Considering a Larger Screen Size on the iPhone

For those of you that aren’t familiar with typical American culture, I can break it down for you in one simple sentence: bigger is better. If you have the option of using a larger, bigger, better version of an item, you’d better take advantage of the opportunity. If you aren’t driving a Hummer, you’re doing something wrong.

We’re starting to see this mentality around our phones. Gone are the days of something small enough to be mistaken for a pack of gum; no, we want something with a 5.3 inch screen — anything less than 4.3 inches is for babies. Should the iPhone get a larger screen, or is it perfect the way it is? Let’s take a look.

That Rule-of-Thumb Thing

Most people operate their phones one-handed at least the majority of the time. I personally don’t even attempt to tap out a tweet or send a message using only one hand, but if I’m reading through Instapaper or Tweetbot I’ll use one hand to navigate. This is made easy by the iPhone’s screen size; I, and many others, can reach every pixel of the screen with my thumb.

Consider then, a larger iPhone screen. If it jumps to, say, 3.7 inches, I don’t foresee too much of a problem. I owned a Droid Incredible with that screen size, and everything was still easy to reach with one hand. I’d say that 3.7 is doable for most people, as it’s a slight increase over 3.5 inches.

Anywhere beyond that, though, and you’re beginning to stretch. One-handed navigation begins to require some shimmying around the phone, loosening your grip and sliding around in order to reach each object on the screen. For some – especially those with larger hands – this isn’t an issue, but I imagine that there are plenty of people with average-sized thumbs that wouldn’t be able to reach the entire screen.

Is That a Phone in Your Pocket, or Are You Happy to See Me?

If you are wearing pants that fit you properly there is no way that you can comfortably squeeze a large phone into your pocket. Now, I know that this isn’t an issue over here in the States simply because we can’t seem to find a way to educate people on how their pants should fit, but I like to think that other parts of the world have the miraculous capability to think about how they look. If there is enough room for a 5.3 inch phone to fit in your pocket, you genuinely feel comfortable and there isn’t some weird bulge in your front pocket, you’re either wearing sweat pants or you’re doing something wrong.

The 5.3 inch Galaxy Note. (Image credited to The Verge)

The 5.3 inch Galaxy Note. (Image credited to The Verge)

Contrast that with the iPhone. Right now it fits in the phone with no problems. Anyone wearing proper jeans should be able to fit their iPhone into their pocket without a large bulge (there is still a bit of a bump there, I’ll admit). My experience with the Droid Incredible has shown me that, again, it’s comparable to the iPhone. Trying to pocket my Dell Venue Pro, though, leads to some serious issues.

By increasing the size of the screen you are inevitably going to increase overall device size (within reason; Apple could probably get the iPhone to 3.7 inches without increasing device size) which affects the portability of the phone. Since your mobile phone is meant to be taken with you, this is maybe one of the most important things to consider when talking about screen (and device) size.

Okay, but Media is Awesome, Right?

Absolutely, imaginary heading. Despite the lower pixel density on my Dell Venue Pro, I can see how someone might prefer that larger screen size when they decide to watch a music video or (heaven forbid) a movie on their phone. Everything from looking at pictures to reading is more comfortable on a device with a larger screen.

Let’s think about the issues with the pixel density for a moment. Right now, Apple has gotten the Retina Display for the iPhone down to an art, with fewer and fewer malfunctioning displays and a continued emphasis on the quality of the screen. Factories and suppliers are accustomed to creating the Retina Display at a 3.5 inch size.

As screen size increases, our eyes will feel more comfortable with the size of the display, but will feel worse about the clarity of the display. In my experience using any phone (or even the iPad) after using the iPhone makes the whole experience seem blurry, as though I had forgotten that between putting one phone away and grabbing another I had turned into a seventy-year-old and left my reading glasses.

If Apple can get the Retina Display on a larger display I would be ecstatic. I’m hoping that this will happen with the iPad, but if it can be brought to a slightly-larger iPhone I’d be a happy camper. Screen size is important, but screen clarity is even more important.

Holding a Charge

Now, the bane of larger-screened phones everywhere: battery life. To be fair, this reputation might be from a mix of the larger screen size and 4G (LTE, blah blah blah), but through my own tests, even a phone with less pixels and no data connection ran through a battery faster than the iPhone.

Mmm. With a larger screen and 4G that bar could go from full to empty in no time flat.

Mmm. With a larger screen and 4G that bar could go from full to empty in no time flat.

Sure, as device size and screen size increase the battery size will also increase, but the question is whether or not that battery size can be increased proportionally with the demand from that larger screen. Since Apple is a leading force when it comes to battery life I can see this being a non-issue if they decide to release a phone with a larger screen, but I also know that they won’t release that phone until that battery is ready.

Conclusion

I don’t have the answers. I know that Apple will take its time changing the iPhone’s form factor; that’s exactly what they’ve done with the iPhone 4S. Beyond being incredibly pleased with the iPhone 4’s form – which is still unbeaten in this industry – I think that the 4S may have been a chance to make some changes to the iPhone while giving Apple some time to look into other, more drastic changes for the so-called iPhone 5.

With each change that they make, Apple is weighing in on what they believe is best for all of their customers. At this point, I’m not sure that a larger screen size is best for everyone, as most people are more than happy with the size of their iPhone.

Might Apple release a different line of iPhones with a larger screen? Maybe, but I doubt it. I think that, for right now at least, Apple is fine with having a smaller phone than those mammoths that we’re shown every day.