4-Inch iPhone: Possible Scenarios

Chatter about an iPhone with a larger screen has been going on since the pre-iPhone 4S days, but this time around these claims have been backed by reliable sources like The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and John Gruber.

Apple has always held pride in the fact that iOS is easy to develop for, and that it isn’t fragmented like Android. Even when it upgraded to Retina displays, it made sure that the number of pixels in the new screens were a whole number multiple of the previous screen resolution.

So how is Apple going to ensure a similar, smooth transition phase for developers with a larger screen iPhone?

That first thought that comes to mind is that Apple simply increases the physical size of a single pixel, so as to maintain the same (current) Retina resolution of 960×640 pixels, and make the transition process a breeze for developers. This would however reduce the pixel density of the new screen to a figure below 300ppi, which would force Apple to pull off the Retina tag from the new device. Retina, of course, isn’t merely a bullet point in Apple’s marketing strategy, it also makes text, images and video on the display look gorgeous. Given that, we don’t expect Apple to go along with this option, which not only degrades the current iPhone experience, but also makes developers’ work practically nil. (After all, Apple hasn’t hesitated in the past to ask developers to put in a bit of effort to make the whole iOS experience a lot better.)

iPhone 4 inch scaled up

Another possibility came from a person named Timothy Collins, a caller on one of Verge’s podcast. His idea — keep the width as well as the number of pixels along the horizontal the same as before, and increase the aspect ratio to 9:5 from the current 3:2, adding pixels along the vertical so as to make the diagonal 4 inches and maintain the same pixel density of 326ppi at a resolution of 1152×640. Gruber speculated that Timothy wasn’t merely speculating, but was in fact basing his ideas on actual knowledge he has about Apple’s plans.

Here’s how apps will look on such a screen. If Apple does go with this option, iOS would most likely take care of rendering standard app layouts like lists, navigation bars and tab bars on the larger screen, but developers would nonetheless have to work on producing their images at this resolution. Game developers on the other hand would have face the uphill task of rendering their graphics at a completely unrelated resolution.

Rene Ritchie over at iMore has some more interesting scenarios, some of which are:

  • Proportionally scaling the existing iPhone screen to a diagonal length of 4 inches, bringing the resolution to 1092×728 pixels.
  • Increasing the resolution to the industry standard 1280×720 pixels (720p), increasing the pixel density to 367ppi.

He’s illustrated all the possible scenarios with mockups, and thought about the ramifications of each of these choices. You should read through the entire post.

It looks like Apple would have to deal with a small degree of fragmentation issues with a 4 inch iPhone, but it could hope for no further changes in this size for quite a few years, meaning that iPhones with older configurations would gradually be weeded out from the market. Besides, this scenario is still better than the one at the Android camp, where no one has any control over what screen sizes could manufacturers possibly float in the market.

It  will be interesting to see how Apple handles the challenge of the 4-inch screen for the next iPhone and the 7-inch iPad, both rumored to debut later this year.

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  • 1024by768 is actually the resolution of the iPad 1 and 2.

    • Rico

      I c

    • Thanks for pointing it out. Its fixed now.

  • iOS Me.0.1

    I’m afraid I’m Gonna have to call The BS card on this… Whe the WWDC come around and releases nothing all these rumors will count for nothing and sources will be discredited. Give me iphone hacks not iPhone rumors… Either that or change the sites name.

    • 1. This article is evaluating the options if Apple launches a 4-inch iPhone.
      2. The next iPhone is unlikely to be launched at the WWDC, so expect the rumors to continue till October, when Apple is most likely to launch the new iPhone.
      3. If you don’t like to read about rumors or articles related to them like this one, you can always skip such articles. No one here is really forcing you to read the article.
      4. While you say you want to hear about hacks, its been a while since you have commented when we write about tweaks, so how about commenting on those articles rather than comment on such article.


      • Wow!

        Wow, that’s a pretty amateur response, iPhoneHacks! Show some class and quietly take feedback, or completely ignore it. You’ve really just driven readers away with that sort of obnoxiousness!

        Anyway, check out the images used in this article…it’s like someone has just stretched out an iPhone’s screen using Paint. So tacky!


    • John

      idiot, don’t read if your not interested in rumours then.

      • Jb

        I agree. Iphonehacks! Kudos to you!

  • Gillian

    I think the current display size is perfect for a device you keep in your pocket most of the time.. if apple could cram a sim tray in the current ipod touch it would sell like hot-cakes, it’s so thin and sexy, and the 3.5″ display is really enough for me. If I really needed the screen real estate I’d go with a tablet.

  • Strulf

    “This would however reduce the pixel density of the new screen to a figure below 300ppi, which would force Apple to pull off the Retina tag from the new device”

    Not true, the new iPad has a density of 264 ppi and still has the Retina tag. A 24″ monitor with a resolution of 1920×1080 has only 92 ppi for example.

    • Pacomac

      Finally, someone talking sense!

      Why would Apple need to increase the pixel count at this point in time. I bet knobody could physically see a difference between a 3.5″ and 4″ display running at 300dpi withou a magnifying glass.

  • Genuino

    Hmm, regardless of pixel count per inch, 300 or 265, humans can’t discern the differences by just looking at it with perfect vision, about 30% of humans can say they have 20/20, so pixel density is a non issue to me.
    What keeps bothering me is how “THE” bigger screen will be used, real estate wise, by enlarging the present elements of the UI to fit 4″ or whatever they decide? Are icons, text and graphics bigger on a bigger screen? Makes no sense to me, is anyone getting my point here? For a bigger screen on the iPhone to be successful, a complete redesign of interface is needed so it can make use of the space without enlarging any UI elements. For example, we have 4 x 4 icons on the present iPhone, would we have still 4 x 4 on the 4″?

    • Strulf

      5×5 would be awesome. I’m using already Iconoclasm and Shrink to achieve this on my iPhone 3Gs and I totally love it. If this would be standard, I wouldn’t even need to jailbreak my iPhone anymore which can be, to be honest, quite annoying at times.

  • Crazy Asylum

    looks too much like an android….