The case for a four-inch iPhone with 16:9 display

By , Apr 16, 2012

There’s no shortage of iPhone mockups these days, a tell-tale indication of the launch date drawing near (we’re looking towards a Fall launch). We already told you about one possible iPhone mockup and shared an interesting theory regarding the argument for a four-inch iPhone.

The problem is, the vast majority of artists’ renditions depict an iPhone with a blown up display that, however, features the same 3:2 aspect ratio as all iPhone and iPod touch models back to 2007.

So, how about a four-incher with a 16:9 aspect ratio display?

The above mockup, credited to Dan Provost (via MacStories), depicts a 16:9 iPhone with a four-inch display.

The image above shows the current iPhone, a mockup of the alleged 16:9 phone, and a mockup with a bigger 3:2 screen at 300dpi, which measures 3.84” diagonally. I estimated that the physical size of the phone would need to increase slightly, getting taller in the 16:9 version and wider in the 3:2 version. I don’t think either of these size increases are deal breakers. The 3:2 version is actually still narrower than the iPhone 3GS.

The big issue with changing the aspect ratio: apps.

Because Apple definitely would not reduce the iPhone 4/4S’s 326 pixel-per-inch count on a larger canvas, elongating the 3:2 inch to a 16:9 aspect ratio would increase the number of pixels, meaning all existing apps would not scale up properly to fill up the entire screen.

The easiest and the least user-friendly solution would entail letterboxing the app’s user interface.

Provost has an interesting take on the dilemma:

I think Apple should keep the 3:2 aspect ratio and increase the physical size until it reaches the 300dpi retina boiling point, maintaining the 960×640 pixel count.

Doing this would let Apple brand a four-inch iPhone with a 16:9 display under the Retina moniker whilst keeping the existing 960-by-640 pixel resolution for app compatibility.

Bumping up the screen to a 16:9 aspect ratio and retaining a 326 pixels-per-inch density would increase total number of pixels available. Apple could use those extra pixels for additional user interface elements.

Think widgets, a souped up multitasking bar, bigger Dock icons and even – why not – touch controls like the navigation buttons found on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

Another good example are banner notifications which normally appear subtly at the top of the display, overlaid on top of the running app. The additional pixels would let Apple render banner notifications unobtrusively, right above the running app.

Those are all valid points and if Apple chooses to take the 16:9 route, they’re definitely not going to make everyone’s life harder by requiring that developers update their apps just to cater for an extra few hundred pixels.

Apple is all about simplicity. I’m convinced they’d rather keep apps running at the 960-by-640 pixel resolution and use the extra pixels to tweak the iPhone’s user interface and provide some unique software features not found on 3:2 iPhones – just like Siri has remained an iPhone 4S exclusive, even though it’s just software that we know runs well on non-A5 devices.

There seems to be a consensus out there that Apple should increase the screen size of a next-generation iPhone to a four-inch(ish) canvas.

I’m not a proponent of blowing up the iPhone’s display just because the Android camp has been doing it in the absence of any meaningful and major differentiator.

But I sure would prefer my iPhone with a 16:9 aspect ratio display.

How about you?

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  • http://twitter.com/ReagentX ☣ X ʇuǝƃɐǝᴚ ᴚ³ʞ☪@# ☣

    960 by 640, not 960 by 480 ;)

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com/ Christian Zibreg

      Fixed this one occurrence of 960 by 480, thanks man

  • http://twitter.com/ReagentX ☣ X ʇuǝƃɐǝᴚ ᴚ³ʞ☪@# ☣

    Also apps that use UIKit wouldn’t bee affected by a larger screen.

  • Daniel

    Why does every mock-up use the white product? What’s the fascination with white?

    • http://twitter.com/kylebshr Kyle Bashour

      I’ve seen more mockups with black actually…

  • http://twitter.com/HeitorStifler Heitor Castro 

    I wish this 4-inch iPhone dream become true!

  • http://twitter.com/Asad_1nfam0us ᗩsad ᔕhahab (Wild ᗩ)

    That just looks crap!! Apple’s not gonna use the iPhone 4/4S design for the new iPhone.. If you guys wanna compare just do it by showing screens not the devices!

    • Anonymous

      Wow, you really cared enough to comment about it.

  • http://twitter.com/mark_azevedo Mark Azevedo

    Put your iPhone in your right hand. Great. Now imagine your screen stretches a little bit lower, and even a little bit taller. Go ahead, try touching where you imagine the app navigation icons would be. For those of us with normal-sized hands, this would be quite the thumb stretch. There’s no way an iPhone that uncomfortable to use would come out. Sorry, giant-hands.

    • http://twitter.com/kylebshr Kyle Bashour

      and how often do you really have to do an action like that? personally, most one hand tasks are merely scrolling through twitter, etc. nothing that requires that.

      • Anonymous

        It is the same size as the Galaxy S2. And if that is so, then it is not at all hard to use or uncomfortable, let alone for “giant-handed” people only, grandpa. And by the way, I think you’re one of the FEW that uses just his thumb to navigate through the phone.

      • Anonymous

        It is the same size as the Galaxy S2. And if that is so, then it is not at all hard to use or uncomfortable, let alone for “giant-handed” people only, grandpa. And by the way, I think you’re one of the FEW that uses just his thumb to navigate through the phone.

      • Anonymous

        It is the same size as the Galaxy S2. And if that is so, then it is not at all hard to use or uncomfortable, let alone for “giant-handed” people only, grandpa. And by the way, I think you’re one of the FEW that uses just his thumb to navigate through the phone.

  • Anonymous

    A couple of corrections, Christian. All iPhones and iPod touch models back to 2007 have had 3:2 aspect ratio screens (480×320 and now 960×640). You have 4:3 listed a few times.

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com/ Christian Zibreg

      I fixed those occurrences. Thanks for the heads-up and sorry for the confusion :(

  • Anonymous

    Do I have to say this again? It will NEVER happen. NEVER. NEVER. Stop misleading people and get head out of the ass out of the imaginary troll king from fairyland. And since when has an iPhone had a 4:3 aspect ratio? HA! Apple is sticking with 3:2 weather you like it or not.

    • Anonymous

      This blog, sir, is just covering the news from MacStories, YOU DUMB IDIOT. If you or anyone else feel in any way misled by this piece of news, you shouldn’t be allowed access to the web IN THE FIRST PLACE. Next time try to speak out of your brain, not your ass.

      And when I read “Do I have to say this again?”, I only wondered one thing: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?

    • Anonymous

      This blog, sir, is just covering the news from MacStories, YOU DUMB IDIOT. If you or anyone else feel in any way misled by this piece of news, you shouldn’t be allowed access to the web IN THE FIRST PLACE. Next time try to speak out of your brain, not your ass.

      And when I read “Do I have to say this again?”, I only wondered one thing: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?

    • Anonymous

      This blog, sir, is just covering the news from MacStories, YOU DUMB IDIOT. If you or anyone else feel in any way misled by this piece of news, you shouldn’t be allowed access to the web IN THE FIRST PLACE. Next time try to speak out of your brain, not your ass.

      And when I read “Do I have to say this again?”, I only wondered one thing: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?

  • http://twitter.com/murdoc2k Alex

    It looks…

    Wait for it

    .
    ..
    ….
    …….
    ……….

    …..………….

    UGLY!!

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

    If this were to happen you’d owe me $20, haha just joking but that would be really cool

  • http://twitter.com/christodouluke Luke Christodoulou

    Banner notifications could be improved, as you’ve shown them, if the double height status bar was enabled whenever you recover a notification. I wish there was a tweak for this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Staff-Void/100001584076972 Staff Void

    Again with this kind of not informative content. Getting ridiculous, or already is. Can’t really decide.

    Even if form factor change (which is as likely as spontaneous creation of gold bars in my room) resolution will not!

    :D

  • http://wpleet.com WordPress Elite

    I don’t get that “Improved banner Notification” so it will pull down the screen if the notification appear? It will mess up with the app it self, What if my playing Cut the rope etc? Apple will never do that i guess.

  • http://twitter.com/chaoticbuddhist Michael Allen

    What a complete waste of valuable speculation. This is never going to happen. Move on.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve always preferred the 4:3 inch to 16:9, especially in terms of reading text.

  • Anonymous

    The current iPhone is not 4:3. It’s between 4:3 and 16:9.

  • http://twitter.com/BryantAllred Bryant Allred

    i like that mockup. think it go well with movies (obviously) and gaming aswell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/idmeraz Isaac Daniel Meraz

    I have a Motorola Defy with android and it has a 16:9 aspect ratio, and trust me, you don’t want it. I’ve never had an iPhone, but I’ve had a couple iPod touches and the way you type on the 3:2 it’s way more comfortable and easy. I’ve got the defy for 3 months and I can’t acurate type in landscape mode I only use portrait. So, think it twice. Maybe you would have more space for games and movies, but something as easy as text will become harder. Or perhaps dictation will be even more advanced and the new iPhone will not even have keyboard on screen. Lol

  • Polysyllabic Pseudonym

    THIS IS BAD IDEA.

    16:10 looks way better than 16:9 as anyone who understands aspect ratios and watches HD movies can tell.

    This 16:9 ratio only helps Hollywood! I will take 4:3 over 16:9 any day!