Here’s Why iPhone 5 Features a 4-Inch Display

Back in 2007, Apple introduced the original iPhone with a 3.5 inch screen and continued that size for four further generations of the device.

There was obviously a lot of research that went into arriving at a size of 3.5 inches diagonally, including usability considerations, pixel density, screen resolution and a lot more. But why did Apple move to a 4-inch screen with the iPhone 5 if there was so much research backing up the 3.5 inch screen size?

Here’s Apple’s justification, from the iPhone 5 feature description page:

Anyone can make a larger smartphone display. But if you go large for large’s sake, you end up with a phone that feels oversize, awkward, and hard to use. iPhone 5 features a 4-inch display designed the right way: it’s bigger, but it’s the same width as iPhone 4S. So everything you’ve always done with one hand — typing on the keyboard, for instance — you can still do with one hand. On a larger canvas that lets you see more of every web page. More of your inbox. More events on your calendar. Even more apps on your Home screen.

So Apple pretty much acknowledges that the need for extra screen real estate, was and is genuine, but the only thing preventing them from moving towards that was one-handed navigation.

In doing so, Apple’s also validating the smartphone industry’s overall trend of moving towards larger screen sizes. The company is famously known to not base its decisions on consumer demand, but this is clearly breaking away from that policy, perhaps for good reason.

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In his hands on session, Jim Dalrymple notes that one-handed navigation works fine with the larger screen, as Apple claims:

I’m happy to report that I was able to operate the iPhone 5 with ease using one hand. That means I was able to reach the top of the screen with my thumb, change options and navigate through the screens without having to reach uncomfortably.

This, however, might vary from person to person depending upon the size of their hands.

The move to a larger display might have also been driven by the need for a larger battery to power the 4G LTE chip. Although Apple hasn’t released official specifications of the battery, component leaks show that the iPhone 5 battery is about half an inch taller than the iPhone 4S, although the increase in battery capacity is marginal – from 1430 mAh to 1440 mAh.

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What’s amazing, though, is that despite the increase in height, the iPhone 5’s physical volume has actually decreased by more than 12 percent. The iPhone 4S, with dimensions of 115.2mm x 58.6mm x 9.3mm, has a volume of 62.8 cubic cms, while the iPhone 5, with dimensions of 123.8mm x 58.6mm x 7.6mm, has a volume of 55.14 cubic cms.

What’s your take on the optimal smartphone screen size? Do you think the display size that the Galaxy Note sports is suitable for daily use?