If Apple launches larger iPhone 6, the display size sweet spot is 4.94 inches

“Rather than follow the competition, Apple has always forged their own road with their smartphone form factors,” Ewan Spence reports for Forbes. “While Samsung, HTC, and Sony were busy selling larger screened smartphones to more consumers, Apple has carried on with the smaller screened iPhone range.”

“But the discussions about an iPhone with a larger screen continue,” Spence reports. “Can Apple implement a 5 inch screened device, maintain app compatibility, and not leave behind the current generation of smartphone users?”

“Looking at the current market, the iPhone is the one of the smallest ‘fully featured’ smartphones and the continued strong sales across the range do not seem to have been hindered by the four-inch screen,” Spence reports. “There’s a natural sweet spot that Apple could go for in the iPhone 6. Retain the pixel count from the current 5S and 5C iPhones (1136×640) for software compatibility but pair this up with the 264 ppi density of the iPad Air’s retina display and you end up with a screen that has a diagonal distance of 4.94 inches.”

Read more in the full article here.

43 Comments

    1. Exactly, Paul.

      Movie theaters with 4k digital projectors on a 40-foot-wide screen have a pixel density of only 8.5 pixels per inch. Yet they appear perfectly sharp. Why? As you say: Because people sit back further from big screens so they are at a comfortable angular size.

      The rules governing this are laid down in the laws of optics of cinematography and the human vision system. A “normal” lens captures an image measuring one radian (57.3°) diagonally. For a 35 mm camera, that’s a 57.3 mm lens (though it’s often 50–55 mm to shoot very slightly “wide”).

      To view any image shot with a normal lens, the viewer receives the most-immersive (realistic) experience by positioning himself so the screen is one radian diagonally in apparent size.

      Normal 20/20 human vision is a visual acuity of one minute of arc (1/60th of a degree). So at a 4k movie theater, where a common format measures 4631 pixels diagonally, sitting at the one-radian sweet spot means each pixel is only 0.74 minute of angle—you can’t see the pixels.

      We normally sit further from flat-screen TVs than one diagonal-size away from them—often two diagonals away—and that’s why there’s not much point buying a 4k TV unless you plan on sitting unusually close to it.

      The same goes for our smart phones; we tend to hold them roughly two screen-diagonals away from our eyes. At 2x screen diagonal, the 4-inch iPhone 5/5c/5s has an angular pixel density of 1.32 minutes of arc per pixel, which is just barely perceptible—if you hold the screen only 8 inches from your eye.

      Doing as Ewan Spence of Forbes suggests, merely taking the 1136×640 screen resolution and stretching it from 326 ppi to 264 ppsi simply isn’t in the cards; not with competitors’ phones already at 1920×1080.

      We can expect that a 5-inch screen will have an angular pixel density of about 1 minute of arc when viewed from two diagonals away, which is 1718 pixels diagonally. At 16:9 aspect ratio, that’s 1498×842. Since competitors are already at the magic full-HD resolution of 1920×1080, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple did the same.

    2. In the art world, the diagonal distance of the picture is the perfect viewing distance between the eyes and the image.

      With the iPhone of course, unless you’ve gone some young eyes, that’s not gonna happen. It’s not commonly the case with TVs or computer screens either. We’re typically farther away than ‘The Ideal Viewing Distance’.

      Of course, with pre-retina quality displays, one reason why was the relatively big, fat pixels on the screen. We want to sit further back so the pixel density we see becomes blurred into what we perceive as a nice picture. The Retina pixel density does away with that effect. You can’t see the pixels at The Ideal Viewing Distance.

      Just some relevant points. It ends up being a matter of taste and habit. I’ve known some people who aren’t comfortable watching TVs and displays unless they’re a remarkably far distance away.

    3. Having an iPad Air, I’ve never had issues with the quality of the screen at all. The text is sharp, black are blacks, whites are whites, and colors really stand out. If 264ppi can work well on a 9.7″ iPad Air, it can work on a theoretical 4.94″ iPhone.

      1. Apparently Samsung Note 3 is the sweet sized portable tablet with phone… Apple missed the opportunity to deliver such a device… however, Apple prefers not to follow but rather see beyond the ho-hom average thinking… so perhaps bigger screens are not the way… smaller ones that involve the devices we have already with technology such as Siri.

        I love telling Siri to text message others, keeping my iPad Mini in my briefcase and communicating through my Bluetooth ear phone.

        Imagine a Watch that can provide me better linkage to my device then my ear phone.

    4. While I agree that for a 5in diagonal, the number of pixels should become fullHD, the trouble with yet another screen size is that we’ll see another round of very intrusive app updates.

      There has been a lot of talk about resolution independence, but apps should be designed with robustness in mind, as far as pixel sizes are concerned.

      1. Nope – the sweet spot is 1.52-inch

        5 and 6 inches will be deemed not excessive, once our habits for using voice and text communcation goes full Siri.

        iWatch will mark the end of Siri’s beta period.

    1. People are different sizes, they have different sized hands, different quality of eye sight, different use cases, different favorite apps, different sized pockets, different mixes/tradeoffs of digital hardware, and different budgets.

      After the OS, screen size is easily the most important variable feature of a touch screen computer. Both input (touch) and output (screen) are enabled and limited by screen size.

      In a market with billions of users, and consists literally of just touch screens with a few buttons (from the users perspective), there needs to be a range of screen sizes so people can meet their needs best. That is what Apple is about isn’t it? And we are talking about just 3 or 4 screen sizes max for phones.

      When Apple only sells one size, or one legacy size and one newer size, it is not about meeting customers needs it is about meeting Apple’s needs, i.e. keeping product line simple. But Apple already ships less important variations such as memory capacity. The iPhone has been out now for over 6 years and 7 major versions. They should have had a range of sizes long ago.

      Nobody would argue that their is a “right” size for computer monitors, but some people seem to be so short-sighted (pun!) they cannot see other people have different size needs in something they may use even more, their phone.

      1. “People are different sizes, they have different sized hands, different quality of eye sight, different use cases, different favorite apps, different sized pockets, different mixes/tradeoffs of digital hardware, and different budgets.”

        Right. And where, exactly, does it say that a company, any company, has a moral obligation to cater to every possible variation of all of those variables?

        1. The quote you start with is non-controversial and doesn’t have much to do with your comment. You refer to concepts such as “moral obligation” and “every possible variation” as if my comment implied either, which it did not.

    1. This is exactly what I think they’ll do. I think Apple would have a hard time lowering the definition of Retina along with the spec, especially when the competition is exceeding that.

      Also matching the DPI accomplishes nothing. What really needs to be matched is the aspect ratio at certain optimal stop points. 1420×800 happens to be just that and equates to 5″ at the same current DPI that Apple has defined as Retina.

      For developers, they could do nothing and the apps would scale up. They’d still look good, but in most cases wouldn’t be too much work to optimize.

      I think they’ll do this in addition to offering a 4″.

      1. “…..especially when the competition is exceeding that.”

        It depends on how you define exceeding. If by exceeding you mean bringing out smartphones with higher ppi screens, then yes you’re right. But as we saw with the megapixel wars with smartphone cameras, we now know that more megapixels doesn’t mean a better camera or photos. The quality of your photos is dependant on the quality of the entire camera system (ie: lens size, flash, etc.).

        The same concept applies with screens. More ppi does not mean an overall better screen. There are other data points that need to be taken into consideration in determining screen quality like contrast or sRGB capability. I will put my iPhone 5s’ screen up against any Android, and you can tell it’s qualitatively better even at lower ppi.

        1. “If by exceeding you mean bringing out smartphones with higher ppi screens, then yes you’re right.”

          Yes, that’s all I meant.

          That said though, the comparison to be made is a hypothetical 264ppi 4.94″ display compared to the competition, not the iPhone 5S (326ppi) compared to the competition. Again, it’s a resolution that even Apple declared wouldn’t be Retina based on the distance people hold phones at.

          Now, they could say people hold 4.94″ phones further away, but really, it would be hard for Apple to spin that when they’ve been pushing higher ppi along with everyone else and while others are significantly exceeding it.

    1. I thought the 3:2 aspect ratio of iPhones before the 5 were perfect. If they would have just stretched the iPhone 4/S screen to 4″ or maybe 4.3″ for the iPhone 5 and kept the same pixel resolution, the pixel density would be a little less, but it would have still looked amazing and developers wouldn’t need to do anything to their apps.

  1. Nope, it would be 4.8 at best. Bezels can slim but the size of the fingerprint sensor wont considerably.
    It also would give room to expand the screen size slightly as bezels trim, without affecting the external form (to minimize disruption to accessory makers).

  2. The sweet spot for cars before Henry Ford started production was a 25% faster horse.

    Other manufacturers cannot make iPhones and are stuck with Android. The only thing they can do to ‘improve’ on it is to make bigger phones rather than better phones. BIGGER IS NOT BETTER!

    1. Samsung produces the OLED display – a different pixel and colour setting then Apple’s direction with Retina. – Thats innovation – but not meaning it is better… the point is Samsung didnt copy here Apple on that however strives to improve and better its Products on a competitive price point. Some people even prefer the display over Apples.

      Samsung has seen “Phablets” as an innovating market niche, one Apple says they refuse to travel. 2014 predicts these Phablet devices to be the big sellers, based on screen size that allows for better mobile computing and of course the ability to make regular phone calls; like its line of phones. The pen is no innovation and may/may not assist in the devices’ usability.

      The perception of value. True, bigger is not necessarily better – nor is a soft metal over plastics a better choice. Plastics are more durable – again not an innovation but a choice by Samsung since people do drop things.

      With Apple remaining a partner to Samsung, who provides approximately 80% of the iPhone components; Samsung earns profit 1) from its entire line of Android devices (low and high end), 2) its orders from the likes of Google phones and other handset developers, and of course from 3) Apple iPhones etc.

      Samsung ain’t stuck with anything.

    1. Depends on the country.
      In the US, Apple and Samsung are the top sellers.
      Other countries, Samsung is outselling Apple but that is more about Samsung having low end cheap phones available.

      1. Well, Apple could certainly add to the cheap end of the mkt if they want:
        “According to a teardown analysis carried out analysts at IHS, a top-of-the-line 64GB iPhone 5s, which retails unlocked for $849, costs Apple a mere $218 to build, a price that includes the manufacturing costs.”
        Plenty of scope to reduce the price a touch….

  3. So, when Apple launches an iPhone with a larger display is it going to greatly boost iPhone sales? I don’t think so. I believe the only reason Android smartphone sales are higher is because they’re less expensive than iPhones. There are some rumors that Apple may charge more for the larger iPhones but I hope that isn’t the case.

    I’m sure whenever Apple comes out with a larger display for the iPhone, the smartphone industry will have some other gripe about what iPhones are lacking. It’s always something people have to complain about.

    1. How could it not help sales? It isn’t going to drive iPhone customers to Android phones. If no one wants to buy the larger iPhone they will keep buying the smaller iPhone which of course will still be available. That won’t be the case of course, the larger iPhone will easily outsell the smaller current form factor iPhone. But in either case, iPhone sales will not contract. But the additional sales to people who wanted a larger phone will be in addition to those who want to stick with the old iPhone. So of course it will increase sales. Any sales of larger iPhones will be an increase. Your angst over the poor performance of AAPL is showing.

    2. The larger screens are a big draw for the 50+ crowd. There are tons of us out here. Our eyesight is not as good as 20 somethings. If Apple offers a little bit bigger screen that is more readable for us, we will migrate to it. There are tens of millions of baby boomers, and they like iPhones. But there are many 50+ folks I know who have moved over to Samsung for this very reason. Not because it is cheap.

  4. What would be the advantage of matching the iPad resolution? Are my eyes somehow trained to 264 ppi because I use an iPad? People are not clamoring for an extremely big iPhone that is bumping against a ppi ceiling, they just want it a little bigger. If anything we can say that that ppi would by the maximum that is still acceptable as retina and that the new screen size should be somewhere between 4 inch and 4.94 inch. I would guess 4.3, 4.5, or 4.7, because from my personal experience 5 inch is just not comfortable anymore, and the struggles of the latest Samsung Galaxy S4 seem to confirm that. 4.7 inch seems to be the sweetspot as far as the Android market goes.

  5. Yet, i still think that a smaller iPhone would be a smart thing.
    For those (like me) who never use a smartphone to watch movies or play fancy games, but use it for calendar, messages, FaceTime or other practical stuff, a more pocket sized iPhone would be fine. I’d immediately sell my 5S to get that small one.

  6. Apple currently offers 3 sizes of retina screens.

    Once Apple decides to provide iPad Mini
    as a true “phablet” the sweet spot will be declared as 7.9″:

    – 7.9-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi-Touch display with IPS technology

    – 2048-by-1536 resolution at 326 pixels per inch (ppi)
    Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating

  7. There is no “sweet spot” !!!

    Different people have different needs and abilities. If Apple expects to serve them well, then Apple will need to offer an array of products. Period.

    One must also agree with Mr. Metric. Apple buys displays from suppliers who work in metric. Most industries of the world, and also in the USA, are metric or at the very least dual-dimensioned on all important literature. But who are we kidding? It’s cheaper and it’s easier to work in one universal system rather than continuing the charade that is the English measurement system. It’s long past time that Apple showed the world it still can “Think Different”. Go metric once and for all.

    A 12.5 cm screen sounds a lot more impressive than a 5 inch screen, and more importantly it doesn’t use some random monarch’s finger length as a “unit of measurement”. The world would be a better place if all weights and measures were metric.

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