The Internet is rife with speculation that Apple will release an iPhone with a larger screen. This has been going on for years. I doubt that Apple will ever release a significantly larger iPhone, as the device is designed for one-handed use and easy storage.
Should There Be a Larger iPhone?
For years, cell phones were designed to be as small and slim as possible. With the advent of smartphones, there is some justification to make the device bigger. Smartphones are small computers. A larger screen makes the device easier to use, up to a point. If the device is too big, as many are, it is no longer possible for most people to use the device with one hand. This is important, because you may have an umbrella, drink, food, leash or subway handle in the other hand. It also makes the device difficult to pocket.
The fact is, many smartphone manufacturers developed larger devices out of necessity. Many of the components are “off-the-shelf” and not really designed for smartphones. Apple delayed implementation of 4G networking because the components were not suitable for smartphones. Other devices need bigger batteries and more powerful processors, as the operating systems aren’t as efficient as iOS. All of these factors necessitated larger devices. The only option was to either make the device wider and longer, or increase the thickness. Either option has its advantages and disadvantages. A thicker device feels more bulky, but offers easy one-handed operation. A wider and longer device is more difficult to use with one hand. Both make pocketing the device more difficult.
Many smartphone manufacturers do offer “mini” versions of their large-screen models. These smaller smartphones typically offer very limited battery life and scaled-down functionality. The impetus for a larger smartphone is to house a bigger battery and larger components.
If you haven’t noticed, there’s a smartphone war going on. Pundits on both sides are touting the superiority of either platform. Since one faction has bigger screens, some people claim these are superior. The allegation is that Apple doesn’t have the competence to make a device with a larger screen. If one looks at market research, however, there is a right size for smartphone screens — no bigger than four inches.
Some people may want a large screen, even a phablet. Most people want, at most, a four-inch screen. Consumers want the device to fit in their pocket. While it’s nice to have screen size options, designing and manufacturing many different models negates economies of scale. If Apple did this, iPhones would cost more and would be less profitable.
Apple made the decision that if you want a device with a large screen, buy it from another manufacturer. The people complaining about the iPhone’s “small” screen size are not customers, for the most part. They are tech pundits. Most of them don’t even own an iPhone. Would they buy an iPhone if it had a five-inch screen? Probably not. They would just move on to another talking point. (Perhaps that Apple copied the larger size from a competitor.) Apple designs devices for consumers, not to placate tech bloggers.
What is the Right Size for the iPhone?
Most tech pundits are unaware of how corporations make their decisions. Many of them have never worked at a corporation that develops consumer products. Having worked in such a capacity for a few decades, I know the importance of market research. After all, one needs to develop a device that people will purchase. If a corporation makes many devices and offers lots of options, they will not achieve economies of scale. The device manufacturers offering many different models are also not very profitable. Their devices are expensive and they cut corners, using inexpensive materials, in order to compensate for the lack of manufacturing efficiencies.
Market research reveals that a smartphone should have a screen that’s no bigger than four inches. That’s what most consumers desire:
“There comes a point where if the phone does not easily fit into a person’s pocket, then its appeal diminishes,” said Canalys’s Shepherd. Because of this potential limitation, the market research officially lists smartphones as devices having a maximum screen size of four inches…”
The iPhone 5 and 5S have larger screens than their predecessor. Both models offer a four-inch screen. The devices aren’t wider than the iPhone 4S. Users are able to fit the 5-series phones in their pockets and operate them with one hand. A device has to be a certain size to operate as a phone. A large device can be tiring to hold up to one’s ear for extended periods.
iPhone Won’t Be Much Larger
When has Apple ever made anything big? They pride themselves in making the smallest devices possible. Saturday Night Live even poked fun at this tendency for miniaturization.
Future iPhones may have larger screen sizes, but this won’t come at the expense of ergonomics. An iPhone with a bigger screen will accomplish this at the expense of a smaller bezel. Rumors abound that Apple is moving into curved AMOLED displays. They are not the first to do this. Apple recently acquired a plant in Arizona to manufacture safire glass. If the future iPhone has a curved edge-to-edge screen, it would make for a larger screen size without sacrificing ergonomic design. I’m not saying that the iPhone will never have a larger screen. This may happen. It just won’t come at the expense of making the device unwieldy.
Another possibility, which I feel is more likely, would be a iPad phablet — the iPad Nano. This device would be smaller than the iPad Mini but larger than the iPhone. A larger iPhone would be hard to use as a phone. A smaller iPad wouldn’t be used as a phone, unless the user installs a VOIP app. The device would be ideal as a portable gaming platform and entertainment system.
An iPad Nano is possible, but not likely. While Apple is well-known for making different sizes of devices, be it Macs, iPods, or iPads, they have been cutting down on model variation. They killed off the standard MacBook. Now there’s just the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Too many models makes it difficult to achieve economies of scale. This is crucial for Apple. They need to make products that people can afford. They need to make a profit. Apple is not the company that will develop 20 models of smartphones. If you want these choices, look elsewhere.