How will Apple maintain usability on a larger iPhone?

“If the rumor mill is to be given any credence, Apple will be releasing an iPhone with a larger display, possibly between 4.5 and 4.8-inches, along with a larger 5.5-inch or 6-inch ‘phablet’ later this year,” Sanjiv Sathiah writes for Electronista. “Although Apple has been content to run its own race historically, the rise in popularity of large Android smartphones, and the expectations of Wall Street, almost demands that Apple offers an iPhone that appeals to users who prefer larger displays. In fact, it would be more of surprise come the unveiling of the ‘iPhone 6’ if Apple were to release only another 4-inch device.”

“Until now, Apple’s seeming reluctance to embrace a larger iPhone has revolved around one-handed usability and what it considers to be unacceptable trade-offs that compromise the user experience,” Sathiah writes. “If Apple does indeed launch an iPhone with a larger display, how will it maintain the usability of an iPhone with a larger display?”

Tons more in the full article here.


  1. While I didn’t read the full article (link not working?) I have been concerned about this for some time. Upgrading to the 5 it became just slightly harder to reach the back buttons commonly located at the top left. This is compounded by strings of notifications that largely cover this button at times. Perhaps navigation would be better on large screens at the bottom for easy one handed access, as in Safari (and admittedly, Android). That would be a fairly significant global redesign and take some getting used to.

    1. Apple should create larger iPhones for those who feel screen size is the biggest feature they need, while continuing to sell the current size and even a 4″ model. Heck, a tiny 3″ iPhone nano model that acted mostly like phone/iPod wouldn’t be a bad option either.

      For myself, I am very ready for as large of a phone as I can fit in my large pockets. I just REALLY hope they don’t merge iPhone/iPad names and call it an iPhad!

    2. There will be no need to upgrade to bigger iPhone unless you would want it, because iPhone 6 will still have 4″ screen.

      Bigger screen model will be released in parallel, and it will be two-hands-use device, as iPad mini (though still much smaller, of course).

    3. “How will Apple maintain the usability of an iPhone with a larger display?”

      That’s an easy one; if they make it, the same way they did that for the AppleTV and the iPod nano, following the “less is more” principle, which Scott followed to the letter.

  2. Speaking from the point of view of someone who has never been bothered about one-handed usability, I don’t much care. I never use my phone one-handed, it’s something I feel awkward to do, so I’ll be more than happy to have extra real-estate on the screen for photos, web-browsing, etc.
    And as for carrying the phone, I’m not the sort of muppet who wears tight jeans, sticks the phone in a back pocket then sits down, and complains that it then gets broken. Mine is in a fairly bulky case, (TakTik), and still goes into my front pocket; a larger 6 will go into a less bulky case, like a Lifeproof, and still fit comfortably into a front pocket.
    If the next iPhone comes with a Liquidmetal frame, sapphire glass, A8 processor, 10Mp camera and 128Gb of storage, and a 4.8-5″ screen, it could, quite possibly, be the last one I’ll need to buy, it’ll fulfil all the requirements I have for a pocketable computer and cameraphone.
    Here’s hoping, anyway.

  3. I think Apple has taken it to the ragged edge of tech & market patience for a larger iPhone. The last update should have updated size to some degree and any more delay now might cast even more negative aspersions of Apple. I am not referring so much to myself but the market in general and for those who waffle and size might make a difference in what they buy. As a stockholder I want to see more people happy and given options and thus increased M/P margins resulting in a higher stock price.

    1. @peterblood71

      IMO You’ve really hit the nail on the head with this comment.

      The issue is exactly as you say: It irrelevant that SOME want the old size, the issue is that that there are significant numbers who want the larger size. Thus market share, revenues and investors are best served by having products for a range of screen size preferences.

      It will be interesting to see how apple handles app scaling.

  4. Seems like a great opportunity for Samsung to me. If Apple does decide to increase the size of its already too large (in some ways) iPhone, Samsung will make a 4-inch full-featured version of its best phone to sell alongside the phablet version. With a good marketing campaign, it will destroy the iPhone. In General, iPhone users don’t want a phone they cannot use with one hand.

    A better strategy for Apple would be to keep the iPhone the same size as it is now, offer a phablet for the Chinese market under a different name, and make the iPhone easier to use by offering a mode that replaces the top row of app icons with a mini-notification center for those of us who don’t have basketball-player-sized hands.

    1. I agree on the part about the Chinese market, or any other emerging market where customers don’t have the money to buy an iPhone and an IPad. To me, this would be the only reason that Apple would make a phablet.

      Since ( as Derek posted yesterday) the big Note 3 is only 1/30 of Samsung’s smart device sales, and the iPhone is selling at an astounding rate, it’s clear that at least to now, that Apple’s devices are sized right for the developed economy countries, where they use both iPhones and iPads. Each is great at what it does. But to expand their market into the lower standard of living countries, they may have to start selling the larger units. But they may just sell 4s models there, and later the 5c.

      The sales data doesn’t show some huge driving force on Apple to make the phablets. All I hear are uninformed AnalCysts writing about stuff they don’t understand. Not that I understand the markets all that well, but I don’t write columns about it.

    1. Agreed. That’s the only thing people point to on the Android phones. Not, it’s great, it works well, I love it, but it has a big screen.
      I still say carry an iPad mini with cellular and use a VoIP app if you really want that functionality.

    2. I’m a little concerned that the drumbeat for larger phones may distract Apple from its focus on perfecting a small number of products. What if they diversify like Procter & Gamble with 17 shampoos, or Samsung with 21 smartphone models? It would dilute the brand value in addition to reducing margins. What if they don’t sell well? What will the rap be on Apple then?

      They already multiplied the number of new iPhones by eight: five colours of 5C and three of 5S. The psychology of consumer choice can be tricky, as everyone discovered after those products were released. Too many choices can reduce happiness; the complaints have only escalated. How dare Apple make a black metal phone with a white front, and not a white plastic phone with a white front— the one * I * want? It’s only slightly joking to demand a perfumed version — Scentee makes an accessory for that, and Samsung filed a patent last year for a scent-infused smartphone.

      The iPhone 4S, unapologetically glass, completes every ensemble in my wardrobe. Now that I must upgrade, my decision tree expands in a thicket of worrisome choices. A first-world problem? Most assuredly; but smart attire and presentation are legitimate costs of doing business.

  5. Apple would like to thank all of you for your wonderful information, and is getting ready to implement all of your ideas right away! Without your vision, Apple is going to die as you all suspected. Given everyone’s invaluable specs, the iPhone 6 will be:

    * 3.5″, 4.0″, 4.2″, 4.5″, 4.8″, 4.9″, 5.0″, 5.5″, 5.9″ & 6.0″ (It’s stretchable!)

    * iOS 7 will be all-black, have a Harley Davidson logo on the main screen and shoot out a mixture of Drakkar cologne and male pheromones.


  6. Prediction:

    The 4.5 inch iPhone 6 will be remarkably narrow and compact with just enough room for another row of icons. It will be introduced in early September. There will be no 4 inch iPhone 6. The 5S will remain in the line up as will the 5C. They may even replace the 5S with a 5SC to drive more sales of the 6 and increase margins on the $99 product.

    The 6 inch phablet will be in the iPad family and likely named “iPad nano” and come in WiFi only and WiFi with full cellular, it will be introduced in late October. There will be three iPad sizes, the 6 inch, 7.85 inch, and the 9.7 inch.

    1. Sounds good to me. Also, the 5C or 5SC needs to be offered in normal colors (like all black, all white). The current 5C color combinations are ridiculous and hamper sales of the device, IMO.

  7. It may be a bit premature to reveal this, but my accessories startup is preparing to formally announce the iThumbster, a retractable thumb extender. The bluetooth-enabled model will be fully integrated with Siri, as in, “Siri, extend my thumb.”

    To ensure safety of operation, an integrated thumb recognizer will prevent the use of the iThumbster on unauthorized appendages.

    Future versions will not only enable single-thumb operation of larger phones, but also encase an assortment of user-selected power tools, eating utensils, and medical equipment.

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