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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 101 Comments
    1. Raeki's Avatar
      Raeki -
      Lol funny, this was originally on 9to5mac but half the comments were hating on it and saying it was bull.Anyways, while I do like and think the 3.5 inch is perfect, I can easily get my thumb an inch past the iPhone width wise, and I have small hands. And I'm 15. So though this is kinda moot, IMO, I wouldn't want a phone where I have to fully stretch my hand to use it single-handed.
    1. Anthony Bouchard's Avatar
      Anthony Bouchard -
      Quote Originally Posted by crankz1 View Post
      Dustin must have a small... uh... hand.
      Well, I believe his hand was used in the picture pinned to the article. In all truth my thumb only extends 1 centimeter longer than the picture and I've been told I have long fingers.
    1. mmaboi21's Avatar
      mmaboi21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by thetoothfairy View Post
      I would have liked to see the 4s or 5 to have a larger screen. I think they are cool! My sister has a phone with a bigger screen and I love it however yes the battery drains fast on her phone.
      How much larger? 4.5 or 4'??
    1. iN2K's Avatar
      iN2K -
      I wanted an iDevice with a bigger screen. So I bought an iPad.
    1. crankz1's Avatar
      crankz1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Anthony Bouchard View Post
      Well, I believe his hand was used in the picture pinned to the article. In all truth my thumb only extends 1 centimeter longer than the picture and I've been told I have long fingers.
      They lied to you, then...
      Just kidding...

      Personally, I'm 6'3" and the iPhone is small in my hands. I would like a larger screen to make it's way to the iPhone.
    1. szr's Avatar
      szr -
      Quote Originally Posted by ChSchuldiner View Post
      If they changed the screen size, EVERY app in the App Store would have to be re-written
      This is not necessarily true, as it's entirely possible to make a larger screen that runs at the same resolution, just like how computer monitors can have the same native res but vary in physical size.
    1. Ozzie5374's Avatar
      Ozzie5374 -
      Quote Originally Posted by iLoveWindows&iPhone View Post
      No.... This logic would work if you have had your otter hand bitten off by a shark...
      Do sharks and otters inhabit the same waters?
      I would like bigger screen within same frame.
    1. Anthony Bouchard's Avatar
      Anthony Bouchard -
      Quote Originally Posted by szr View Post
      This is not necessarily true, as it's entirely possible to make a larger screen that runs at the same resolution, just like how computer monitors can have the same native res but vary in physical size.
      If the 4 inch screen carried a resolution equal to the iPhone 4's, that would take away from the value of the retina display.
    1. dangit's Avatar
      dangit -
      Makes sense but I think people here are just saying that Apple should stick with the 3.5 because they like that's the screens been that size for 4 generations (soon to be 5) now. If the 4s had a bigger screen size, everyone would be jumping up and down for joy praising Apple for their job well done.
    1. Orby's Avatar
      Orby -
      Quote Originally Posted by Anthony Bouchard View Post
      If the 4 inch screen carried a resolution equal to the iPhone 4's, that would take away from the value of the retina display.
      Listen to this man, for he is correct.

      We all know what a pixel is, right? We're all cool on surface area calculations, right? Good.

      Total pixel count/total surface area of a display = pixel density. In order to increase the denominator (the physical size of the display) AND keep the same pixel density, the numerator (total pixel count, or resolution) must increase proportionally.

      Keeping the same resolution and increasing the screen size drops the density, which rather ruins the whole premise of a "Retina" display. Increasing both screen size and resolution to match requires massive recoding of all apps, or upscaling. Upscaling is NOT a pretty solution--think iPhone app on a stock iPad at 2x. Jagged, oversized pixels kinda defeat a "Retina" screen as well.

      This applies for more than just iPhones too... try using a VGA resolution Android app on a qHD or tablet. It's not a pretty picture.
    1. emerica6708's Avatar
      emerica6708 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Anthony Bouchard View Post
      If the 4 inch screen carried a resolution equal to the iPhone 4's, that would take away from the value of the retina display.
      [s]True, and I believe it wouldn't even be considered "retina" apple defines retina as being above a certain ppi, I'm not gonna do the math but I believe if it went up to 4" or past there wouldn't be enough pixels per inch to be called retina.[/s]

      ^^ he beat me to it
    1. TintinS3D's Avatar
      TintinS3D -
      Quote Originally Posted by ChSchuldiner View Post
      If they changed the screen size, EVERY app in the App Store would have to be re-written.

      I am content with the 3.5 inch screen. It's nice and convenient.
      That wouldn't be true if they kept the same resolution but just made the screen a little larger. True, that would make it fewer dpi, but if the resolution stayed the same nothing would have to be re-written

      I am fine with the 3.5 screen most of the time though.
    1. duromega's Avatar
      duromega -
      Quote Originally Posted by armypunk2003 View Post
      A friend of mind the other day got a new android device and I was like dude why you talking on a tablet. It was freakin huge. I mean for real iPhone is practical. Fits nice in pocket, easy to handle and just right to watch an occasional video.
       hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahaha

      Quote Originally Posted by in2k View Post
      i wanted an idevice with a bigger screen. So i bought an ipad.
      bingo
    1. szr's Avatar
      szr -
      Quote Originally Posted by Anthony Bouchard View Post
      If the 4 inch screen carried a resolution equal to the iPhone 4's, that would take away from the value of the retina display.
      Quote Originally Posted by Orby View Post
      Listen to this man, for he is correct.

      We all know what a pixel is, right? We're all cool on surface area calculations, right? Good.

      Total pixel count/total surface area of a display = pixel density. In order to increase the denominator (the physical size of the display) AND keep the same pixel density, the numerator (total pixel count, or resolution) must increase proportionally.
      I agree, a 4 inch screen at the same AR and res would take the pixel density (ppi) down from 329 on the iPhone 4 to about 288, though still quite a bit higher than the 3G[S]'s ~164. So yes, the 3.5 screen makes the better use of that resolution, no doubt.

      Keeping the same resolution and increasing the screen size drops the density, which rather ruins the whole premise of a "Retina" display. Increasing both screen size and resolution to match requires massive recoding of all apps, or upscaling. Upscaling is NOT a pretty solution--think iPhone app on a stock iPad at 2x. Jagged, oversized pixels kinda defeat a "Retina" screen as well.
      On the subject of scaling, I really don't understand why Apple chose this approach. Scaling applications just seems wrong to me. Scaling is for images and other other similar media. Applications in the desktop world normally just get re-sized. If the text ends up too small, most desktop systems allow one to increase the global font sizes.

      The way I see it, iOS applications are like programs running at fullscreen or "maximized", so if the resolution is higher, the "window" should size it self accordingly, much like a window in most modern desktop systems when re-sized. I see no reason why a non-retina application can't look the same (sans embedded static images/media, like in games) on a retina and pre-retina device; on the later, it would just use higher res GUI controls, components, and elements (buttons, text boxes, etc), as well as proper text size. I would have thought this would be much more preferred to to scaling an app as if it were an image, especially when it comes to regular applications that use the standard GUI elements from the SDK (not necessarily games or non-standard GUI apps.) I also believe this applies to the iPad as well when running iPhone apps.
    1. mikerlx's Avatar
      mikerlx -
      Apples never gonna change the screen size it's perfect!
    1. phoenix904's Avatar
      phoenix904 -
      What utter bull; 1. This "designer" must have freakishly small appendages. My thumb can reach the entire surface of a GS2 no problem. 2. How many people even use one hand to do smartphoning? Not many and not often. 3. In the end it's about the money. Steve Jobs' wallet > Chinese slave labor Questions?
    1. GUNNY29's Avatar
      GUNNY29 -
      Or you have big hands and if you have read the thread people do use one hand like I am right now typing this message. If the screen is any bigger I believe it takes it away from the smartphone category it's the 2nd reason I won't get any of the decent android phones first reason is it's android
    1. norfskate's Avatar
      norfskate -
      3.5 is perfect :-)
    1. aimetti's Avatar
      aimetti -
      Quote Originally Posted by ChSchuldiner View Post
      If they changed the screen size, EVERY app in the App Store would have to be re-written.

      I am content with the 3.5 inch screen. It's nice and convenient.

      No? You are saying you couldnt use the same resolution on different desktop monitors? The screen size could go to 4 inches on the same resolution of 960x640. The retnia display would take a small hit in quality tho.
    1. ca3's Avatar
      ca3 -
      i feel so cramped on the iphone screen. My galaxy S2 is AMAZING, i think its much better, one of the reasons i switched was because of the screen issue. Im happy now