How a bigger iPhone 6 will require developers to rethink their app designs

“When I first upgraded from my iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5s, I immediately noticed an incredible upgrade in the clarity and sharpness of the larger 4-inch Retina display, but also some usability issues that plagued my iPhone usage experience for the following months,” Jordan Kahn reports for 9to5Mac.

“That’s why I’m excited for the pixel tripling 3x mode at 1704 x 960 resolution Apple is currently testing for the iPhone 6, but simultaneously worried about the day to day use of iOS on a larger 4.7 or 5.5-inch device,” Kahn reports. “Apple currently recommends developers focus specifically on the upper left portion of the iPhone display for important navigation functions and considers the lower right portion of the screen ‘less important.’ That’s not going to fly with a larger 4.7-inch+ display, and it’s got me wondering if app developers will have to fundamentally rethink the layout of apps in addition to any changes to support the next iPhone’s increased resolution.”

“The question is whether or not Apple’s standard navigation buttons and recommendations for app developers will need to change to accommodate a different experience with the larger display,” Kahn reports. “Even if Apple and developers address these usability issues that get introduced with the larger display, perhaps a market for a 4-inch or smaller high-end smartphone will emerge in the process. I’m not just worried about the navigation problems, I’m also not too excited about lugging the larger device around in my pocket.”

Much more, including screenshots and videos, in the full article here.


  1. Good. Way to keep things fresh.

    As for a sub-four inch iPhone, sounds great to me. In fact why not cancel the 4 inch model and offer the iPhone in 3.5 inch, 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch options? I don’t have a problem with a smaller phone so long as I have the option of purchasing a larger one.

  2. As someone mentioned the other day, the swipe-right gesture to go back was probably introduced to start getting people (and some apps) away from the back button at the top of the screen. Problem is at least some apps (e.g. Tapatalk) use this to go back/forward within a paginated discussion, and still need a back button to actually go back a level.

    Safaris has had back button and other controls at the bottom for awhile now, too, maybe we’ll start seeing title and URL bars moved to the bottom too with a larger screen. That flies against our usual instinct to scan top-to-bottom for things, but just as the iPhone broke away from the traditional computer UI in 2007, a larger touchscreen may warrant turning other old ideas on their heads by concentrating common controls where single hands/thumbs can easily reach.

  3. First of all, the guidelines are not about reachability, they’re about the path a normal user takes when looking over the screen. They usually start at the top-left and work their way down. It is most important that the user “immediately” understands how to navigate, especially how to exit the current screen. This applies regardless of screen size. This will not change how Apple wants developers to design their apps.

    (Take a look at most websites – where’s the navigation site navigation? It almost always starts at the top-left. How about menus and toolbars in applications? The same.)

    Usability issues come with larger screen sizes and single-handed use. Like the author I have a problem with my iPhone 5 that I did not have on the smaller screened iPhone 4. However, with iOS 7 Apple attempted to alleviate the need to reach the most often used top-left UI element by adding the ability to swipe left-to-right to go back to the previous screen.

  4. What an idiotic non-article. Apple has always recommended building apps with flexible interfaces, and the latest versions of Xcode and the new APIs are incredibly helpful with implementing it. There will always be developers that will ignore that advice until they get bit by it. It only took a couple months for most apps to get up to speed with the iPhone 5 update (a week or 2 for the large majority, some apps had more internal changes that needed to be addressed as opposed to purely cosmetic). That this numb nut is “worried” when most devs KNOW at this point that Apple will monkey with screen resolution is ridiculous. And no one is forcing this small pocketed monkey to buy a larger device. What a pathetic piece of writing.
    Now let me tell you how I REALLY feel… 🙂

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