I still don’t think the 2012 iPhone will have a 4 inch screen, maybe 3.85 inches

by Justin Horn on Jan 25th, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

Seth Weintraub of 9to5Mac got a tip from a Foxconn employee discussing some new iPhone prototypes:

The source said various sample devices are also floating around (they vary slightly from one another), so it is impossible to tell which one will be the final. Some things in common with all of them, however, are:

  • 4+ inch display (made by LG on at least one of them).
  • No teardrop-shaped devices, as rumored in the lead up to the iPhone 4S. Samples so far have been symmetrical in thickness (also longer/wider).
  • Neither of the sample devices have the iPhone 4/4S form factor.
  • Neither of the devices are the final versions.

Also:

 If we follow patterns and give a five month-ish lead time, it would appear that Apple is back on its new iPhone launch for summer

Most people I’ve spoken to, mostly on Twitter, seem to think the iPhone will, at least for the 2012 version, be on a fall release like the iPhone 4S. I’ve always thought the iPhone 4S was “delayed” and the 2012 iPhone would come out in the normal summer June / July release schedule, more likely July.  So I agree with this part of the rumor.

UPDATE John Gruber chimes in, saying that production hasn’t started. Even though I trust Gruber’s sources, I still don’t think we’ll have to wait till October for the next iPhone.

I also agree that the teardrop shape is not going to happen.  It just doesn’t seem to fit with the direction Apple is going. I could be wrong, but I hope not.

Now onto that 4 inch screen. This is not going to happen. The first, although maybe not the most obvious, reason was brought to my attention last year by Dustin Curtis’s 3.5 Inches post:

Touching the upper right corner of the screen on the Galaxy S II using one hand, with its 4.27-inch screen, while you’re walking down the street looking at Google Maps, is extremely difficult and frustrating. I pulled out my iPhone 4 to do a quick test, and it turns out that when you hold the iPhone in your left hand and articulate your thumb, you can reach almost exactly to the other side of the screen. This means it’s easy to touch any area of the screen while holding the phone in one hand, with your thumb. It is almost impossible to do this on the Galaxy S II.

Another great point, brought up by John Gruber in his post regarding the iPhone 4S event:

Apple decided on the optimal size for an iPhone display back in 2006. If they thought 4-inches was better, overall, as the one true size for the iPhone display, then the original iPhone would have had a 4-inch display. It’s not like 4-inch screens are harder to make, or use some sort of new technology. If anything they’re surely easier to make, as the pixels are less dense.

Now onto my more boring technical point that has been brought up before, but really does seem to be a very logical reason for not going to 4 inches, the retina display. The current iPhone screen is 3.5 inches diagonal. Well, it’s actually 9 cm (3.54 inches), which is why I had trouble figuring out how Apple got to a pixel density of 326 ppi.  Let’s see what happens when we increase the size to 4 inches using a formula from Wikipedia: Pixel Density.

First we calculate the diagonal resolution in pixels.

Then use that to determine the PPI.

dp = sqrt(960^2 + 640^2) = 1153.776

PPI iPhone 4/4S 3.5″ Screen = 1153.776 / 3.53 = 325.926

PPI 4.0″ Screen = 1153.776 / 4.0 = 288.444

According to Steve Jobs magic number for retina display, 300ppi, the 4 inch screen falls short. Can you imagine the press backlash if they still call this 288ppi screen a retina display? A term coined by Apple? It won’t happen.

So now you’re thinking, they can just squeeze in some more pixels, just like they did when first going to the retina display. Yes, they probably could bump up the pixels to something like 1024 x 682, but do you think they would want to require app developers to make a third set of graphics, for a 5-10% improvement in quality. I also doubt Apple, a details oriented company, would want to stretch all the current graphics even 1% to achieve this mythical 4 inch screen.

UPDATE Also in John Gruber’s “chime in“, he says:

Longer and wider? Sounds like bullshit. I can see Apple putting a bigger display on a device of the same size. I can’t see them making a bigger device.

I agree. I think the next iPhone would be smaller and lighter if anything. Also, I could see Apple increasing the size up to about 3.85 inches which, at the same resolution of 960 x 640, holds to the minimum 300ppi needed for retina display. This also plays into iPhone 5 rumors last year, where the screen went all the way to the edge of the iPhone shell, for a small screen size increase.

Follow me on Twitter @justin_horn



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