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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. 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
    1. dknowle's Avatar
      dknowle -
      You could argue this one to death but nobody would be right or wrong. It's all about personal preference and how you use the device. Personally I like the size, but I could easily see how others would like a bigger screen.

      To settle this Apple should come up with an 'XL' model with larger screen. Sell it along side the standard size & consumer demand will decide.
    1. Striknine's Avatar
      Striknine -
      Quote Originally Posted by dangit View Post
      If the 4s had a bigger screen size, everyone would be jumping up and down for joy praising Apple for their job well done.
      I agree some people just side with apple because they're in love with apple. Not releasing a larger screen was not a decision on apples part. That would have taken a lot of work and they are just not there yet. If it's battery life that your worried about, when hey introduce a feature that consumes more battery they increase the battery to compensate for it. If it's app compatibility your worried about, that is apples own fault for deciding to make all their apps for a screen that can not change.
      I would't have a problem if they changed the screen to 4.25" I would get used to it and so would everyone else.
    1. Joker's Avatar
      Joker -
      Quote Originally Posted by ca3 View Post
      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
      I agree with you.I just switched to the Galaxy S2 and love it.The screen size was why I also switched.I've had the iphone since it came out and don't regret getting a phone with a bigger screen.Makes surfing the web and gaming better.
    1. Bear_Grylls's Avatar
      Bear_Grylls -
      My thumb can't reach all the way across my smartphone screen while I'm drinking my ****. #FirstWorldProblems
    1. subywrex's Avatar
      subywrex -
      Quote Originally Posted by phoenix904 View Post
      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?
      You are ignorant! How would putting a larger screen increase save labor? Also if you read the article the OP pointed out the AVERAGE thumb-span with the green highlighted area.
      Also just because u dont use your phone one handed doesn't mean a lot of people dont. I would actually say your of the minority of people that dont use one handed "smart phoning".
      Also what a statement bringing up a recently deceased persons so called greed. You have no class nor respect.

      As far as a larger screen and people saying just make the resolution the same. This won't happen only for the fact there screen would not be retina any longer. I think it's funny people wold have a screen that's almost an inch bigger and an 800x400 resolution over a screen that is a great siZe having 960x480 resolution. I'm glad all you would love to sacrifice size for quality
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      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... if they changed the pixel DENSITY that would be the case (one could also argue that forcing apps to be written for a single pixel density and aspect ratio was a little silly to begin with (this is something android truly does right)... and technically when we got the retina screen devs were rewriting parts of their apps if they wanted higher resolution images). They could certainly keep the pixel density and still change the screen size without losing any visible quality. Don't fall for the hype. The real reason is "we just don't want to".
    1. x2dope's Avatar
      x2dope -
      I'ce owned all the iPhones, the Infuse 4g, and the S II. The infuse screen at 4.5" was too dang big even for my big hands. I could not touch the top left side of the screen when holding it with my right hand. I ended up returning it and getting the S II which I think is the perfect size. Yes the iPhone has a sharper screen but after using two phones with bigger screens I dont desire to use a phone thats half an inch to an inch smaller than what the rest of the market is releasing. I am selling my iPhone 4 and keeping my S II until next year when apple steps their game up a little more.
    1. thetoothfairy's Avatar
      thetoothfairy -
      I would like a screen the size of the S ll but no larger.
    1. hogcia's Avatar
      hogcia -
      I hope ip5 is at least 4". If apple bumps up the screen to 4" and keeps the same resolution everything should be fine. Not impossible.
    1. Tucnepo's Avatar
      Tucnepo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ozzie5374 View Post
      Do sharks and otters inhabit the same waters?
      I would like bigger screen within same frame.
      I think he meant "other"
    1. Go Gators's Avatar
      Go Gators -
      This is article is so funny! I knew it wouldn't take long for someone to start justifying why Apple kept the same screen size. What's funny is that we read over and over about how great the new 4" screen is going to be on the new iPhone. Now that everyone is stuck with the same old 3.5" screen, it's all of a sudden great and acceptable again. The hypocrisy of the writers on this site is just too funny sometimes. They will cover for their beloved Apple no matter what happens. It's actually, very sad! So when the iPhone 5 does finaly come out and has a 4" screen, we'll read articles on here about how great it is and how they can't understand why Apple kept the 3.5" screen for so long. Lol!
    1. imnothardcore's Avatar
      imnothardcore -
      I like a smaller phone so it takes up less space in my pocket.

      I don't really have any complaints about a larger screen, I can't say I have ever really desired a larger screen. Since the apps just go full screen Ive never really cared.
    1. mortopher's Avatar
      mortopher -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ozzie5374 View Post
      Do sharks and otters inhabit the same waters?
      I would like bigger screen within same frame.
      Umm yes, they do inhibit the same waters.

      I've always wanted a larger screen, but then again I have quite large hands.
    1. Bernie-Mac's Avatar
      Bernie-Mac -
      Quote Originally Posted by phoenix904 View Post
      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?
      A lot of people use one hand, myself included. I use my phone more one handed than i do two because, just like the article pointed out, its so comfortable to do. I can reach everything comfortably, and in my personal opinion people who "smartphone" (didnt know that was a verb, cool) by holding it in one hand and poking at it with the other like a perplexed grandparent look ridiculous and hinder the full fluidity of the OS, therefore making your post utter bull, sir. And Steve doesn't have a wallet anymore
    1. ThinkTank's Avatar
      ThinkTank -
      This is a missirable, backward article. One hand? Say you don't like big screens. Wow after shock of no iPhone 5. Sad.
    1. BenderRodriguez's Avatar
      BenderRodriguez -
      Quote Originally Posted by phoenix904 View Post
      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?
      Really? How do u think ppl text and drive? No retard would use to hands to type while driving and use there leg to hold the wheel, and most ppl are smart enough to be able to text 1 handed maybe your intelligence hasn't gotten to that level yet?
      I'm talking portrait mode only, if u it FAT fingers then landscape makes since, and not saying I only only use I hand to text

      How is it about the money? Wow
      If they design a bigger phone:
      1. more ppl would jump to it
      2. Apps would get redesigned and new apps would enter(money for the AppStore and developers)
      3.ppl would stop complaining and making useless threads like this when the item has been the same size since day one

      More money and pleasure all around
    1. Anthony Bouchard's Avatar
      Anthony Bouchard -
      Quote Originally Posted by Go Gators View Post
      This is article is so funny! I knew it wouldn't take long for someone to start justifying why Apple kept the same screen size. What's funny is that we read over and over about how great the new 4" screen is going to be on the new iPhone. Now that everyone is stuck with the same old 3.5" screen, it's all of a sudden great and acceptable again. The hypocrisy of the writers on this site is just too funny sometimes. They will cover for their beloved Apple no matter what happens. It's actually, very sad! So when the iPhone 5 does finaly come out and has a 4" screen, we'll read articles on here about how great it is and how they can't understand why Apple kept the 3.5" screen for so long. Lol!
      What's even funnier is that when a writer on Modmyi writes an article readers seem to assume that the article is based solely on the writers opinion. If you notice the source links at the bottom, you will see that the write-ups come from other places. Not our minds.

      In addition, I have never wrote anything concerning the iPhone having a 4 inch screen. So your hypocrisy accusation is misguided.

      I like the 3.5 inch screen, and this article takes a designer's words into perspective so that I can explain why I feel that he showed a good point. Screen size is always a moot point, and should be accepted as such. It's up to the readers to add their opinions about the screen in the comments. The article should never be used as part of a writer's comments. The writer will comment in the comments on how they feel as well.