Become a MacRumors Supporter for $25/year with no ads, private forums, and more!

[Rewritten] If the next iPhone does get a bigger display, it's going to be...

If Apple gives the next iPhone a bigger display, than it's going to be a...


  • Total voters
    120

ThatsMeRight

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 12, 2009
2,257
124
Rewritten on the April 14, 2012

Introduction
Currently, there's a lot of discussion whether or not Apple should put a bigger screen in the next generation iPhone. This post is not to discuss whether or not if Apple is going to increase the size of the iPhone's display. This post is what size Apple will choose when they increase the size of the iPhone's display.

Currently, the iPhone has got a 3.54" display (give or take a few 0.001 inches) with a resolution of 960 by 640 (which gives us a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch).

List of pixel densities when using the same 960 by 640 resolution on a bigger display said:
- 3.6 inch (960 x 640 resolution): 320 ppi
- 3.7 inch (960 x 640 resolution): 312 ppi
- 3.8 inch (960 x 640 resolution): 304 ppi
- 3.9 inch (960 x 640 resolution): 296 ppi
- 4 inch (960 x 640 resolution): 288 ppi
- 4.1 inch (960 x 640 resolution): 281 ppi
- 4.2 inch (960 x 640 resolution): 275 ppi
- 4.3 inch (960 x 640 resolution): 268 ppi
- 4.4 inch (960 x 640 resolution): 262 ppi

In this post I'm going to describe what I think is the most logical thing to do for Apple when increasing the display's size.

Demands

- Apple must be able to call it a retina display.
Apple really pushes the 'retina display' term and they were willing to even call the iPad 3 a retina display, even though the pixel density is much lower than that of the iPhone 4S.

- The same 3:2 aspect ratio
The recent idea that Apple might actually only increase the height of the display and keeping the pixels the same size is nice, but it's really unlike Apple. Apple wants to make things easy for developers: it's going to be a 960 by 640 resolution, and if not than it's going to be 1920 by 1280 resolution - nothing in between.

- A 960 by 640 resolution, or else a 1920 by 1280 resolution
I'm sure that Apple will not choose for some uncommon resolution and that they are going to change the aspect ratio. Apple wants to make things easy for developers and if we look at the iPad 3 they are not going to change that. Apple went for a 2048 by 1536 resolution with the iPad 3: they could have gone with something in between the old and new resolution, but that would mean troubles for the developers.

Thus, Apple has shown us that they are not settling with an 'in-between' solution. It's going to be 960 by 640, or in the best-case scenario a 1920 by 1280 resolution (but very unlikely).


So, what is Apple going to do according to me?
If Apple is going to increase the display size, than they are settling with a 4.37"~ display (give or take a few 0.01 inches). If they keep the same 960 by 640 resolution, it's going to have 264 pixels per inch.

And this is why I think they are going to settle with a 4.37 inch display:

- Existing infrastructure
Think about it: Samsung, Sharp and LG are already producing 264 pixels per inch displays for Apple (for the iPad 3). It will cost little money to also produce smaller displays.

Switching pixel density is very expensive. If we look at the list I gave you earlier, than only a 4.37 inch would be the most logical decision for Apple: it saves the most money. It is really expensive to change an existing production line so new displays with different pixel densities can be produced.

So: all of Apple's suppliers can produce 264 ppi-displays in huge quantities right now. Switching from pixel density is very expensive and it takes time to switch from pixel density.

Bonus example:
John Gruber has indicated that Apple is indeed testing 7.85" iPads with a resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels per inch. Let's assume this is correct, than I can tell you why they have choosen for a size of 7.85":

A 7.85 inch display with a 1024 by 768 resolution would result in a pixel density of 163 pixels per inch. It just happens to be Apple has already 'set up' a 163-ppi-display-line: they are producing displays with 163 pixels per inch for the iPhone 3GS. Thus, the most logical decision for Apple would be to settle with a new 163 ppi display.


- Good size
Not only the infrastructure exists, it's also a good size for the coming years. Apple is known for creating amazing designs and they could put a 4.37" display in an iPhone without dramatically increasing the physical dimensions. It's not too small, but it's definitely not too big.

- What about the 'retina display'?
Well, currently Apple says that the iPhone 4S is a retina display when you hold it 12 inches away from your eye. So now I hear you asking, when is a 4.3" 960 by 640 display 'retina-worthy'? Well, when you hold it at 13 inches from your eye!

Retina-worthyness said:
iPhone 3GS - 163 pixels per inch - 21 inches
iPhone 4S - 326 pixels per inch - 12 inches (as advertised)
iPad 2 - 132 pixels per inch - 26 inches
iPad 3 - 264 pixels per inch - 13 inches (Apple advertised with 15")

iPhone 4.37 inch - 264 pixels per inch - 13 inches

So, I hear you thinking: "Apple said you can't distinguish the pixels on an iPhone when you hold it 12 inches away (the common holding distance). You must hold a 4.37" iPhone 13 inches away..."

That's correct, but Apple could argue that a user holds the iPhone one inch further away because the display is bigger.

An iPhone 4.37" 960 by 640 display would be a retina display when you hold it away 13 inches.
An iPhone 4S 960 by 640 display is already a retina display when you hold it away 12 inches.

And what if they settle with a 1920 by 1280 resolution on a 4.37" display?
Well, that would be great.

First of all, there won't be a discussion whether or not it will be a retina display. It will definitely be a retina display because than it will have a pixel density of 528 pixels per inch.

Second of all, it would allow Apple to introduce a 4K iPad display somewhere in the coming years (the industry will be moving forward to a 4K resolution in the coming years).

It is it likely? Nope.

So, what if Apple does not settle with this 4.37" display
Than that would be simply illogical. It would cost them a lot and production would be slow at first. The smartest move would be to use a display with a pixel density that its suppliers can already produce.

But if they don't settle with a 4.37" display, any size could be used.

Conclusion
The most wise thing to do for Apple is to go for a 4.37" display: the infrastructure is there so almost no problems with supply, it doesn't cost too much money and it's a safe choice for the coming years: not too big, not too small.
 
Last edited:

saintforlife

macrumors 65816
Feb 25, 2011
1,034
325
But the iPhone is held closer than the iPad. So you can't go down all the way to 264 ppi. I am thinking they will stop at 4" for that reason and also out of respect for Steve Jobs who said people didn't want big screen phones.
 
Comment

cynics

macrumors G4
Jan 8, 2012
11,630
1,908
That's a good point. Retina is based on ppi and distance from eye.

The current phone is crazy as I can't focus at the distance you'd need to see pixels.

Interesting post btw op
 
Comment

ThatsMeRight

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 12, 2009
2,257
124
But the iPhone is held closer than the iPad. So you can't go down all the way to 264 ppi. I am thinking they will stop at 4" for that reason and also out of respect for Steve Jobs who said people didn't want big screen phones.
That doesn't matter, it's all marketing and they could advertise it as "sharper than the iPad 3's retina display".

Steve Jobs was, by the way, a marketing guy. 3.5" was massive back in 2007 and was also quite a bit more expensive than it is nowadays. Steve Jobs is also the guy who, originally, thought tablets were only good for browsing the web in the bathroom.
 
Comment

ThatsMeRight

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 12, 2009
2,257
124
It's all about the money. A 4.37 inch display (960 x 640 resolution) would have a pixel density of 264 pixels per inch, and it just happens to be that Samsung, LG and Sharp are able to produce displays with 264 pixels per inch with little effort: the infrastructure is already there because of the third generation iPad.

That's why they are also testing 7.85" iPads, and not 8 inch, or 7.5 inch, iPads: if they ever are going to release a 7.85" iPad (1024 x 768 resolution), than they could just use the same lines as used for the iPhone 3GS display.
 
Comment

Shockwave78

macrumors 65816
Jul 10, 2010
1,079
58
I would bet it is going to be 4.3 or 4.4...Whatever they pick its going to be on the 5th thru 10th gen iphones most likely(if people don't get tired of them!)

Picking a 4" phone and being stuck with it for the next 5yrs is something apple knows they cant do.
 
Comment
Picking a 4" phone and being stuck with it for the next 5yrs is something apple knows they cant do.

What would be wrong with being stuck with a 4" iphone for 5 years?? :confused: Screens aren't going to be getting progressively bigger and bigger every year. We'd have smartphones bigger than iPads in a decade if that were the case...

Until there is some sort of a revolutionary development (foldable displays, holographic displays, bendable displays, expandable displays, or something else) smartphone screens will stay in the 3.5"-5" range. Anything bigger than that is just incapable of being used by human hands...

My personal preference is anywhere in the 4.0-4.3 range. but I do like the 3.5" size a lot now, and I wouldn't mind if it stayed the same for a couple more years. I do think it's time for the iPhone to get slightly thinner and slighty bigger to 4"
 
Comment

Jordan921

macrumors 601
Jul 7, 2010
4,991
1,939
Bay Area
I would bet it is going to be 4.3 or 4.4...Whatever they pick its going to be on the 5th thru 10th gen iphones most likely(if people don't get tired of them!)

Picking a 4" phone and being stuck with it for the next 5yrs is something apple knows they cant do.

And why couldn't they do that? The iPhone has been at 3.5" for 5 years and still sells well. I would like to see the screen get better but the phone stay the same size.
 
Comment

ThatsMeRight

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 12, 2009
2,257
124
And why couldn't they do that? The iPhone has been at 3.5" for 5 years and still sells well. I would like to see the screen get better but the phone stay the same size.
I agree that 3.5" is fine for a lot of users, but I think few people will complain if the iPhone's display actually becomes bigger. You notice it right away with the iPad: the bigger display is a huge pro.
 
Comment

Jordan921

macrumors 601
Jul 7, 2010
4,991
1,939
Bay Area
I agree that 3.5" is fine for a lot of users, but I think few people will complain if the iPhone's display actually becomes bigger. You notice it right away with the iPad: the bigger display is a huge pro.

Yea but the difference is the iPhone is a phone first.
 
Comment

Hastings101

macrumors 68020
Jun 22, 2010
2,226
1,006
K
I voted 3.7" because that's my favorite screen size :p. It's not much bigger than 3.5" so it will be easy to type on and reach across the screen, while still being a decent size increase.

It will probably end up as 4" though if they do change the size.
 
Comment

Dubthedankest

macrumors regular
Nov 16, 2010
165
1
This has probably been pointed out but a 264 ppi display on an iPhone wouldn't qualify as a Retina Display. Based on Steve's previous definition of the "Retina" display they couldn't go any less than ~300 ppi.
 
Comment

ThatsMeRight

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 12, 2009
2,257
124
Yea but the difference is the iPhone is a phone first.
Nowadays the iPhone is almost everything but a phone. Sure, you can call with it but when you (or at least I) take a look around and see iPhone users, than they are usually doing something else than actually calling with the device - and in such a case, a bigger display is a huge pro.

Don't forget that a bigger display doesn't necessarily mean the device must be huge.
 
Comment

Sedrick

macrumors 68030
Nov 10, 2010
2,596
26
4". If Apple has to say "4 point 3 inches", it sounds too large.

They won't go 3.7/8/9", because they would be laughed off the keynote stage.

It will be 4" or 3.5. I think we'll be damn lucky if we get 4".
 
Comment

terraphantm

macrumors 68040
Jun 27, 2009
3,793
613
Pennsylvania
Biggest display I'd want is 4". Anything bigger just gets cumbersome IMO.

They could conceivably go upto 3.7" without increasing the physical dimensions if they were willing to eliminate the bezel on the sides. I think that would be ideal for me
 
Comment

weintrw

macrumors newbie
Jan 14, 2011
25
0
Philly
What gets bigger with a bigger screen

First a compliment. This is the most grown-up thread in a long time. And it is interesting.

But; I have been in 'computing' since the late 1950's in college. That makes me and my retina in our 70's. The bigger screens that I have seen (son-in-law) the base font is still the same, too small for me to read. I cannot comment on games, but since Android and Apple seem to dictate the base font, and Apple tends to avoid allowing changes to base font settings and reformating , does anyone think a larger screen will improve the non-gaming part of an iPhone? Even the iPad has things I can't change once and be done.(I do stretch and 3 finger tap alot).

I am really wondering what a change of those display sizes so beautifully described above translates into for the user.
 
Comment

terraphantm

macrumors 68040
Jun 27, 2009
3,793
613
Pennsylvania
First a compliment. This is the most grown-up thread in a long time. And it is interesting.

But; I have been in 'computing' since the late 1950's in college. That makes me and my retina in our 70's. The bigger screens that I have seen (son-in-law) the base font is still the same, too small for me to read. I cannot comment on games, but since Android and Apple seem to dictate the base font, and Apple tends to avoid allowing changes to base font settings and reformating , does anyone think a larger screen will improve the non-gaming part of an iPhone? Even the iPad has things I can't change once and be done.(I do stretch and 3 finger tap alot).

I am really wondering what a change of those display sizes so beautifully described above translates into for the user.

If Apple makes the display larger and keeps the resolution the same, the text will be larger. Rendering everything at a different resolution would require too much [unjustifiable] work to be worth it.
 
Comment

ThatsMeRight

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 12, 2009
2,257
124
If Apple makes the display larger and keeps the resolution the same, the text will be larger. Rendering everything at a different resolution would require too much [unjustifiable] work to be worth it.
Everything will indeed look larger. If they'd settle with a 4 inch display, everything would be as big as on the iPad (you might never have noticed it, but iPad app icons are quite a bit bigger than iPhone app icons).
 
Comment

ftaok

macrumors 603
Jan 23, 2002
6,248
1,288
East Coast
There was a post on Daring Fireball that speculates that Apple could go with a 4" screen and still retain 326 ppi. The screen resolution would keep the same 640 pixels wide, but bump the height to 1152 pixels. The math works out to a 3.99" screen (round up to 4").

This would allow Apple to keep the width of the iPhone the same, and the height could grow a little (or not, depending on how big you make the home button and speaker).

Apps would need minimal modification and buttons and icons can stay the same size.

Very interested angle.
 
Comment

ThatsMeRight

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 12, 2009
2,257
124
There was a post on Daring Fireball that speculates that Apple could go with a 4" screen and still retain 326 ppi. The screen resolution would keep the same 640 pixels wide, but bump the height to 1152 pixels. The math works out to a 3.99" screen (round up to 4").

This would allow Apple to keep the width of the iPhone the same, and the height could grow a little (or not, depending on how big you make the home button and speaker).

Apps would need minimal modification and buttons and icons can stay the same size.

Very interested angle.
I like the idea, but I really don't think Apple is going to move from a 3:2 aspect ratio to a 18:10 aspect ratio - that's wider than what you find on your Mac or iPad and Apple apparently doesn't really like the wider aspect ratios.
 
Comment
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.