Rather than follow the competition, Apple have always forged their own road with their smartphone form factors. While Samsung, HTC, and Sony were busy selling larger screened smartphones to more consumers, Apple have carried on with the smaller screened iPhone range. But the discussions about an iPhone with a larger screen continue. Can Apple implement a 5 inch screened device, maintain app compatibility, and not leave behind the current generation of smartphone users?
Predicting a larger iPhone is a natural course of action when every other player in the market markets their flagship with at least a five-inch screen, but Apple has never been one to follow market trends. Their target market is the consumer, not the analyst.
Sony’s CES announcement of the Xperia Z1 Compact follows research by the Japanese company showing that “the consumer who’d prefer to have a smaller device doesn’t want fewer features.” Looking at the current market, the iPhone is the one of the smallest ‘fully featured’ smartphones and the continued strong sales across the range do not seem to have been hindered by the four-inch screen.
Apple has always taken a conservative and iterative approach to their designs. They have reused components wherever possible to lower costs and leverage the knowledge and expertise gained in the manufacturing process. If they were to ‘go large’ with the iPhone, it’s possible to look at their existing inventory and devices and make an educated guess at a mythical iPhone 6′s screen size.
The last time Apple apparently followed market trends was the iPad mini, which arrived in a sea of 7 inch screened Android tablets. Rather than fixate on the ’7 inches’, the iPad mini’s size was built around existing elements of the iPad and the previous generation of iPhones. By retaining the pixel count of the 9.7 inch screened iPads (1024×768 pixels) existing applications ran with almost no effort required by the operator; and by using displays with the same pixel density as the iPhone, 3G, and 3GS, Apple was simply cutting the existing display panels to a different size.
At 7.9 inches, the iPad Mini screen was not a direct match to the 7 inch tablets, but it fights for the same shelf space and is both a commercial and critical success.
Apply a similar logic to a larger screened iPhone and there’s a natural sweet spot that Apple could go for in the iPhone 6. Retain the pixel count from the current 5S and 5C iPhones (1136×640) for software compatibility but pair this up with the 264 ppi density of the iPad Air’s retina display and you end up with a screen that has a diagonal distance of 4.94 inches.
It would bring a larger screened iPhone into the ecosystem with a minimal disruption for Apple’s third-party developers and it reduces complexity in the manufacturing process. If Apple release a large screened iPhone this year then I’d be confident this is the screen we will see.
I’ve no doubts that there are engineering samples of a 4.94 inch iPhone inside Cupertino. The doubt I have is around the decision to launch such a handset. Does Tim Cook feels the need to react to the Android market and release a larger iPhone?