and they almost certainly would not take a toll if the display in the next iPhone remains at 3.5 inches.

The only real exception to the possible need for a bigger phone is LTE. The large size of LTE chipsets are forcing other manufacturers to make their phones bigger — this is true, but Apple has done some pretty incredible stuff. The new iPad fits LTE in just fine. Yes, it’s much bigger than the iPhone, but if you’ve ever seen the teardown of the iPad 2 you’ll know that thing was packed to the gills. Aside from a practically indistinguishable increase in thickness, the third-generation iPad has stayed the same.

Who’s Complaining?

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is that the people who are complaining about needing a larger display on the iPhone don’t actually own one. It’s most Android users that say things like “Well if the iPhone had a larger display I’d consider switching to iOS.”

I know a lot — and I mean a lot — of people who own iPhones. No one has complained that the display is too small. That’s not to say that there aren’t people who would prefer the larger display, but I’d argue that’s only because they see friends or family with an 4.3-inch Android device and think “wow, that looks cool.” “Cool” doesn’t necessarily mean “beneficial.”

On the flip side, it seems there’s plenty of people complaining about the display on their Android phone being too big. When the display gets large, the phone has to get larger. As a result, it becomes less practical or comfortable to hold with one hand or over long periods of time. If you’re one of the few that does enjoy a larger device, good for you; you’ve found love in Android phones. Let’s remember that Apple’s goal has never been for every single person on Earth to own an iPhone nor has it been to dominate mobile market share.

Apps Would Still Require Modification

I give kudos to The Verge forum user for coming up with a practical formula for increasing the size of the iPhone’s display: keep the width the same and make the display taller for an aspect ratio of 9:5, 1152×640 resolution, and diagonal size of 3.99 inches. That way, apps using Apple’s standard UI could just push the top navigation bar up and make more room for content. This makes sense, but there’s plenty of apps in the App Store that don’t use the standard UI, namely games.

For this, he claims that Apple could just leave them at the size they are and fill in the missing content on the edges with black bars until the developer decides to redesign the app. Here’s how Angry Birds would look:

Fine, but this means developers would have to once more alter the graphics on these apps. Only this time it would be much harder because it’s not simply a matter of pixel doubling anymore. Plus, it’s odd that games would be the hardest to modify for the new display when games would benefit most from it.

I’m not ruling this method of resizing apps out, but I am pointing out that it would be hard on developers and certain apps would look strange with the black bars on the sides for the time being that they are not updated.

In the End …

What matters most to Apple is the customer, not the competition. If there was large demand from iPhone owners for a larger display, I’m sure Apple would ship one with a larger display, but there isn’t. If sales were dropping because the iPhone had a 3.5-inch display compared to larger offerings from the competition, I’m sure Apple would ship one with a larger display, but they aren’t. I’m not saying that a larger display on the iPhone won’t happen in the future, but right now Apple doesn’t seem to have any good reasons supporting one.

I’m very curious to read about your input on a 4-inch iPhone, so be sure to weigh in below with your comments.

  • Anonymous

    I think there should be a larger screen and I think the point about lack of complaints isn’t how Apple rolls. They tell people what they want and more often than not, people agree. Apple will deliver a 4-inch screen if it thinks that it offers a better experience and it’s not just about having more real estate for games/apps. It could also mea LTE, larger battery, etc. 

    • Anonymous

      What apple needs to do is come out with TWO iPhone models.  Apple likes when they only have to make one model, but consider this.  Apple make one iPhone that is a world model that you can pick which carrier to go with.  Along side it go with an iPhone Pro that would be directed more towards the person that has to have all the top of the line specs like 4.3″ screen, lte, nfc, etc.  That way apple has the “cheaper” iOS device that is easy to produce because they have been producing it.  

      • Technically, Apple has three different iPhone models right now.

      • Anonymous

        They’ll do that the way they’ve been doing it: make last year’s model cheaper and make the model from two years ago the entry-level one. For all the guff there is about the Apple tax, if you look at its whole portfolio of products (iPods, iPads, iPhones, Macs) they have something at nearly every price point, including free on AT&T with a contract. 

  • I like the size of my 4s. I find the screen plenty big and its actually comfortable to hold in one hand. Much ado about nothing.

  • Anonymous

    I think you are partially incorrect as to the reasons why Apple wouldn’t, but would need/get a larger screen. Namely that they need to maintain forward momentum. For every year that Apple ‘doesn’t’ need to introduce/catchup with something, a year (or two) later they do.

    Resolution wise? The 320×480 was one of the lower/poorer resolutions out there (people seem to have a short memory on that one), but the moment they doubled it? Oh, now every other Smartphone display is inferior!

    Dual-Core? Don’t need it. IOS is optimised and fast enough! iPhone4 with Dual-core; if it doesn’t have it, it lags behind (re: WP7)

    This year I am almost definitely certain the screen size will go up (within the same chassis size of course, so they can maintain credence), then 4″ will be the new sweet spot , and over or under will be inferior/sneered at.

    The one thing they (Apple) can’t do is seemingly stand still, and it will only take one year of No new hardware differentiation/variation for the murmurs to start.

    Just my two cents.

    • I completely understand where you’re coming from. As a loyal iPhone user myself, I try not to have this perspective but I know of many people who do. Should the iPhone get a larger display in the future, I’ll do a followup to this article.

  • Paullunn1

    You are truly allowing your allegiance to cloud your judgement…..the world is evolving…phones are evolving:-…iphone is not..Apple is loosin a client eveytime someone chooses the Galaxy Nexus. Jobs knew that how is it you do not? They own the market ill admit they got it locked.but should Apple consider less breakable materials? A larger screen so normal people (think of senoirs) can enjoy the browsin a but more of course…but as Apple doesot consider these things I umderstand you would not. I umderstand what youre getting at…buy an ipad serve the borg…..but you can honestly say reading a novel on a 3.5 inch for several hours would be as easy as 4.6 inch. Go back to user interaction school and stop pollutin us with fanboy crap….if Apple dosent increase screen size I wish they will starve like Rim. Goodday

    • A few things:
      1. The statements “Apple is loosin a client eveytime someone chooses the Galaxy Nexus.” and “They own the market ill admit they got it locked.” contradict each other.
      2. I never said Apple wasn’t considering a larger display. I’d be shocked if they weren’t. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to ship it.
      3. You’re correct that reading articles would be an advantage of a larger display, but I’d argue that three inches or four, I wouldn’t read for long periods of time on any phone. That’s more suited for a tablet.

      • Anonymous

        He meant Android owns the market.

  • Edgy_Timeless

    Honestly I was part of the bunch who have had the iphone 4 for 1yr 1/2 and then jump ship to Android when I found out the 4s was the same screen size. When I drop my 4 for androids big screen phones, SGS2 then later the Galaxy Nexus, they were fine phones but they were too damn big for my hands, plus other problems. I missed using ios over android and finally went back and just got the 4s with the same 3.5 inch screen. It’s something Apple does/has that just gets you hooked with their products. I also realized the 4 & especially the 4s has the best resolution pixels on any phone, and for some reason the bright colors and resolution sticks out and makes the 3.5 small screen appear bigger. The next generation iphone should not be forced to have a bigger screen by consumers from the competition but it should built for a different style for a new time. What would you perfer, style or size.


    @Marinperez:disqus mŷ best friend’s ṡiṡter brought in $14392 past month. She iṡ getting paid on the computer and got a $546OOO home. All she did was get lucky and make use of the inṡtructions shown on this webṡite..MakeCash2.com

  • The iPhone needs to have a bigger screen, period. Watching videos on that thing is impossible. Reading Kindle and browsing the web takes more swipes than it should. Android phones with 4″ screens and up are selling like crazy. I will jump ship if they don’t address this ask we have.

    A lot of users are opposed to bigger screens. They don’t realize that the screen can get bigger while the bezel gets smaller. Once Apple makes a bigger screen, everyone will love them for “doing it right.” So they just need to hurry up and convert the opposed. 

    • Anonymous

      Build it and they will come. It’s hard talking with anyone who is blindly in love with anything. If the iPhone was 4″ and the argument was that the iPhone should have a smaller screen the same people would argue that Apple can do no harm. It will always be a loosing battle to have a thoughtful conversation with any zealot of a certain company.

  • James Cunningham

    You may well be right that Apple doesn’t need — for reasonable values of “need” — to increase the screen size of the iPhone. But bear in mind that Apple has a tendency to act in the face of what *seems* to be common sense when it results in a better product: phones without user-replaceable batteries; being first in the pack vis-à-vis dumping floppies and now optical media; marginalizing and then dropping PowerPC emulation against a vocal minority; and very recently the significant changes in Final Cut.

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find Apple releasing an iPhone with a 4-inch screen, to heck with need.

  • Anonymous

    Apple is never going to come out with a larger screen for the iPhone, because Steve Jobs said so. A smaller iPad is not out of the question however.

    • Anonymous

      He’s dead move on. Which means Apple is free to do what they want. Besides Steve Jobs in 2003 also said that Apple wouldn’t be making tablets because they were only for the rich. He also said the iPod had no use for video. He said a lot of things that turned out to be not true, grow up, company’s go where the market is.

      3.5″ is tiny, I don’t care how much you try to convince me or yourself. I stopped using the iPhone because the screen was to small, well that and I wanted a file manager, a MiniSD card, able to mount my phone as a normal drive and not use a music player to transfer my files.

  • I think it doesn’t matter how wide it is, it should just fit into you palm and the screen.

  • 5 years from now, what do you expect about the changes of needs in the mobile world?

Back to top ▴