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  • Why Does the iPhone Have a 3.5 Inch Screen?

    The iPhone has had a 3.5 inch screen since its release. That probably isn't going to change.

    Every app in the App Store is made with the loving fact that it will work on all iPod Touches and iPhones alike. Why is this? Because the screen sizes are all the same. Some apps have adapted for the retina display, some are still running on the resolution of the iPhone 3GS and older. They all have one thing in common; a 3.5 inch display.

    So what is it that makes the iPhone's 3.5 inch screen a hit? That's an interesting question to think about. Especially since there are other phones selling high amounts with absolutely massive screens. The Galaxy S II, pictured above, has a screen that is almost an inch larger than the iPhone 4S's screen.

    A designer, named Dustin Curtis has a very good speculation to put into perspective for all of us:
    Quote Originally Posted by Dustin Curtis
    I’ve been wondering why Apple chose to make the iPhone 4′s screen 3.5-inches when other comparable phones with Android and Windows Phone 7 have larger, more inviting screens. When you first see a phone with a 4-inch or larger screen, it seems like a much better experience. I thought it was a technical decision, and it could be, but since switching to an Android phone — a Samsung Galaxy S II, the “best Android phone you can buy, anywhere” — 15 days ago, I have realized another huge downside of larger screens: when holding the phone with one hand, I can’t reach the other side of the screen with my thumb.

    Touching the upper right corner of the screen on the Galaxy S II using one hand, with its 4.27-inch screen, while you’re walking down the street looking at Google Maps, is extremely difficult and frustrating. I pulled out my iPhone 4 to do a quick test, and it turns out that when you hold the iPhone in your left hand and articulate your thumb, you can reach almost exactly to the other side of the screen. This means it’s easy to touch any area of the screen while holding the phone in one hand, with your thumb. It is almost impossible to do this on the Galaxy S II.
    The idea that Curtis is putting onto the table is that the specifically fixed 3.5 inch screen makes one-handed use much easier. It's not impossible to use one hand with the 4.27 inch Galaxy S II, although you really need to wrench your hand across the phone to reach. This comes with the chance of dropping it, or having to use a second hand. When you're holding your phone with one hand, chances are that you're using the other hand for something else, although many times I find myself just lazily having one hand in my pocket while enjoying the fact that it's there.

    As indicated by the image above, the average thumb-span of phone users meets the criteria of of the green area when the phone is held in portrait position. As shown, most of the iPhone's screen is very accessible by the thumb when the hand is placed in a comfortable position on the phone. When the same is done on the larger screen, an average sized thumb won't be able to reach without some major extension or wrenching of one's hand.

    On the iPhone, there are usually navigation buttons on both the top left and top right of the screen. It's nice to be able to reach both in a tight situation, although on the larger screen the top right navigation button would be inaccessible.

    When holding the phone in landscape mode, two hands usually support the phone. So on a larger screen, both thumbs cover most of the area accessible to input data into the phone. In this case, landscape orientation appears to be good for both handsets. The weakness of larger screens is portrait mode where people generally don't use two hands unless it's necessary. It generally feels pretty awkward to hold a small device with two hands. I would find myself using two hands on a larger screen more so than on the iPhone; it seems like that would get pretty inconvenient if I was multitasking and needed my other hand.

    I find myself many times using two hands when my arms are propped over a desk. When I'm walking, standing, or laying down, I mostly only use one hand. I think I'm pretty content with this screen size and I'm not sure I'd like a larger screen. The 3.5 inch screen seems to be great for ergonomics.

    Where does the 'bigger screen' come to an end? What will happen if a company comes out with a 5.5-6 inch smartphone screen? Why not just buy a 3G tablet? Perhaps the most important question to ask, is, what kind of device are you looking for?

    I would have to continue to support the iPhone's current screen size. How do you cope with your 3.5 inch iPod Touch or iPhone screen? Do you own a larger screen? If so leave a comment below on how this perspective made you think about your screen size!

    Sources: Redmond Pie
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Why Does the iPhone Have a 3.5 Inch Screen? started by Anthony Bouchard View original post
    Comments 104 Comments
    1. Anthony Bouchard's Avatar
      Anthony Bouchard -
      Quote Originally Posted by n0m0n View Post
      How do you explain the android market that works on a Droid 3.5, fascinate 4", DroidX 4.3"???
      Same apps different size screens.
      The developers create set versions for each screen-size. They make a template for 3.5/4/4.3/etc., and then they use a decision structure in their application that uses the process of elimination to decide which screen the android device is running on. From that point it will display the resolution that matches the phone's specs. It's pretty self-explanatory, really.
    1. scroogelives's Avatar
      scroogelives -
      The iPhone screen is the best screen I have used! I have tried 3 android phones and have returned each of them! None have the clean crisp look the iPhone gives!
    1. moveandstore's Avatar
      moveandstore -
      I can deal with the 3.5 screen. The retina display makes up for it for me, because I can text comfortably with one hand. And READ what I'm texting! Plus being in an Otterbox Defender case, I can still use it comfortably. My friend has an EVO in an Otterbox case and that thing is HUGE!!

      Apple has it's reasons, and has the huge following to prove that the 3.5" screen works well.
    1. n0m0n's Avatar
      n0m0n -
      Well is there a keyboard option that might help me with my issue?
      I keep hitting the backspace instead of the "M", as well the "I" ends being a "O", or "U".