The Case for A Larger iPhone Display

The way I see it, the iPhone 4, 14 months after its release is still the best smartphone on the market, as far as overall design is concerned. It’s incredibly hard to imagine how Apple could drastically improve on its current design in any meaningful way. The requisite improvements are always expected from us — year-over-year — such as updated cameras, CPU/GPU and memory.

Over the past 3 months, I’ve also played around in great length with various Android phones. All with different configurations (i.e. CPU, display types/sizes and OS versions). Many Android phones have reached high into the stratosphere with comically large displays, upwards of 4.5 inches, which is purely absurd. At first it sounds like a great idea, why not a larger display for watching movies and reading? Until you use some of these devices, you can’t imagine how awkward they are to use.

Here’s a short list:

  • They don’t fit in your front jean pocket properly (or not at all).
  • Your hand can get fatigued from having to reach much farther to the edge of the screen, just to make a swipe gesture (my thumb hurts from using a 4.5 inch display).

Where I’m going with this is I don’t think the next iPhone needs to change its display size all that much. I don’t believe Apple would ever design a phone with anything larger than a 4 inch display. If either Tim Cook or Steve Jobs can’t walk out onto the stage at WWDC and pull out the latest iPhone from their front jean pocket, then they have failed.

I do think there is a slight room for improvement over the current display we have in the iPhone 4. Not in terms of resolution, but physical size. I don’t believe Apple needs to compete with other smartphones in the size area, as clearly the standard iPhone 4 has not seen any sales impact from these much larger Android devices. This is not to say that they can’t make the current 3.5 inch display slightly larger than what it currently is.

Without sacrificing much in the way of their current 326 PPI display, I think they could push this thing up to 4.0 inches without annoying users. Beyond 4 inches though is treacherous territory that Apple probably doesn’t want to venture into. There’s a reason why the iPad has a 9.7 inch display, and it’s because it’s not only a comfortable size for reading, but it provides a big enough contrast to the iPhone 4.