A clever contributor on the Verge forums has imagined how Apple could increase the iPhone 5‘s screen size while reasonably maintaining the iPhone’s overall dimensions: change the aspect ratio. But is this really a viable solution?
The size and functionality of the iPhone 5′s screen has become a complex discussion topic for iPhone enthusiasts, who have tried to reconcile the disparate rumors of its size and specs with what would be considered a reasonable upgrade to the current iPhone’s 3.5-inch display. Considering that we have heard rumors of a 4.6-inch screen, a 5-inch screen, and even rumors that Apple won’t increase the screen dimensions at all, there has been a lot to mull over. Overall, most commenters on this blog appear to want the iPhone 5 to feature a larger screen — just not one that makes it look like you’re holding an iPad next to your ear when talking on the phone. (I’m still waiting for a Photoshopped photo of this.)
There is a trick to this business of making an iPhone with a bigger screen, however: how does Apple increase the screen size, but still make the iPhone 5 seem like an iPhone?
Leave it to the talent and clever thinking of readers and commenters to offer up a viable theory — and one that you can imagine has already been brainstormed at Cupertino. There are a lot of articles covering this story, but I think Cult Of Mac offers the best layman’s explanation.
The whole discussion got started by a reader by the name of “Modilwar” who comments over on the Verge forums: “Modilwar argues that Apple won’t want to increase the physical footprint of the sixth-gen iPhone — no matter how slightly — so that would leave LTE on the cutting room floor. In his mind, Apple would need to increase the iPhone’s overall size, and thus the screen size, to accommodate LTE networking.” I agree in essence with Modilwar: I think that Steve Jobs felt really good about the size and weight of the iPhone. Anyone with an iPhone 4 or 4S should more or less agree: it feels great in your hands — particularly in landscape mode. Even with Jobs’ passing, it would not surprise me if there is still a fondness for the iPhone’s current dimensions at Cupertino, and a reluctance to change it.
Another reader on the forum named Colin suggested that Apple could change the aspect ratio of the screen in order to increase the screen size lengthwise, while still maintaining the relative width of the current iPhone:
“‘Could Apple change the aspect ratio to increase the screen size while maintaining the same 326 ppi? What aspect ratio would need to be to hit that 4 inch mark? And most importantly how could app fragmentation be avoided?’
Colin’s idea was to keep the shorter side of the iPhones screen the same, i.e. 640 pixels at 1.94 inches. With that in mind how much would the longer side need to increase so the that diagonal measurement was 4 inches. The answer, derived using simple algebraic rearrangement of Pythagorus’s theorem, 1152 pixels and 3.49 inches. That leaves the the diagonal length measuring a little over 3.99 inches, I’m sure Apple PR could round this 4.
For those of you who are good with numbers I’m sure you’ve noted that 1152 x 640 has an aspect ratio of 9:5 and the 1152 pixels is and increase of 192 from 960 and that’s 20% more than on the iPhone 4 and 4S.”
Of course, there are already some hard core opinions on either side of this concept for the iPhone 5′s display. Some are arguing that changing the aspect ratio would lead to fragmentation, screwing up apps and games, or otherwise “letterboxing” a lot of stuff that users are already accustomed to using on their current iPhones. I don’t think anyone wants to purchase a new iPhone and have half of what they like to use on a daily basis be framed by two twick, black bars.
Even our Verge brainstormers admit that there would be some challenges to this paradigm shift in Apple’s aspect ratio, with Modilwar noting “that there are some instances where the new dimensions wouldn’t work as well. For example, game devs would need to rebuild certain UI elements for a 4-inch display with a 9:5 ratio.” However, he also claims that “video playback would actually leave room for less black space around the edges of the video frame, creating a better experience than what the current iPhone displays.”
Finally, it’s worth noting that John Gruber over at Daring Fireball kind of doesn’t think that this whole discussion is totally ad hoc. He added that “Methinks ‘Colin’ wasn’t merely guessing or idly speculating.” Thus, it would appear that Gruber has a bit of a conspiracy theory going on here that “Colin” might be a Cupertino insider who is perhaps floating this idea out to the technosphere to see how it flies.
What do you think of this proposition?
By Michael Nace