Are you ready for a bigger iPhone?

The rumors suggesting that the next iPhone will see a dramatic increase in screen size are reaching fever pitch. Jordan Golson takes a large look at the speculation.

Apple iPhone 6
Comparison of the iPhone 5s to mockups of two possible sizes for the larger iPhone 6.
Image credit: MacRumors

Numerous publications, including mainstream news outlets, are saying that the iPhone 6 will come in two sizes, one around 4.7 inches and the other around 5.5 inches.

Just two years ago, Apple increased the size of the iPhone screen from 3.5" to 4" with the iPhone 5. This was accomplished by increasing the vertical size of the screen from 960 to 1136 px at 326 ppi, with an identical horizontal resolution of 640 px.

For most developers, the increase in real estate has allowed them to show more user interface elements without sacrificing usability. For example, the larger screen allowed Algoriddim to include more mixing controls in the popular djay music mixing app.

"The additional room gave us more space to provide more information," said Michael Simmons, co-creator of the calendar app Fantastical. "With a 4-inch screen, we were able to show more events simultaneously to give the user a better idea of what their agenda looks like."

Now, with the potential for even more screen to play with, developers are already thinking about what they'll do next.

Extra horizontal space is, in some ways, trickier to develop for than the vertical increase we saw with the iPhone 5. Making a vertically scrolling app like Twitter or Facebook taller is easy. Adding more features horizontally without just making everything bigger is tough.

As the popular saying goes, bigger is better. And millions have embraced the larger screens of Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy S and Note smartphones. Aside from operating system, screen size is the biggest differentiator between those devices and the iPhone — and really, it's their main selling point.

Farhad Manjoo, tech columnist for The New York Times, said that the bigger screen in the Samsung Galaxy S 5 is the "only... obvious reason" to buy that phone instead of Apple's iPhone 5s.

"If you assume that everything else about the iPhone-versus-Galaxy matchup will remain the same after the size increase, it means that Samsung will lose its single greatest advantage over Apple.

"And what will Samsung do then? When you compare the Galaxy to the iPhone, it's not obvious that Samsung will have any real way to fight back once Apple makes a bigger phone."

That said, not everyone prefers the larger screen. My wife, for one, will be sorely disappointed if Apple stops selling an iPhone 5-sized 4" smartphone. I'll be surprised if they don't keep one around, simply because the company has sold millions of 4" smartphones, and why mess with success? Though offering different screen sizes does contribute slightly to a fragmented iPhone market, something that Apple executives have repeatedly criticized Android for.

Of course, Apple currently sells more than one iPhone screen size — the 3.5" iPhone 4s and the 4" iPhone 5c and 5s — so, it wouldn't be unheard of. Plus, Apple has never shied away from offering a boatload of SKUs when it makes sense.

A larger iPhone will be hugely popular with consumers, allowing for larger videos, games, and more — but it will also likely be popular with business users as well. The larger screen could be used for Skype and FaceTime calls for business travelers to talk to distant friends and family, for quick edits on Office documents, writing emails, and more. iPhone fans shouldn't discount the appeal of quieting the office Android fans either. You know, the users who have been making fun of diminutive iPhone screens for years.

Will Apple launch a larger screened iPhone this fall, for the second time in three years? All signs point to yes, and — if Samsung's sales are any indication — they'll sell millions of them.

I know I'm looking forward to picking mine up. What about you? Will you be in line at your local Apple Store on launch day? Let us know in the comments below.


Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.

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