Thoughts on the 4-inch iPhone theory

By , Apr 11, 2012

Yesterday, an intriguing theory on how Apple could build an iPhone with a 4-inch screen made its way around the tech world. The idea is based on the fact that Apple could make the display larger, without drastically increasing the size of the handset.

Judging from the feedback I’ve gathered from our readers, on Twitter, and on other websites, the consensus seems to be that this theory is way off base; Apple would never do anything like it. But to me, it feels like everyone is overlooking a few things…

Let’s start this off by clarifying what we’re talking about here. For those that missed it yesterday, the aforementioned theory says that Apple could enlarge the iPhone’s screen by making it slightly longer on the top and bottom. The display would have a 9:5 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1152 x 640.

Ok, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s address the first problem with this scenario: 3rd party apps. What would happen to all of the 500,000+ iOS apps if they weren’t immediately updated? How would they look on the new screen? While I don’t have a direct answer for this, I can say that this wouldn’t be the first time that developers had to alter their apps for new devices. The iPhone 4, the original iPad and third-gen iPad all come to mind. And there hasn’t been a problem yet.

Another issue people seem to have with the theory is that it would make the iPhone unusable with one hand; ie: you wouldn’t be able to hold the handset in one hand and touch the opposite corner of the screen with your thumb like you can with the current iPhone. But what I think most folks are missing here is that the concept in question involves making the iPhone just a few centimeters taller. A majority of the proposed screen’s added real estate would come courtesy of smaller bezels and possibly a modified home button. So we’re not talking about much of a difference in the actual size of the device.

What I also find interesting about this concept, which I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else, is that it lines up perfectly with iLounge’s report from last November:

“Our most reliable source has spoken: expect body changes for the next iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro. Here’s what we’ve heard. The third-generation iPad will become modestly thicker (0.7mm) in order to accommodate the twin light bar system needed for its higher-resolution display…

….Our source says that the next-generation iPhone will not look like the teardrop-shaped version that was widely rumored for release in 2011. We’ve been told that the device will have a 4-inch display and will be 8mm longer than before, with a metal casing (probably aluminum).”

Considering that this report nailed the details of the third-generation iPad — 5 months before Apple unveiled it, it wouldn’t be crazy to think that it was spot on regarding the next-generation iPhone as well.

And finally, read what John Gruber wrote yesterday in a linked-post to the theory on Daring Fireball: “Methinks “Colin” [the original source behind yesterday's story] wasn’t merely guessing or idly speculating.” I know, I know, this doesn’t prove anything. And if it was said by any other pundit, I would’ve dismissed it. But given the fact that Gruber has a history of being an “industry insider” when it comes to Apple, the comment does add some spice to the story.

After more than two years with the same design, the iPhone is certainly due for a makeover. And to be honest, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the next one looked something like the above photo — which to me illustrates the 4-inch iPhone theory quite nicely.

What do you think?

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  • http://twitter.com/fr8cture Eric

    The photo above doesn’t really show much of the phone and in my opinion i wouldn’t want them to make the screen only taller i would want to to be the same aspect ratio it is now or slightly altered but not just adding to the top and bottom and getting closer to the bezel. Im sure alot of people will disagree but i dont really use phones one handed.

  • http://twitter.com/geekinit geekinit

    Excellent write up. I recently added iPad support to one of my iOS apps and the first step is just to flip a switch to support iPad. To my astonishment, the app immediately stretched itself out to include the iPad resolution! After conducting a more in-depth testing I did find there were issues and those involve building entirely separate interfaces for the iPad. However, I don’t think these issues would exist on a slightly larger handset. The issues were merely how iPad interface differs in concept from iPhone/iPod Touch. There would be issues with a taller iPhone, however I think they would be minimal. iOS is a lot more flexible than people realize.. especially with its floating point powered CoreGraphics layer! What I would like to see is someone hack the iPhone simulator and prove this could work! :)

  • Anonymous

    I use one handed also. I never ever type with 2 hands. Trickly a thumb typer. I want to continue doing this but I do want a bigger display. Don’t know all that’s involved but I hope the guys making the big bucks figure it out.

  • Anonymous

    If Apple does take this route then they will have to change the look of iOS a little. Just adding another row of icons on the home screen looks wrong.

    • http://twitter.com/fr8cture Eric

      WIDGETS :O

  • kailash tindwani

    Plz help
    Is the new ipad 4g LTE version factory unlocked and if not than is there any way to do it???
    Plz reply
    Its must. Needed
    Thanx…. ….

    • Anonymous

      Unlock it with Verizon. And please don’t spam the comments, just go and ask at a forum.

  • http://twitter.com/Dongiuj DonGiuj

    Instead of taller, I would prefer a little wider and maaaaaybe juuuuust a little on the length. Also I would prefer a totally different looking case. Come on apple, change it up.

  • http://twitter.com/architsharma97 Archit Sharma

    The change in aspect ratio is what actually causes problem…since iPhone 3GS (When the AppStore actually became really popular), the aspect ratio has been 3:2, and when the iPad was launched with the aspect ratio 4:3, all apps had to be recreated, and it took a hell of a time before apps started to come for iPad. Now, if new iPhone comes with the aspect ratio 9:5, the developers will have to make apps compatible with 3 different aspect ratios, the same problem of fragmentation that developers face in android.

    • Eric Morgan

      The same problem with android theoretically. 3 aspect ratios compared to 47 is a big difference though.

      • http://twitter.com/architsharma97 Archit Sharma

        Bt aren’t we kinda heading that way????…

  • Anonymous

    I still think this is ugly.

  • Eric Morgan

    It would make photographs terrible. Widescreen pictures. So great to print out. Nah. 4″ yes. But that aspect ratio is lunacy. Height and width must both change.

  • Anonymous

    my wish for best solution for the new screen would be- 20% increase in size(4,2″) and 20% increase in pixels (1156×768) – with 5%increase in dimensions length and width, and you get 720p display this way- which androids have (and probably by years end wp8 and blackberry10) and same ppi…

    • http://twitter.com/fr8cture Eric

      i highly doubt wp8 will wp7 doesnt even suppor a resoljution paso 480×800

  • Anonymous

    ” I can say that this wouldn’t be the first time that developers had to alter their apps for new devices. The iPhone 4, the original iPad and third-gen iPad all come to mind. And there hasn’t been a problem yet.”

    In the most relevant case of the iPhone, existing apps are backwards compatible and work the exact same way as if running on an older iPhone. How would this work on a new stretched display? Horizontal letterboxes? I think maintaining aspect ratio with a slightly larger screen is more likely, especially if the border size can be reduced. A hypothetical borderless iPhone 5 could have a 4″ screen with almost same dimensions as the iPhone 4/4S. Obviously that’s impossible, but with a thinner border you don’t have to increase phone size that much. The average CASE actually adds that much size anyway.

    The situation with the iPads is a bit different, the iPad was an entirely new platform and iPad apps really need to be developed with the iPad screen in mind.

    The new retina resolutions for both iPhone and iPad were chosen specifically so everything scaled exactly. Changing the aspect ratio of the screen does not jive with this.

  • http://twitter.com/jake1047s jacob wolin

    I would like to see the iPhone longer, thicker, and thinner as well as different colors. That would be nice

    • http://twitter.com/fr8cture Eric

      Last time i checked they wernt Nokia

  • Wiz khalifa

    they are copyig the galaxy s

  • Wiz khalifa

    apple is trying to copy t-mobile galaxy s2 i hate apple for that they can chupa mias bolas grandes

    • http://www.iTechBlog.in/ taran

      Yea ryt…everyone knows who copy who…:D

  • Yacko

    It isn’t a new theory. People have posited it before. And uniformly, users are always asking for smaller bezels, so there is consumer pressure to cut bezel size anyway irregardless of a larger screen. It will be easier to do on a phone that can be cradled versus a tablet that must be grasped.