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Article: Size Matters

by on February 23, 2011

Everyone seems to think that the iPhone 5…or 4S…or whatever it’s going to be called is going to have a four-inch screen. While I see the appeal of extra physical screen real-estate, a larger iPhone is the last thing I—and a lot of other folks—want.

Although in many cases a larger screen is a good thing, I think Apple is on the right path with a higher resolution screen. More information (or more detailed information) can be seen in the same space. Obviously this was just done with the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, and I don’t see Apple creating a new resolution for developers to keep track of so soon, which means…

If Apple moved the iPhone to a four-inch display with the same resolution, it would have a lower pixel-density, potentially losing out on the bragging rights with the current iPhone display. This would be like a 52″ 1080p HDTV next to a 32″ 1080p HDTV viewed at the same difference. Although the larger screen is great for larger rooms and farther distances, the 32″ screen will be sharper, due to the same amount of pixels crammed into a smaller enclosure. Therefore, for a phone, the current display is going to look sharper at the same distance.

Obviously this is common sense, but what about the bigger (literally) implications? An iPhone with a four inch screen would have to be bigger or lose some of the bezel. Although that doesn’t seem so bad, aren’t we trying to have smaller gadgets? Part of the reason the Newton didn’t sell was its size. The RAZR was a hit because it was tiny, yet very stylish and functional. Although the iPhone is no boat anchor, Apple has been proving that thinner is the way to go with the iPod touch revisions and the MacBook Air. A thinner, yet wider/longer iPhone would just feel more awkward and might be more easily broken in a pocket.

But it works for the ___________ (insert other four-inch-screened smartphone here). Does it really? Sure, the spec geeks love saying their phone has a bigger screen that the iPhone, but as someone who enjoys technology and also likes convenience, the iPhone is very pocketable…almost as much so as my first phone, a Sony Ericsson T616 and its follow-up, a RAZR-based Motorola SLVR L6. I had a number of flip phones in between those and my iPhone, and I just really like its form factor and capabilities.

Is an iPhone with a four-inch display better? Not really if you just base it on screen size. If Apple were to include a bigger battery, more features, or something else in the larger enclosure, then maybe. Otherwise, I’d rather see how much thinner the next iPhone can get.

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