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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. gehjl's Avatar
      gehjl -
      Wasn't that the point of siri? To not have to stop what you are doing to text, make appointments, I'm sure to write an email, etc. etc?

      I have no problem typing one handed on my 4.3 inch phone: I swype. Don't even have to take my eyes off the road, or I could just push that mic button on my keyboard. I made fun of my friends and the laptop sized phone they owned when I had the iPhone, but now I couldn't go back to the small screen of the iPhone.
    1. punjabi212's Avatar
      punjabi212 -
      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!
      +1
    1. ChSchuldiner's Avatar
      ChSchuldiner -
      Quote Originally Posted by punjabi212 View Post
      +1
      -1

      smh...
    1. flintoff's Avatar
      flintoff -
      well i dont know you pplzbut i have nexus s 4G with 4" and its perfect. i can reach anywhere by holding in one hand without any problem or any hassel.. i have 3gs too but i think for smart phones 4" or 4.3" is the perfect size..
    1. gehjl's Avatar
      gehjl -
      Quote Originally Posted by ChSchuldiner View Post
      -1

      smh...
      Let me help you out:

      Leaked iPhone 5 Front Panel Points to Larger Screen, Thinner Bezel

      And some quotes:

      "fudge yes i like the looks of that

      And bigger screen because HTC HD2 has it Galaxy S has bigger screen mytouch has bigger screen, bigger screen is better =)

      A larger screen, would be very much welcomed, by a lot of people. If they keep the phone the same size, but increase the screen radios; then I agree this would be a welcome and competitive addition!

      Personally I'm all for it. 4" is the perfect compromise when it comes to screen size. Any larger would be too big, but you cant seriously look at your iPhone 4 and think that the current 3.5" screen is "perfect"?!

      that is looking pretty tasty right now...

      Please let this be true, I would love a bigger screen!

      Regardless if this is true or not I'd like a bigger screen!

      I would welcome a slightly larger screen, without increasing the actual iPhone4 size.

      Jizz in my pants"
    1. darthdurden's Avatar
      darthdurden -
      Quote Originally Posted by iLoveWindows&iPhone View Post
      ...I use two hands the majority of the time I'm using my iPhone. Texting...two hands. Browsing...2 hands. I could think of more examples, but you get my point.
      You should never NEED 2 hands to use a phone though should you?

      Also, why would you want a bigger screen such as the galaxy sII if the resolution is so horrible?
    1. lexiconby's Avatar
      lexiconby -
      that's right! i want to be able to have the choice to break the law by driving and texting if i choose. at least it's a safer way of breaking the law than using 2 hands
    1. Tomcat50's Avatar
      Tomcat50 -
      I'm happy as it is. There is various comments made by me on this before fanroids/trolls/pricks jump on me about it. At best it could go up to 4 inch for me but that's it's. I like the formfactor of iPhone 4/4s. I've had a go on some of the bigger roid phones and considering the amount I use a smartphone it just wouldn't be comfy for my grubby paws.
      Bigger isn't always better. The only thing I want from apple is iOS 5. Then it's perfect for my needs.
    1. Matthew_Madlock's Avatar
      Matthew_Madlock -
      Quote Originally Posted by Donnutt View Post
      Very well written article. I had never thought of it like that but I can comfortably hold the iPhone in one hand and type a quick text or email. I always liked the iPhone's screen, and if they went to a larger screen I honestly don't know if I would buy one. Plus the iPhone's screen is higher resolution than most of the 4" and larger screens out there.



      Shouldn't you have the windows 7 phone? Just saying...
      I must tell you that for the dpi (dots per inch) it's unrivaled except for the Nokia n8 which is 328dpi the iPhone is 326dpi

      Quote Originally Posted by 240v View Post
      I think Apple has the perfect blend of performance, specs and usability.

      And you (writer) said that apps work on all idevices because of this screen size? I think that should be questioned as Samsung Galaxy SII is 800x400 pxls and still looks very sharp. So they could up iphone screen to 4 inch but keep the 960x720 resolution then it would work with existing apps right?
      The problem comes with the change in the aspect ratio
    1. iLoveWindows&iPhone's Avatar
      iLoveWindows&iPhone -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ozzie5374 View Post
      Do sharks and otters inhabit the same waters?
      I would like bigger screen within same frame.
      Hahaha, best comment on a typo ever!

      And the word I was trying to type but my hands are to big (just kidding) was "other".

      Quote Originally Posted by darthdurden View Post
      You should never NEED 2 hands to use a phone though should you?

      Also, why would you want a bigger screen such as the galaxy sII if the resolution is so horrible?
      I don't "need" to use two hands, I prefer it. As it is much more than just a phone. If I am using it JUST as a phone, of course I only need one hand. Screen size really doesn't come into play here, unless it's like the size of an iPad, and weighs 5 pounds...that might be hard to hold up to your ear and talk into!

      And I'm not complaining about the screen size, but I guarantee Apple will increase the screen size in the next iPhone...and I won't complain about that either.

      Also, there is no way Apple will increase the screen size and lower the resolution.
    1. dsg's Avatar
      dsg -
      Quote Originally Posted by darthdurden View Post
      You should never NEED 2 hands to use a phone though should you?
      it's not just a Phone though it's handheld computer and using it two handed is required some times,

      half an inch more screen wouldn't cause much of an issue, with the reach of thumb
    1. iPhonePutz's Avatar
      iPhonePutz -
      I'm more than happy with the 3.5" screen. Sure it's can be hard to read for long periods, but I'm not spending hours at a time surfing the web or playing games on my phone. That's why I have an iPad. Besides, anything much bigger than the iPhone wouldn't fit in my pocket and I hate wearing phones in a holster.

      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.

      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.
      Finally someone that understands that bigger isn't always better in the display world. You see the same nonesense in the home theater world. Guys have to have the biggest picture possible, but don't realize that the bigger the screen, the worse the picture. Sure, it's still 1080P but those same pixels are spread over a greater area just as Orby stated. Biggers pixels + bigger pitch = crappy picture.

      Putz
    1. BenderRodriguez's Avatar
      BenderRodriguez -
      The phone could logically be bigger and everything would still work perfect

      Example: applications made for iPhone work on iPad, they start bigger then the iPhone when u enter the game before u hit 2X

      Thus If they did a symmetrical stretch it would work
    1. n00neimp0rtant's Avatar
      n00neimp0rtant -
      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.
      If you have an iPad with FullForce installed, you should know that this is not true. Apps built with Interface Builder (i.e. almost every app that uses a navigation bar) automatically resize to the screen.
    1. golf4life80's Avatar
      golf4life80 -
      For me, the same size screen is the reason I won't be using my upgrade on the 4S.
    1. PatrickGSR94's Avatar
      PatrickGSR94 -
      Alright lets do some math. According to Apple a "retina" display is one with 300 pixels per inch or higher. I'm not sure if that's some kind of industry-standard label or something that Apple made up, but let's go with that anyway.

      The iPhone screen has an aspect ratio of 1.5:1. Older models had 480x320 (landscape), while the iPhone 4 doubled those numbers to 960x640 (quadruple the number of pixels, still same aspect ratio). At 3.5" diagonal, the screen's dimensions are 1.96" x 2.94" for a pixel density of 326 ppi.

      So then if they made the screen 4" diagonal while keeping the same 960x640 resolution (to keep all apps from having to be re-written), the dimensions work out to 2.22" x 3.33". or 288 ppi. To keep at least 300 ppi the screen could only be 3.85" diagonal with 640x960 resolution.

      So let me ask you this, then. What is the point of a larger screen if the screen resolution stays the same? Not a whole lot, really, IMHO.
    1. gehjl's Avatar
      gehjl -
      Nevermind, misread.
    1. bolojohn's Avatar
      bolojohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by BenderRodriguez View Post
      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
      most people are smart enough to at list not to text while driving... , sorry but what you have said above is one of the stupidest conclusions people can make. Nothing personal. And regarding the subject, 4" in my opinion would be perfect, so shouldn't be a big problem for people with tiny palms and short thumbs and will make giants a little bit happier.
    1. Greatbiguns's Avatar
      Greatbiguns -
      Quote Originally Posted by punjabi212 View Post
      +1

      Can we please just get it over with already and release the much anticipated iPhone XL.... I mean enough with talk about a smaller iphone, bring on the MONSTER iPhone XL already!!

      Oh Word...
    1. n0m0n's Avatar
      n0m0n -
      Quote Originally Posted by PatrickGSR94 View Post
      Alright lets do some math. According to Apple a "retina" display is one with 300 pixels per inch or higher. I'm not sure if that's some kind of industry-standard label or something that Apple made up, but let's go with that anyway.

      The iPhone screen has an aspect ratio of 1.5:1. Older models had 480x320 (landscape), while the iPhone 4 doubled those numbers to 960x640 (quadruple the number of pixels, still same aspect ratio). At 3.5" diagonal, the screen's dimensions are 1.96" x 2.94" for a pixel density of 326 ppi.

      So then if they made the screen 4" diagonal while keeping the same 960x640 resolution (to keep all apps from having to be re-written), the dimensions work out to 2.22" x 3.33". or 288 ppi. To keep at least 300 ppi the screen could only be 3.85" diagonal with 640x960 resolution.

      So let me ask you this, then. What is the point of a larger screen if the screen resolution stays the same? Not a whole lot, really, IMHO.
      How do you explain the android market that works on a Droid 3.5, fascinate 4", DroidX 4.3"???
      Same apps different size screens.