WSJ: Production of “at least 4-inch” screens for the next iPhone begins in June

By , May 16, 2012

Putting its credibility behind a flurry of rumors calling for a sixth-generation iPhone with a screen larger than the current 3.5-inch form factor, the usually well-informed Wall Street Journal reported that production of displays for the next iPhone that measure “at least four inches diagonally” is said to be commencing in June…

Lorraine Luk and Juro Osawa, writing for the Wall Street Journal and citing the inevitable “people familiar with the matter”, reported from Hong Kong:

Apple, which is expected to launch its next-generation iPhone later this year, has ordered screens from its Asian suppliers that are bigger than the ones used in iPhones since they debuted in 2007, people familiar with the situation said.

Production is set to begin next month for the screens, which measure at least 4 inches diagonally compared with 3.5 inches on the iPhone 4S, the latest phone from Apple, the people said.

And sources who spoke with Reuters corroborated the report, claiming that “the new iPhone screens will measure four inches from corner to corner”.

According to the Journal report, Apple is thought to be partnering with multiple suppliers on the new screen, namely Sharp, LG and Japan Display, a new company born last month out of the partnership between the Japanese government and Sony, Hitachi and Toshiba.

Interesting enough, the report makes no mention of Samsung, which has been identified as a prime supplier of high-resolution display panels that go into the new iPad. Apple is Samsung’s top client. The iPhone maker has been sourcing processors, flash memory chips and displays from the South Korea-based conglomerate for years.

I opined a year ago that Apple was looking to slit Samsung’s throat with orders stoppage. That said, I’m not terribly surprised that Apple allegedly turned elsewhere for iPhone 5 panels.

People have been wondering if a larger display means a change in aspect ratio. A four-inch iPhone with a 16:9 aspect ratio display would require a re-write of third-party apps.

One possible solution to elegantly solve this issue involves using the extra space to render additional user interface elements.

Here’s a mockup depicting a regular 3.5-inch iPhone 4S next to a four-inch iPhone and another one featuring a widescreen form factor, credited to The Next Web.

And another one by Patrick Eckert, seen below and based on the oft-rumored “Teardrop” design and aluminum Unibody construction. Notice the extra space at the top being used to display a Facebook widget.

I wouldn’t bet on it, though widgets seem to be on everyone’s wish list for iOS 6.

If production of the new display is commencing next month, then “the new iPhone” could hit the market in the September-October timeframe, which would be in line with a recent report by the notoriously unreliable DigiTimes.

So, it looks like your prayer has been heard and that the next iPhone will in fact feature a blown up form factor.

I’m not sure I like the news.

Obviously there are a lot of people out there keeping their fingers crossed for a larger iPhone.

In my opinion, countless Android handsets with screen sizes measuring from 4.3 inches diagonally (the Galaxy S II) all the way up to 4.8 inches (the Galaxy S III) and beyond have polluted expectations. Some watchers think the Android carpet bombing with oversized devices has forced Apple into engineering a larger iPhone.

I don’t think Apple bows to market trends. They won’t make a four-inch iPhone just for the heck of it or because everyone else is differentiating their smartphones with larger displays.

If a larger iPhone is in the cards, I’d expect sensible changes to its user interface to take into account a larger canvas.

Is Apple bowing to industry trends here or at least giving in to popular demand?

Does a larger screen on the iPhone make sense?

The top mockup depicting a taller four-inch iPhone is credited to designer Federico Ciccarese, courtesy of MacRumors.

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  • http://twitter.com/ValentCheung Valent Cheung

    Just increasing the screen size isn’t enough to persuade me to buy it…

  • http://twitter.com/Dongiuj DonGiuj

    I like the Patrick Eckert design. Just hope the phone’s not too long, a little bit wider would be nice. But as Valent Cheung mentioned above, just that is not enough to make me get a new iPhone. Let’s hope apple and its suppliers work some magic.

  • Anonymous

    I wish that Apple would stay w/ the 4:3 ratio, while increasing screen size. One can not beat that ratio for reading periodicals and such imo.

  • Anonymous

    I would like a 4 inch 16:9 form factor .. But not larger dimensions of the overall phone that the ones it has now

  • http://twitter.com/klouud Timothy Polumbo

    I sure hope this isn’t true. You want a larger screen, get an iPad. Otherwise, I need my iPhone to fit in my pocket. I really hope Apple stays with the 3.5″ screen. Why do we need a new form factor? We haven’t seen a new form factor with the iMac or MacBook Air in years, and no one is mad about that… why is the iPhone different? I really don’t get it.

  • Kok Hean

    It’s funny how the first few people who used the iPhone 2G never complained about it having a small screen :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-Worlde/100003584044403 William Worlde

    I’ve recently compared my 3GS with the HTC One X. The latter is beautiful, but HUGE! Unless Apple comes out with a new design I like by the time my contract is up, a choice from the multitude of Android devices could be easy. (I compute in Windows, and for my smartphone I “trust” Apple’s Unix OS to an OS from Google!) I’m not a gamer, but I web-browse and use Excel quite a bit for work. So, “quick-access in-my-pocket” reasonably-sized bigger desktop real estate would be great. As I’m not a design engineer, I don’t understand the logistics of it, but if the 4:3 ratio could be kept, the device made slightly bigger and more of the current top, bottom and sides of the device’s screen utilized, then I think it’d be a winner.

  • http://www.GoldenGateDomains.com/ Golden Gate Domains

    I like the idea of using the extra real estate for widgets, if they can be customized….

    What also would be a great addition to iOS 6 would being able to open 2 (or more) apps up in the same screen at the same time.

    I do a lot of WordPress blogging and it would be great to be able to open, run and display both The WordPress App and the Safari Browser at the same time!

    But, also how about this – maybe you want to watch your Facebook News feed while watching a YouTUBE video clip?

    There are lots of possibilities with a larger screen, lets hope that Apples “loosens” up and lets us use this new device to its full potential. :-)