Scaling the interface for a 5-inch ‘iPhone Plus’

“Just over a week ago I ran the numbers on a bigger screen iPhone, and presented several ways Apple could go, including just taking the current screen and stretching it out to almost 5-inches, which would give it the same 264ppi pixel density as the Retina iPad 4 screen,” Rene Ritchie writes for iMore. “Since Apple used the iPhone density to make the iPad mini, using the iPad density to make the iPhone maxi has a certain symmetry to it. But would stretching out the icons, buttons, text and other interface elements just make them look bigger, or would it make them look silly?”

Ritchie writes, “Going from 4-inches to close to 5-inches increases everything, every icon, button, ever bit of text, every pixel, by 20%. For people with accessibility issues, for whom buttons and text are too small on every iPhone released to date, that could be really welcome news. For others, it sounds overly, perhaps comically large. This is exactly inverse the debate that preceded the launch of the iPad mini, where some feared the interface element size would be too small for comfortable use. So what’s the reality?”

More info and size comparisons with iPhones and iPhone wannabes in the full article here.

Related article:
Apple prepping ‘iPhone Plus’ with 5-inch display? – February 2, 2013


  1. “So what’s the reality?” – The reality is that it’s still people making guesses, but it has to be said that these guesses do sound more plausible than most.

    It all depends on whether you think that Apple will produce a 5″ phone or not. If you think they would, then this sounds like a workable solution. Personally I’m not convinced about the argument for producing a 5” iPhone.

  2. A larger screen that actually has a larger interface would fit right in with a segment of the population that’s growing and will continue to grow, people over 50. Most people, by the time they reach 50, are having problems with their eyesight. The larger iphone would be over 50 friendly.

    Who has most of the population’s money?

    1. I am one of those people. Wish Apple would do away with the Home button or put it on the side and stretch the screen to the borders! A virtual Home button would also be a plus.

      1. Hell no, i freaking hate my Samsung virtual home button and the return or back button. Its rather “STU-PID”. And, specially when outside in the cold, the virtual buttons are non longer sensitive to the heat of my finger tips. I hope Apple keeps the physical button yet can reduce the size if they wish.

        1. And my homebutton is already defective.
          Sometimes I need to push 3 times to access the iPhone.
          A mecanic homebutton is stupid. I use only the virtual button, that can be switched in the preferences. I dont like 3 buttons like others, but one good virtual button would be the future and perfect.
          Less cost in manufacture and more space in the case.

          Aside, a bigger screen is welcome. +/- 4,5 ” full HD.
          I dont buy anymore anything else.

    2. BINGO!

      As someone approaching 50 in a few years, I’ve already had to deal with eye issues. I now wear glasses where once I got by nicely with what God Blessed me.

      Probably thanks to the iPad, but I digress.

      I’m torn between the iPhone 5 at the 4″ size with its one hand operability versus some of the larger screen phones of the competitor that is plainly a handful.

      Those with good eyesight and no need of glasses are Blessed. But if the day ever comes that you start squinting to focus to see blurred text on your iMac or iPhone, you’ll know where I’m coming.

  3. That would be great for the MDN app, which one with 57 year old eyes such as myself, finds to be right on the threshold of visibility. There is a font resize button, but unfortunately it only makes the text SMALLER!

  4. I don’t know what the fuss is all about. Apple has been working for years now towards resolution independence, so properly written software could automatically take into account various size and pixel density parameters.
    It is utterly annoying to see al the updates to iOS apps at every new device introduction. These are updates for apps written without proper foresight.

    1. I think Apple gave up on the idea of resolution independence. I believe the algorithms used in resolution independence only work with a certain subpixel layout (reg, green, blue). If you can hold the screen “upside down” or “sideways” the wrong pixels would be lit and the image looks worse. For a screen that you can rotate, it just doesn’t work. Hence Apple’s insistence on doubling resolution as a solution.

      For me, the interesting question is how Apple would position the phone. I would think that a larger screen would be priced higher than the current 4″ but I can’t see a lower resolution screen being the so-called “premium” phone. Maybe this version would be just the first generation and in the future they could double resolution again (although hard to believe).

      1. You can’t do resolution independence at the sub pixel level with today’s (or even tomorrow’s) hardware. As you say, with rotatable screens (whether you’re talking about the ACIUS screen of the early 90s or the iPhone 5 of today) getting proper grouping of the sub pixels, where you let a sub pixel move from one pixel to the next in the rotation, is going to be beyond the horsepower of any graphics processing unit of today and the next few years. However, treating fixed, full color pixels (whether you’re talking RGB or six colors as in some laser based DLP systems) as individual, indivisible units, true resolution independence can be performed to within 1/2 a pixel.

        Yes, I’ve been pushing for full, truly resolution independence within Mac OS (and before that System 7 and Mac OS 8/9). If Apple pushes, they can get the hardware to support it. Apple can fine tune the algorithms and software. It can be real within the next couple of years. Apple just needs to want to do it.

    2. Resolution independence isn’t a problem that’s just going to be solved by clever developer tools. Apple’s research into it has lead to the Retina display (which eliminates a huge chunk of the problem), but there is still a considerable amount of display fragmentation. You could say that fragmentation is very limited and well controlled by Apple, but there is no resolution independence silver bullet.

  5. Buyers at AT&T had no large iPhone to purchase so his numbers make no sense. Jeez! If a 5 inch iPhone sits next to a 4 inch iPhone the 5 inch iPhone will outsell the 4 inch iPhone 3 to 1. I guess he’s such a fanboy that he’s in denial? Nothing like making up excuses for Apple because they’re behind the curve in one area. What a waste of time reading his baloney.

  6. Usability: as a ‘phone’ 5″ is too big for easy one-handed operation but there’s lots of people always use two hands anyway, so I see a market. Why not? The target areas would be easier to hit and see, etc.. and it would make a much better book/article reader.

  7. The proper way to do it would be to take the original iPad vertical pixel count with an extended original iPad horizontal count: 768 x 1365. This would be 9 x 16. It would also be the same kind of thing they did with going from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5. Keep the same vertical pixel count but expand the horizontal count.

    With a 5″ screen this would end up being 313 ppi — less than the iPhone 4, 4S, or 5 at 326, but more than the iPad 3/4 at 264.

    This allows software designed for the original iPad to run in a box in the display with vertical black areas on each end (much like iPhone 4S specific software runs on the iPhone 5). It would also let 720p video run at full resolution as the screen is 9×16 — and it could either be exactly 720 x 1280 (with black around it) or it could be expanded (mapped) to the full 768 x 1365 screen size.

    Also I’d come out with a WiFi only variant — sort of like an iPod Touch XL. The WiFi plus cellular could be a phone or an iPad micro.

    Then to top it all off, in a few years Apple could come out with a 15″ iPad with 3072 x 4096 resolution. Why? At 9″ x 12″ it would be able to display both the U.S. standard and European standard paper sizes in full resolution at 341 ppi. The true beginning of the “Paperless Office”. Plus, it would be able to show full 4K Digital Cinema Standard resolution — natively.

    1. The problem with ANY new resolutions would be that developers would need to adapt all apps to that. Won’t happen. It was bad enough with the iPhone 5 which had just a few pixel more vertically and this is the easiest thing to adapt to.

      I think Apple could stretch the 1136×640 pixels of the iPhone 5 to about 5″ with no problems to speak of. The pixel density would be that of the Retina iPad (which isn’t bad at all) and 20% larger would make a huge difference when it comes to use the phone comfortably. It would also give Apple something to offer those who think that the current iPhone is just too smal compared to all those huge Android phones. And the pixel density wouldn’t be so high that GPU and backlight suck your battery dry in no time as with many of the high resolution phones out there right now, which is an important thing (the Nexus 4 has about half the battery life of the iPhone 5 and this *hurts*).

    2. “The proper way to do it would be to take the original iPad vertical pixel count with an extended original iPad horizontal count: 768 x 1365. This would be 9 x 16. It would also be the same kind of thing they did with going from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5. Keep the same vertical pixel count but expand the horizontal count.

      With a 5″ screen this would end up being 313 ppi — less than the iPhone 4, 4S, or 5 at 326, but more than the iPad 3/4 at 264.

      This allows software designed for the original iPad to run in a box in the display with vertical black areas on each end”

      The concept won’t work since iPad apps have much smaller touch targets (“points”) than iPhone apps, so directly displaying an iPad app on a 5″ screen would lead to buttons/targets way too small to accurately touch.

      Shrinking iPad to iPad mini (1/3 screen area reduction is already stretching the limit of accurate touch targets). Dropping that to 5″ screen (75% area reduction) would absolutely render apps too small.

  8. They won’t go less ppi than what they have now. And no, they won’t make it the same ppi as the iPad 4… people make this mistake over and over again. Because the iPhone is held closer to the face, it needs more ppi to qualify as Retina… so an iPad 4 ppi of 264 on the iPhone isn’t enough.

    Apple has the science… the benchmark: 11″ away… must be 300 ppi because at that ppi and distance, the average human cannot discern individual pixels. The closer you hold it to your face, the more you’re able to discern pixels.

    1. They even released a totally new iOS device with just 162 DPI a few months ago (the iPad mini). 264 DPI is just fine, especially since there is no way around that if you don’t want to come up with another new resolution.

      And the point IS that you then can hold the iPhone further away from your eyes then.

    2. To make this clear: iOS apps now need to know about no less than 5 resolutions:


      Add another one and the way how Android handles this (by just defining a very few rough density steps and let apps handle everything in between by stretching out to fit) starts to look better.

      With just a few resolutions iOS has the advantage of apps that are really optimized for a given display. Start to force developers to optimize for more and more screens and that advantage turns into a disadvantage. It’s already a real effort for many developers, just look at the amount of apps that still run with black bars on the top and bottom on the iPhone 5. Coming with a larger iPhone on which most apps run with black bars on all sides would be totally laughable. Especially if you want to have a larger iPhone to be still as thin, light and small as possible (which means having no room for a huge battery to feed a more powerful GPU and backlight to fire up all those pixels).

      And not coming with a larger iPhone at all would also be stupid. If you can afford to buy and keep around a small smartphone and a larger tablet and a laptop you won’t understand that, but globally more and more people just want to be able to use ONE device. They’re often commuting a lot, travelling a lot, live in crowded spaces and several devices in different sizes just don’t fit in there. For many people the main device in the post-PC times will be a phablet, something that is just large enough to read on, to type on and to view video on and just small enough to be carried all day, every day, everywhere. These are not just cellphones anymore.

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