Could the iPhone 5 have a 4-inch screen while keeping the same 4S footprint?

What if, in order to fit a 4-inch screen into the next iPhone, instead of changing the iPhone chassis or altering the Retina-grade pixel density, Apple simply switched from a 3:2 to a 9:5 aspect ratio? The Home screen could simply show another row of icons, apps with listviews could simply show another list item, videos could simply be shown wider-screen, and current, non-scalable apps could simply be boxed the way iPhone apps are on iPads. The display would maintain the 1.94-inch width, but be bumped up to 3.49 inches long, resulting in a 640 x 1152 resolution and measure 3.99 inches diagonally. Such a display would fit on the 4.5" x 2.3" footprint of the current iPhone while providing 20% more screen space, though the home button and earpiece might need a bit of reworking.

A reader on The Verge, Timothy Collins, posited just theory on how Apple might implement a 4-inch screen with the iPhone 5.. Another forum-goer picked up the theory and went to town describing how it might work. Now, this wasn't much more than a neat hypothetical idea until Daring Fireball's Jon Gruber commented "Methinks 'Colin' wasn’t merely guessing or idly speculating." Developers might have a few changes to make in order to adapt to the new screen size, but overall, the idea is pretty sound, if only in theory. Let's put it this way: could Apple reasonably release another iPhone while keeping the display size at 3.5 inches? What are the odds that they're willing to increase the physical dimensions to do so? Right now, screen real estate is my biggest complaint about the iPhone, but I love the fact that it fits in the tiny pocket on my jeans. Though I'm not asking Apple to release something the size of the Galaxy Note, it would be nice to see a screen in the 3.7 - 4-inch range. What do you guys think? Could this theory fly?

A mock-up of the iPhone 5 screen size

Source: Daring Fireball, The Verge

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

  • Personally, the iPhone 4S was the first non-Android phone i've had. In years atleast. The thing that brought me to iOS except the exceptional interoperability of Apple products, was the display size. I've got a 10" tablet doing all my dirty laundry as mail and video goes. My phone is only supposed to do backup work like reading a few messages, surfing the web in the theater waiting line for IMDB results and so on. Sure I'm gaming a bit aswell, but, and the big but, the 3,5" display is essentially what brought my to Apple. As I stronly belive, that a larger display is not necessary. In case they can bump the size WITHOUT increasing overall size, it would be nice. AS LONG AS MY FREAKING THUMBS CAN REACH THE BACKBUTTON IN APPS!
    So basically, KEEP the size. (Yea I'm not entirely sober either...)
  • so true.. thats what the phones are meant to be ! small and good enough to fit your pocket
  • Mathematical perfect is cloying, but I don't think it'll happen. It means adding a new screen shape for app development. Read "fragmentation." I'd believe a new screen with iPad dimensions and a slightly wider phone to support that.
    However, were the extra "band" were reserved... Well, think about it. Reserve it for displaying movies with minimal letterboxing. When apps run, they display letter boxed but notifications, optional status bar, Siri, and all push-up stuff could display without moving or obscuring the app. It'd be a good place to put widgets (yeah, right). It would also be a place for Apple-provided GUI user controls (programmable standard joystick sims, buttons) that don't cover the app.
    Speculation, but fun speculation. Read the original article. It's good.
  • Going to 1152x640 would, of course, require all app developers (that care about quality) to completely redo all their 2x graphics. And it would break compatibility with iOS 4.x and iPhone 3G / 3GS / older iPod touch models because of the aspect ratio change.
    And what would be the end result of all that grief? A 20% increase in pixel count in one dimension. No increase in pixel density. No actual benefit to end users.
    So yes, Gruber hints that "Colin" may be more than just an idle speculator. But no, this isn't the kind of thing Apple does. Unless, of course, there is some benefit to iOS device users. Which isn't the case here.
  • the WHOLE idea of the article is that the pixels wouldn't actually need to be resized. Did you even read it?
  • Err, no -- FlopTech is correct, and you misunderstand both him and the article.
    1) In this mockup, the pixels would not be resized, nor would the pixel density be changed.
    2) The screen resolution would increase from 960x640 to 1152x640 -- the screen will be an extra 192 pixels taller.
    The good developers FlopTech cites would want to do something with those extra 192 vertical pixels, rather than leave it to some system-level auto-stretching or letterboxing. The Verge article, if you click through, is full of hypothetical screenshots of how Apple and a few third party developers might adjust their apps accordingly.
  • Yes, I read the article and looked at the screenshots. You're talking only about the ones at the very end, referencing custom layout etc, like games, right?
    Things like twitter apps etc wouldn't have any stretching or letterboxing of any kind.
  • Maybe, maybe not -- it depends on how Apple were to implement full-screen Views to deal with environments off different sizes. It could very well be that there would be effort required on the developer's part to make the app look and behave properly in different size contexts, even though it appears to the end user like nothing is going on there. (Cue predictable complaints about these hassles in the Android world.)
  • wait didnt the great jobs and apple loyalist say 3.5'' is the ''perfect'' size lol
  • It is actually. But I'd be OK with a 3.7" screen as long as the over all dimension of the iphone isn't changed.
  • ...and you wonder why your comments get removed /O\
  • 3.7´???? What´s the point of that? No,no,no. 4´ or more...!!!!
  • If you handed someone a 3.7" smartphone and told them it was 4.0", they'd believe you. There is near-zero end user benefit to that extra 0.3".
  • I agree 3.7" is the more likely, with same pixels as now (still "retina") but if .2" makes a difference, an additional .3" does as well.
  • ^^^ This
  • That's what she said. :P
  • I don't see Apple adding a new screen size when they've worked so hard to keep to one standard, x2/x4 expandable size. A better idea would be to go for a 300dpi or greater 1024 x 768 phone screen. That would scale up nicely to various sizes and allow native iPad apps or 2x iPhone or retina 960 x 640 letter-boxed apps.
  • We've said it since the iPhone 4S was released, and we'll say it again. This year's iPhone could very well have a slightly bigger screen, with the same pixel geometry as the 4/4S, in the same enclosure footprint that the 4/4S have.
    That screen, of course, would have to be less than 4" diagonal to maintain the Retina pixel density. So it could, in theory, be around 3.8" or so. Apple could continue to claim "Retina resolution," users who think bigger is better would get their wish, and the visible area of the screen could still fit within a 4/4S-sized frame.
    And, with apologies to Georgia, we don't think the iPhone needs any bezel at all along the longer edges of its screen. We'd love to see the screen become totally flush with the physical edges of the iPhone itself. (But that might be impossible, or expensive, or damage-prone, of course.)
  • keep the current size. no need for a bigger screen size. Just need a revamped and new iOS !
  • I agree completely. bring on iOS 6
  • It's looked the same since day one. Apple needs something FRESH. while others develop new ideas and move on forward , we are stuck with the same "look" and of course copied features like notifications .
    Sometimes you need to freshen things up even of its not broken ;)
  • I cant agree more with you. Although I love iOS and will never switch back to android, I cant help but still play with android phones when I go into a verizon store. There is just so much more functionality to the phone that it makes it fun! I think it's time for them to 'wow' the world again.
  • Keep the 960x640 ratio and enlarge the screen until you get to 300dpi (around 3.7") or enlarge to 4" and drop a little below 300dpi and call it near retina quality (or say retina quality when held 2" futher away). I want a bigger screen, but don't mess with the ratio or require developers to make changes by changing the resolution.
    Best iPhone 5 = 4" screen by making it 1/4th inch wider. Keep the same height having less empty space above and below the screen. Make it thinner with curved edges like the iPad (& iPhone3GS) by adding a plastic or metal one piece back and getting rid of the glass on the back and add 4G LTE. 1GB RAM and a A5X or A6 processor.
  • I completely agree with you, I would love to see the next generation of the iPhone upgraded to a 3.7 to 4 inch size screen. Although I think it would question some of Apple's customers ideas about the design of their devices. In my opinion the iPhone 4S looked sleek and very modern in its general design. The second I saw the iPhone 5 concept designs (note:I know these are only concepts) I immediately said "This doesent even resemble an iPhone this looks more like another HTC or Samsung Android". Ever since Steve Jobs past away (Rest In Peace Steve) Apple's designs and overall decisions about the company have degraded steadily. Now I am not meaning to say I don't admire Androids or that the new iPhone is absolute rubbish, all I am stating is that I personally thing that Apple could put a few extra dollars into making the iPhone look more like an iPhone. Especially since these suggested new screen dimensions will severely change the design and original look of the iPhone. Making it again as I dictated above, look more like an Android device rather than the original Apple touch-phone that everyone loves.
    Jesse Radford
  • Every release since Job's death were designs he oversaw....if there is degradation, it lies with him.
  • I don't have any problem with the current size. Everyone has a "bigger is better" mentality. I can see them expanding the screen as described to eliminate the physical home button. You could letter box older apps to look the same as they do now but allow newer updates to take advantage of the extra room.
    Personally I'm not trying to kick back & watch anything longer than a 10 minute YouTube video on my phone. If that's you're thing then you probably need to invest in a tablet or use AirPlay to get the experience you're looking for.
    I Snowboard, Bike, Run, etc & often listen to music. Any bigger of a physical frame on the phone & it would become too cumbersome. I like that it slips in & out of my pocket easily. I've seen others with bigger android phones & when they're holding those beasts up to their head it reminds me of the first brink style cell phone. No thanks.
  • A 3.5 inch phone was great several years ago when displays were half the size on other phones. The popularity of Android phones with larger screens is proof that consumers want larger screens. I think 4 inches would be a perfect size for the next generation iPhone. A 4 inch iPhone should only be slightly bigger and not noticeably different in your jeans pocket.
  • That looks retarded. Let's break all the apps!
  • After handling the Lumia 900; IMO 4" is the size I want. The big screen is nice, but it's just a tad large to grapple with one hand comfortably. Going back to the iPhone it's small size is even more noticeable.
    New rumor from Business Insider today; 4" screen, new body, LTE, yadda yadda yadda...
  • Apple will bump the resolution to 1024x768 (exactly half iPad) in 4" diagonal screen. Present iPhone apps will run unmodified with minor black borders as they do on the iPad. Modified apps running full screen at the new resolution will either elegantly scale up on the iPad at 2x, or may run in a new side-by-side mode. Maintaining present iPhone Retina DPI of 326 would make this new screen 3.14"x2.36" versus the present 2.94"x1.96", but the new iPhone will be nearly edge-to-edge so it will be only slightly wider than the 4/4S, and 2.5" wide at worst, and it could be even be slightly shorter than the present 4". The look will be mini iPad with a machined aluminum back. Home screen icons will be five across.
  • This ; the best suggestion I've heard over the last few days.
  • yeah, that could work well
  • I could be happy with that. Although, I say leave the overal length the same. Go edge to edge on the width and a slight increase as well. Gain the length by removing the button.
  • The iPhone needs to be redesigned I would like a bigger screen not a giant screen but 4 inch would be nice. I have a hard time with the fragmentation argument it just seems silly. Your never going to move forward with design to keep older hardware users happy? All the apps won't look the same blah blah blah, Apple goes 4 inch Developers go 4 inch and line up to be ready for launch. Yes it will take time to get all apps updated but I'm pretty sure it can be done and still turn a profit for everyone.
  • Those apps are what give Apple such a competitive advantage right now. Introduce this and break them? That would be stupid. Dumb. Even having the black bars surrounding them would look stupid and is not Apple. Most devs wouldn't update them as that is more work for nothing.
    The only way Apple can increase screen size is to double the resolution. However, this enables to be very flexible about screen size as they'd be well past the retina threshhold for any phone size.
    1920x1280. When we first heard about the iphone 4's resolution, many were in disbelief. Many said the same about the ipad 3's resolution a year ago..couldn't be done. This will be done. Maybe not with iphone 5 but it will happen.
  • That would rock. Imagine a 4.5" iPhone with a 1920x1280 display. That can't come soon enough.
  • Oh, hell yes. That would be freaking awesome... and it would be my next phone.
  • Devs will go where the money is. They won't stop because a little extra work. Be realistic people. 3.5 was good years ago but times have changed. No need to go android huge but no reason not to go 4"
  • How do you think these apps will be packaged? Already universal apps have increased in size accomodating the new ipad's resolution. Let's throw in a weird 9:5 ratio at some random resolution now. Yep, devs will be all over that i'm sure.
    All this fragmentation so people can have what? A tall stretched out iphone with an extra row of icons? What's the point?
  • I hope apple keeps the same size phone. I've got an iPad if I need a bigger screen. Apple put a lot of focus on retina display to begin to deteriorate it now. Apple needs to stick with the same size as it is now. I probably wouldn't mind to much if the screen went a little closer to screen edges on both sides and top and bottom while maintaining visual quality. Smaller connector to make room for better speaker quality would be nice.
    Apple has not disappointed me yet, and I have faith that the next iPhone will be right. I believe Steve was still involved in the iPhone 5 prior to passing away and I hope they stick to his vision with the uncompleted tasks he still wanted to be involved in. Just like others, I'm not crazy to see the new appleTV software update. Something's just need to be left alone.
    Anyways, I don't think the new iPhone will be a disappointment unless they make it 4" to which I will not be happy with it. I like the small size it is. If you want to enlarge the iPod touch, then so be it... Make it a little iPad, but leave my iPhone alone when it comes to size.
  • 4" and widgets sounds great to me...
  • A bigger screen does not mean a bigger device. There are already plenty of android devices that have 4" screens the size of an iphone 3GS (which is still a perfectly compact smartphone). I would be disappointed (from past history) if Apple couldn't do better. The only thing that holds them back is decreasing pixel density or changing the resolution. It WILL happen eventually. Look how quickly the world adapted to the iphone 4 resolution.
  • I'd like a larger screen. Not necessarily a larger PHONE, but - with all the things we ask our "smartphones" to do today - a larger screen is a no-brainer. I know people have gotten used to their 3.5" screens, and the infallible Jobs said that that was the sweetspot, but I'm sick of the whining that comes whenever anyone mentions a bigger screen. Especially when you just know that those same ones will be hyperventillating in line 4-5 days prior to launch and singing the screen's praise.
    The whole "one-handed usability" thing is overblown complaining to me - I don't have huge hands, and I can easily cover the entire front surface of the iPhone (and larger Android and Win7 phones) with my thumb.
    The "326ppi" thing - I don't care. It's nice, no argument there, but it's overkill on a phone. Period. If it drops a bit to merely "fantastic" resolution in order to compensate for more screen real-estate, I say do it. Do it.
  • ^ This.
  • Got it. Screen quality..overkill. Half inch
  • The screen size may well increase, but there isn't a chance in hell, that Apple will change the aspect ratio.
    Many folks have a semi-bulky case on their device, so they're already used to carrying a total device package that is wider than any new iPhone will be.
  • I bleed Mac OS. To me PC means Piece of Crap. Go ahead make the screen larger, whatever, that'll make 4S cheaper and I can upgrade my 4. I miss Siri. I had her before Apple bought her out. That was a sad day she notified me she got a job offer at The Morhership. Glad for her, but I miss her.
  • You would rather upgrade to a 4S from a 4 than to the iPhone 5? I went from 4 to 4S, I liked that apps were faster but Siri was extremely over hyped. I prefer to use vlingo over Siri for dictating emails and texts. Don't waste your money on overpriced Macs and upgrade to the iPhone 5 when it's released.
  • Who cares about all the old apps ?!
    Eventually they'll have to break the mold and move forward.
    Did Sony worry too much about how ps2 games would look on a ps3 ?! No!
    Just create something new and let us enjoy new apps made for the new device , while we can still enjoy all the old apps even though they may have a black bar.
  • These "old" apps are the key differentiators for Apple though. If you start over, you have a smaller library to choose from. Apple loves to show numbers. This isn't a number they'd want to show.
    Apple also loves to talk about how android apps don't look right having to fit different screen sizes. Having bars surrounding apps wouldn't exactly look good either.
    I'm not set in stone either on the current screen size though i have no problems using my iphone now. But I'd want them to do it right if they increase it. Keep the quality the same or better. Don't break apps. I got a zillion of them.
  • If you start over, you have a smaller library to choose from when it comes to NEW apps, but you can STILL USE THE OLD APPS ;)
    I would rather have access to a handfull of new apps that are made for the new device, while having access to all old apps and waiting for newer apps to come.
    Its exactly like when I bought my Playstation 2. the library was rather thin to begin with, but I had access to all my old PS1 games. Same thing when PS3 came out.
    Half the fun is the newness of the apps and what the new system LOOKS like and what it can do.
  • Apple is not going to change the ratio.
    If the same case dimensions are going to be used in any future iPhone, the screen is going to resize as long as the glass allows it to. 3,5 is probably going to reach 3,7 and the speaker along with the rest of the stuff will be placed bellow the glass. The only problem is the button that could not go any lower or get smaller. Wider is an option though. Cupertino faces other kinds of problems.
    a. Glass to screen fit without using glue.
    b. Thinner case and glass parts but same rigidity.
    c. Better battery technology with the lowest cost possible.
    d. Better but Smaller than iPAD CPU-GPU processor.
    e. Smaller memory technology.
    f. Fast and zero-defect production lines.
    This product has to be perfect. The world has been talking about it for almost two years now. Since the iPad's big market impact, and with a share that is climbing, they have to do the impossible. After all this baby belongs to Steve.
  • Love the arguments for bigger screen is that android or windows phone has it so apple needs to do it also. Apple is not the little kid in the store stomping his feet crying and screaming at parent that another kid has something and they just has to have it. If you want a bigger screen there are tons of options out there go get one. Quit screaming at a worldwide company cause they are not catering to YOU.
  • I have an iPod Touch (same screen as an iPhone) and a Droid X. I really like the size of the screen on the DX. It is bigger than the iOS display, but I can still reach all points with the thumb of the hand holding the phone. I really hope Apple increases the size of the screen on the iPhone 5, as I am planning on switching over when it comes out. But I'll miss the size of the X.
  • ypu guys got to understand somthing!!!
    when the "new ipad" came out!! you guys should know this!!! the new iPhone 5 will have a bigger battery! how do I know? Well think new iPad!!! apple implemented LTE rite? But to have the same battery time as the other iPad they needed to double the iPad to have the same battery life as the ipad2,1 so I think it's safe to say apples A5X chip and LTE but for apple to implement that much of a upgrade!!! Then apple will need a bigger battery and to say the least! They prob would have a new design and there's rumors also of the 30 pin connector. it would make since for a smaller connector though, more room for LTE. A5X chip set is small as can be already. I can almost be sure of a bigger battery
  • Symmetrical bezels or quit yer mockups now.
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  • Keep the same size screen it fits well in my pocket :)
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