There was a fairly clear dominant consensus among forum responses to my “What’s Your Ideal iPhone Screen Size?” blog on Monday that while a somewhat larger display would be welcome in the iPhone 5. However a substantial proportion of respondents were adamant that it shouldn’t be too much larger than the current iPhone 4S’s 3.5-inch, panel, the concerns being physical size for comfortable holding, easy pocket or purse-ability, and the ungainly aesthetics of existing large-display Android phones.
Upper thresholds cited by several commenters were specifically “no greater than 4.0” or “no greater than 4.3.” That’s reasonably consistent with results of a new Strategy Analytics Wireless Device Lab report, “Smartphone Owners Want Thin Devices with Larger Displays,” I cited, which found that the largest proportion of surveyed smartphone owner respondents said they prefer device screens in the 4.0-inch to 4.5-inch range, as long as the device is also thin.
So I’m wondering how it will set with fans if a new rumor out of South Korea that Apple will use in the iPhone 5 a 4.6-inch panel similar in dimensions at least to the one currently used in Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S2 HD LTE handsets, expected to also equip the forthcoming Galaxy S3. South Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper Basic Mobility News column reports that the iPhone 5 will debut this summer, which could possibly mean June, and that parts have already been ordered from OEM suppliers, noting that according to market research firm DisplaySearch, 3.5-inch LCD panel price is OEM priced at $17, but a of 4.6-inch panel would be around $ 20.
The article notes that Apple will go along with Samsung’s display size, and has opted to not change the “Golden Ratio” 4:3 proportions of the current iPhone 4S panel. That would make a phone with 4.6″ diagonal 4:3 aspect ratio display necessarily very wide, a concern the Maeil Business story alludes to, noting that the iPhone’s 3.5 inch screen allows a form factor that can be easily held and manipulated with one hand.
In addition, the report says Apple would take a pass on the AMOLED (active matrix organic light-emitting diodes) technology Samsung uses in its 4.6″ screen phones, and instead go with higher-resolution LCD Retina technology.
I’m skeptical. A lot of iPhone users cherish its ergonomics friendliness and conveniently compact dimensions, and while many would welcome a bit more on-screen real estate, there would be resistance to compromising those other desirable factors to accommodate a much larger display.
Pocket-Lint’s Stuart Miles observes in a commentary today that he thinks 4-inches seems much more likely, and that a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, the same as the iPad 2, would result in a pixel density of 320ppi on a 4-inch screen, which would be close enough to satisfy Apple’s Retina display criteria. The iPhone 4S’s 3.5″ Retina display has a 960 x 640 pixel resolution for a pixel density of 326ppi. Miles calculates that getting close to 320 ppi with a 4.6″ display would require a roughly 1200 x 900 resolution, achievement of which would make the device very wide id a 4:3 aspect ratio is to be maintained.
I’m inclined to go with Miles’s deduction. It seems implausible that Apple would go with a screen as large as 4.6 inches on the next iPhone given the physical limitations of accommodating Retina-class resolution and the 4:3 aspect ratio.
Of course this is all speculative as yet, and we’ll have to see what Apple does when the announcement comes (I’m still leaning toward fall).