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Multiple screen sizes could be just what the iPhone needs

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April 9, 2013

Selling the iPhone in multiple screen sizes could be the best thing that ever happened to ...

Selling the iPhone in multiple screen sizes could be the best thing that ever happened to Apple's handset

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Apple likes simplicity. It has a simple product line with simple brand names, simple designs and simple-to-use software. This obsession has served the company well. But there is one area where it could afford to have just a bit more complexity. I’m talking iPhone screen size. Apple’s rivals have shown that one size most definitely does not fit all. It’s time for Apple to join them and stop pretending that it does.

You might have caught a recent story from CNET, laying out yet another analyst’s Apple prediction. Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets had a meeting with someone in the supply chain, and he walked away confident that Apple is indeed shifting to multiple screen sizes for the next iPhone.

If his sources are legit, then I say “hooray.”

One size doesn't always fit all

The iPhone 5 looks positively puny next to the Samsung Galaxy Note II

Let’s be honest. The iPhone 5 looks piddly next to every recent high-end Android phone. Sure, you could say that Apple’s handset is still more comfortable to hold, and more easily slips into a pocket.

But that line is growing old. Spend five minutes with the Galaxy Note 2 and you’ll realize that huge screens can also have huge advantages. Not ready for a phablet? Fine, then snag a slightly smaller phone like the Galaxy S4, HTC One, or Nexus 4.

Bigger? Sure. Ridiculously uncomfortable to hold? Not for everyone.

Learning from Samsung

It may lead to some stinkers, but Samsung offers something for everyone

Apple isn’t dominating in quite the same way as it used to. Comscore tells us that Apple still sells the most smartphones in the U.S., but, on last check, Samsung was handily outselling Apple on the global market.

Apple is still profiting wildly, and is hardly in danger. But that doesn't mean Samsung isn't also doing something very, very right.

One of the things Samsung does is sell devices in every screen size imaginable. Sammy makes small smartphones, big smartphones, phablets, small tablets, large tablets – and anything in between. Call it the “throw every display size against the wall and see what sticks” method.

Apple would never muck up its product line by doing that. Samsung is “try everything,” Apple is “we secretly tried everything behind closed doors – and this is what we think is the best.” Different companies, different approaches.

But Apple can learn something from Samsung’s public experimentation. Namely, lots of people like big-ass smartphones.

The most important part

The display is indeed the most important part of a mobile device

Back in 2010, when Steve Jobs was pitching the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, he gushed about a device’s display being the most important part. It’s the window into everything that you do. And he was right.

But this applies not just to crystal-clear resolution, but also to size. Humongous smartphones let you do so much more. The window into your virtual world of apps, games, and social networking is bigger. It’s easier to peek through. You can see more of it without incessant pinching and zooming.

So why doesn’t Apple just make the next iPhone five inches and call it a day? Because these big-ass smartphones aren’t for everyone. And that’s okay. People have different tastes, and Apple needs to stop pretending like there’s one answer for everyone.

iMacs come in multiple screen sizes. MacBooks do too. Hell, even the iPad now comes in two different sizes. It’s not as if Apple doesn’t get choice. It just hasn’t yet applied it to the iPhone.

Bring it on

So let’s get on with it, Apple. Bring on the multiple screen sizes. Not everyone wants an Apple phablet, but many do. Not everyone wants a 4.7-inch iPhone, but many do.

Because you know what? Not everyone wants a 3.5-inch or 4-inch iPhone. That's nice that Apple decided for us that 3.5 and 4 inches are the best sizes for smartphones. Many potential customers beg to differ. And right now, they're taking their business to Samsung.

Make the move, Mr. Cook. You don't have to throw simplicity out the window. Nobody walks into an Apple Store, and leaves utterly confused by the choice of iPad or iPad mini. No, they're happy that they have a choice, and they ultimately make the one that's best for them.

It's quite simple, really.

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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11 Comments

Bravo, Will. You said out loud what many, many of us have been thinking for a long time. Back when the iPhone was a similar size to some of the largest Android phones, things were good. But it's nowhere near to the top of the pack now. Therefore I have a Note 2, and I wouldn't give it up for any combination of Apple devices.

I'm a bit torqued that Apple has been trying to jam the one-size-fits-all smart phone concept at us since the first iPhone. Apple needs to wake up now (years later than they should have).

Laura Ward
9th April, 2013 @ 09:18 pm PDT

Why not add phone functionality to IPads?

cwolf88
10th April, 2013 @ 09:19 am PDT

Great article! At this time, I won't go back to the iPhone and its ridiculously small screen size. Samsung's Galaxy S3 sold me with its screen size. This entire Android phone does everything I need it to do and I'm sure more that I don't know how to do.

I hated having to wear glasses to see anything on my iPhone but that's no longer a problem with the S3. I would definitely consider re-purchasing an iPhone that can rival the S3's screen size. Apple needs to break down their corporate walls and unleash what their fans would really love to "see." And yes, I love Apple products, as evidenced by my desktop, laptop, iPad, and iPod.

Marco Corona
10th April, 2013 @ 09:30 am PDT

Terrific writing, Will. And I'm saying this as a technology writer, not as the Note I owner and phablet fanboy that I am. :)

Maryland, USA
10th April, 2013 @ 09:40 am PDT

Ditto the past comments. The aging population means an increase in size in the 'reading glasses' club, of which I've been a member for some time now. I too, am tired of having to search for a pair in order to view pictures and text. My contract with my carrier is up next February and I have been watching with interest to see if Apple was going to follow suit with larger screens. I do enjoy the user friendliness of the iPhone but would show no hesitation about buying a Samsung when it's time to renew and upgrade. In my humble opinion, Apple should get on board the five inch plus train...and soon. February's coming fast!

challengerpilot
10th April, 2013 @ 01:29 pm PDT

Apple stuck with the 240x320 screen size far too long. So did Windows Phone/Mobile/PocketPC/WinCE. 'Course Apple has also lagged behind on other technologies with the iPhone/iPDA line. Consumers expected NFC on the 4, the 4s and figured Johnny come lately Apple would surely include NFC on the 5. Nope, still not. Meanwhile the rest of the industry was stuffing NFC into phones starting around the time the iPhone 4 was introduced.

Just more of Apple deciding what the consumer "wants" instead of paying attention to what the consumer actually wants. Remember in the 90's when each size of Macintosh monitor could only do a single resolution and had a large black border on the screen? That was so the display would always be 72 DPI, exactly matching the then common 72 DPI print output. The concept soon became obsolete with the rise of higher resolution printing and nobody ever actually holding up a print to their screen to do a comparison - but Apple kept on with that well past when it made any sense.

AFAIK Palm OS was the first to come on 480x640 screen, but only on a few devices.

There are still new Android phones coming out with 320x240 screens with a fixed keyboard on the cheap end and even some with that resolution and auto rotation with a slider keyboard. Next step up is 480x800 with a few outliers going even wider. Above that there's a wide range of resolutions, but sadly the highest ones aren't being paired with slider keyboards and even the sliders we do get in the USA have hobbled hardware compared to the EU and/or asian versions of the same phone.

I want a phone like the Photon Q, but with a quad core CPU, double all the types of memory, a 720p display and a removable battery. The other half of the planet is allowed to have such phones, but not the West.

Gregg Eshelman
10th April, 2013 @ 03:08 pm PDT

Yes it would be nice to have an iPhone with 5 x 6 + 1 x 5 standard icons but there is so much more that needs to be taken care of.

The rigidity of design is too much. The newer phone keypad looks worse than the original but why not let the user decide upon the color?

That should be so easy to do and we should be allowed to determine the order of opening an app like the phone. Why should I have to tap tap tap to get where I really want to be. One tap should be enough, let the user determine the order of the opening sequence.

Sure would be nice to have a home screen designed to my liking.

Inconsistent flexibility is irritating.

The calendar is dumb, regardless of what Steve said. It really is just plain dumb. Why can't Apple come up with a great calendar? Huh? This is a lemming job when we need brilliance. C'mon Johnny start humping!

Being an Architect of course I want a Bauhaus/Italian Modern/Swiss aesthetic.

But I really don't see it here.

While the i41CX+ is fantastic, more can be don than simply put together a hideous morphed display. Shame on AAPL of that crappy job.

And where is the software to compete with those hideous TI Calculators where the Teacher gets to see what everyone is doing and can administer lessons and tests? Anything happening along those lines? Nah forget the school market? Right? NO WRONG!

What's going on in the textbook world, is AAPL doing anything along those lines?

So for me there is much more to come up with and I don't see it happening.

Certainly larger iPhones would be great for the kids in the class room setting but I guess we have just passed on that one.

So for me this is shape up time, let's see some stuff that's great, incomparable.

And get rid of those damn ugly icons like the so called "Contatct" BS. People are people, contacts? Maybe and maybe not. Insulting it is.

There really should be a good scheduling CPM/Pert program developed by not, Hell Primavera and Microsoft don't know how to do it!

So the so called guru's are really screwing up in my book.

Bill

Lewis M. Dickens III
10th April, 2013 @ 05:26 pm PDT

Contacts don't bother me. Sometimes they aren't people but businesses. Apple came out with the iphone and they started the rise. Since then, they seem to always have been playing catch up. It took them nearly a year to finally come out with the 4G version of the iPhone and the map didn't work.

Adding to that, the newer S4 and Note II stomp the hell out of the Iphone 5 and if I wanna spend another hundred on the smart dock, I can use it as a desktop computer.

VoiceofReason
10th April, 2013 @ 09:05 pm PDT

Look, there are some very beautiful App Icons out there.

If the Contact's icon doesn't bother you, then you need to have your visual cortex checked out.

Don't tell me that AAPL can't do better than that. If they can't don't sit around hoping your stock holdings will rise again.

Bill

Lewis M. Dickens III
11th April, 2013 @ 01:56 pm PDT

I hope they bring back a 3GS sized iphone, for many portablity still trumps screen size. As mentioned add phone capacity to iPads, Mac, etc for those who want really big phone screen sizes.

Tom Swift
12th April, 2013 @ 04:59 pm PDT

As a Quadriplegic who relies a lot on my iPhone, I wish Apple would give me a 6" iPhone screen an the ability to use a wireless mouse/joystick and Siri hands free. auto answer would be great to. It would change my life and Im sure everyone else would enjoy it too.

paul

sydney Australia

Deauzie
22nd July, 2013 @ 06:27 pm PDT
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