The iPhone REALLY Does Need a Larger Display

| Particle Debris

It's the story of our time. Smartphone displays are slowly getting bigger. Phablets abound. Apple seems to be holding back. The question is, do we really need larger iPhone displays? I believe the answer is "yes."

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The way I look at smartphone displays is that historical thoughts about how a smartphone should be designed come from the earliest days of development. Steve Jobs thought a smartphone should always fit in the shirt pocket. Processing power, display technology and cost dictated a certain size of 3.5 inches diagonally. The things we did on an early iPhone were 1) make phone calls, 2) access a few cool apps like calendar and contacts and browse with Safari when needed.

In time, technology advanced. Now we have a 64-bit processor in the iPhone 5s. The demands on the iPhone for maps, weather apps, watching videos, shopping, banking, calendaring and even reading books has grown dramatically. The iPhone has gone from being a great phone + music player + internet access device to the Star Trek tricorder of our times.

Accordingly, because of the demands we make and the performance delivered, a larger display is called for. I think it's that simple.

In some cases, the arguments for retaining a smaller screen boil down to individual preference or sheer speculation. A larger iPhone would weigh more. It wouldn't fit in the shirt pocket or pants pocket as conveniently. It's expanse of (perhaps) sapphire display would cost too much or draw too much power. I see these things as secondary to the steady development of the quintessential smartphone as a critical, visual part of our technical lives.  Mobility has pushed battery technology, and that, in turn, opens doors.

We'll all figure out how to carry a larger iPhone. For women, the purse is usually available. For guys, the transition to a belt holster instead of a front pants pocket may be necessary. These problems can be solved. On the other hand, squinting at a small screen for the considerable breadth of activities we do on a modern iPhone is something that's just no longer desirable.

That technical vision is manifesting itself in concepts that whet our appetite. "Visions of a larger iPhone 6 are stunning." Plus, I've reviewed and handled a Galaxy Note II, and I'm here to tell you, larger smartphone displays are necessary and desirable for the mainstream. How fast Apple gets on board, and whether they'll offer a spectrum of size choices, we don't yet know.

What I do know is that simply pooh-poohing something new and obviously better because what we had in the past was good enough and personally handy is not a good enough technical reason to hold back.

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Tech News Debris for the Week of February 3

John Gruber has written a nice article on Microsoft's history and how it relates to having missed the technology boat recently. It's longish, but must reading. "Microsoft, Past and Future." After reading the article, the bigest question in my mind was why Microsoft may have seen the mobile revolution coming but didn't have the institutional capacity, expertise, or vision to execute. I won't surmise that I know all the answers, but my gut instinct says that it was the difference in the street smarts, technical experience and wisdom of Steve Ballmer compared to Steve Jobs.

Jim Cramer, of The Street, when asked about if he's "OK" with $AAPL replied "The funny thing is that Apple's pretty much the opposite of "scary" these days." See: "These Apple Jitters Are for Naught." As with most things, there is a sane, sensible middle ground, and Mr. Cramer nails it. Unfortunately, the scare tactics of many writers would have us believe that Apple is on the ropes. That's not true, but perhaps Apple is also not in a position to zoom into the stratosphere again.

Maybe.

As for the treatment of Apple, Rocco Pendola tries once more to remind us that Apple's goal is not to be the volume leader and that those who argue that Apple is doomed because it doesn't destroy the competition with volume and share are just being fear-mongers. "Horribly Unfair Treatment of Apple Continues ."

This isn't strictly tech news, but here are two fantastic tip articles from Macworld. Chris Breen writes, "How to drag items to your hard drive without being challenged for a password." James Galbraith writes, "Fact or fiction: What does (and doesn't) actually speed up your Mac."

The debate about whether to hire a new CEO, with a fresh perspective, from the outside or whether to develop from within is ongoing. This Havard Business Review article looks at the new Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, and concludes that in modern tech times, it takes too long for an outsider to come up to speed. In the span of a year, which is about how long it takes for an outsider CEO to come up to speed, essential battles can be lost if the outsider fails to respond properly. Plus, the track record of outsider CEO's isn't that great. HBR takes the view that it was smart for Microsoft to tap the experience of a 20+ year Microsoft veteran, engineer and insider. "Microsoft and the Case for the Insider CEO."

Has Apple lost its appetite for a crusade? Back in the PC vs Mac wars, there was a palpable sense that Apple was fighting the man, the suits, and the holy war of the dreamer: self- expression, excellence and individuality were instilled in everything Apple did with Macs.

Nowadays, one has to ask how visibly Apple represents its crusade not just in cool TV ads but in every aspect of its products and Tim Cook's messaging. I think it's there, but it seems to get drowned out at times. Along these lines, a former WSJ reporter who covered Apple has written a book about Apple after Steve Jobs, and here's an excerpt that isn't very encouraging. "Former WSJ Apple reporter has a dreary take on life at Apple after Steve Jobs in this excerpt."

I recently approached this issue from a different angle. "Apple’s Tim Cook Should Develop More Investor Patience." Whether he likes it or not, part of a CEO's job these days is to, in addition to running a tight ship, set the tone for the public's feelings about the company. I wrote: "Hope and enthusiasm automatically confer [investor] patience." Curiously, Mr. Cook does seem to be doing more of that, in his own low-key way. "Tim Cook: Apple Working on 'Really Great Stuff'"

Apple has transitioned from fighting a war of survival with excellence to delivering excellence for its own sake. If some feel that Apple is no longer in a holy war, must we, in turn, hastily conclude that the war must be lost and Apple is doomed? Perhaps the pursuit of excellence for its own sake and for the benefit of the customer, without a war mentality, is all we need now. I'll leave you to ponder it all in the comments.

On mobile devices, there is this whole thing about native app vs HTML 5 driven by a server. It has seemed that ever since Apple opened the iPhone to native apps, the million or so of them out there has vindicated that approach. Even so, Matt Assay at ReadWrite has some thoughts about how HTML 5 could be a dark horse in the long run. "HTML5 Catches Up To Apple." I'm not especially endorsing this article, but the researched charts and data are worth pondering.

Several times in the past, in my writing about Apple's presumed next generation TV project, I have suggested on-screen facial recognition. One could turn on a feature that links to IMDB and calls out the names of actors seen on the screen. It looks like Google has had the same idea, but has carried it one step farther. I don't know if this could get Google into trouble with the altering of copyrighted material. Plus it's just a patent application. Still, have a look: "You Could Purge Shatner From Star Trek With Google’s New Video Magic [Patent]."

Finally, is Apple falling behind in display technology? Of course, there is always deeper background on this kind of stuff, but to first order, Brooke Crothers reports that it seems that Apple is falling behind. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this. "Apple needs to catch Samsung, Amazon in displays, researcher says."

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Comments

geoduck

After reading the article, the bigest question in my mind was why Microsoft may have seen the mobile revolution coming but didn’t have the institutional capacity, expertise, or vision to execute.

For the same reason they were caught flat footed by the internet and had to buy a browser from outside, and then use illegal tactics to get it adopted as the de facto standard: Poor Management.
Microsoft has always sat back and assumed the market would never change, and that the world revolved around Microsoft. Then when the industry went a direction they did not expect, (WYSIWYG, internet, tablets, mobile, etc, etc.) they dump a pile of cash into a project to try and catch up. I don’t think that’s going to work any more.

skipaq

When a larger screen iPhone is released I still will want updated iPhones with the current screen size. I would not like being forced to buy an iPhablet.

aardman

From the Kramer article “...with Apple products, there’s a high degree of saturation out there.”

Wrong perspective.  With *current* Apple products, there may be a high degree of saturation out there.  But with Apple, the issue, with respect to growth, is and always will be what new products are they going to come up with.  No one outside of Apple really knows, but just because you don’t know doesn’t mean you should project the stock price on the assumption that there is none.

NEALC5

If you recall what Steve Jobs said at his All Things D interview with Bill Gates, you will see where Apple is going.  Steve said “I want Star Trek”.  This is all you need to know.  Look at what that statement has given us:

1) Communicators - iPhone
2) Data PADDS - iPad
3) Computers that respond to voice commands - Siri
4) Tricorders - iPhones to some extent, by having motion sensors, etc.
5) Medical Scanners - new wearable from Apple perhaps??
6) Transporters - OK, I give on that one.

All of the tech of Star Trek is within reach of Apple, with the exception of warp drive and transporters.  If I missed something from Star Trek in the list above that Apple could possibly do, tell me what it is.

Neal

Lee Dronick

There is a sweet spot for the iPhone between a large screen, what is practicle for portability and holdability. What that size is differnet for different people though we have adapted to what we currently have.

Whatever size iPhone is next could it please have the option of taking landscape photos and video while being held in portrait orientation.

Anyway as to Microsoft, see today’s Joy of Tech. http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/1959.html

Eolake Stobblehouse

Thank you.

I have said this several times on my blog eReaderJoy, but my audience is smaller.

A 5.0 - 5.5inch iPhone would be a huge boon for e-reading, video, gaming, the web, heck, almost everything we use them for, with the possible exception of phoning. (I never understood why they even called it a “phone”.)

I have a Samsung Galaxy Note, 5.2 inch, and I looove the screen. Unfortunately, Android seems way too buggy for me, so I really want an iPhone that size.

John Francini

I very much like the current screen size. I actually use it as intended—it’s in my shirt pocket at all times. I actually use it as a *phone* too. If I want a tablet I get out my iPad.

I know others find the idea of a phablet to be The Way To Go, but give a thought to people who don’t have hands the size of meat-hooks.

MacFrogger

In all honesty folks, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about!  We have iMacs that come in different sizes.  We have MacBook Pros that come in different sizes.  Ditto for MacBook Airs and iPads.

Can anyone give me one good reason why the iPhone should be the exception, and come in only one size?  Can anyone tell me how enlarging the screen of an iPhone 6 would violate some sacred Apple code or policy?  Is it simply that silly marketing phrase that Steve Jobs uttered long ago that the 3.5” screen was the perfect size?  (Or something to that effect).  Because if that’s the reason, why Apple has already betrayed Steve with the larger size of the iPhone 5 relative to the 4 and 4S.

If you like the size of the existing screen, that’s great.  Because you have the choice to buy one.  But to those of us who might want a bigger screen, why can’t we have one?  This is a no-brainer for Apple frankly, and having the option to choose screen size for anyone contemplating the purchase of a new iPhone would bring this product into conformance with Apple’s other product lines.  And satisfy many other customers!

JonGl

I’m with @skipaq on this one. I hope Apple keeps the smaller size in a premium device, because if they go larger, they’ll leave me behind. For me the days of the awkward, ugly, geeky hip holsters are over forever. I don’t want to go back. Ever. Yuck. I carry my phone in a shirt pocket most of the time, and nobody would even know it’s there. That is most comfortable for me, and easiest. Despite my advancing years (almost 50), and despite my eyesight, I still prefer the smaller screen, even though I use my iPhone extensively. I could maybe add 1/4” or tiny bit more, but not much more—and it would have to be thinner, too…

Allister Jenks

Another cry for a bigger screen without explaining WHAT or WHY. What does a bigger screen mean? More pixels in the same area? More area with the same number of pixels? Or more pixels covering more area? When you’ve answered that, why do you want this? What particular experiences are you thinking of?

MacFrogger

skipaq said:  “When a larger screen iPhone is released I still will want updated iPhones with the current screen size. I would not like being forced to buy an iPhablet.”

JonGI said: “I’m with @skipaq on this one. I hope Apple keeps the smaller size in a premium device, because if they go larger, they’ll leave me behind.”

With all due respect to skipaq, I (and many others) do not like being forced to buy a iPhone smaller than the one I’d rather purchase.  And to JonGI: Its fine to have your own preferences, but I would hope that you would appreciate that many others might want a larger phone and not having this choice means Apple is leaving them behind.

I guess I’ve never seen this as a zero-sum game, meaning that should Apple decide to come out with a larger phone they would automatically stop producing a phone of the current size.  Is that the fear?  If so, then I get it.  If not, then I don’t.  See previous comment re: iMac, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iPad, and even iPod.  Viva la choice!

skipaq

@MacFrogger, I do see a larger screen iPhone coming and likely this year. That is a good thing. My concern is that thus far Apple has only been bringing updates in a one size fits all when it comes to the iPhone. That is not the case with the iPad and other products you listed. I would not be happy if Apple orphans those who prefer the size of the 5-5s.

So let’s say Apple only brings out a larger iPhone with the new features calling it the iPhone 6. I am eligible for an update this fall. This time around I would likely opt for the 5s. But the next time around there will be no option other than an iPhablet. Hopefully, we both get the iPhone we want. That is a win win for Apple as well as their loyal customers.

John Martellaro

Mr. Jenks:  Perhaps you overlooked it, but I did cover the kinds of activities that benefit from a bigger iPhone display in paragraph #3. I think maps, videos and book reading benefit greatly. 

There are times when we don’t have our iPad with us, such as driving (and spouse helping to navigate), doctor/dentist waiting rooms, spouse trying on clothes at the mall, etc. when, for example, a 5-inch display would be greatly pleasing.

MacFrogger

skipaq said: “Hopefully, we both get the iPhone we want. That is a win win for Apple as well as their loyal customers.”  and “I would not be happy if Apple orphans those who prefer the size of the 5-5s.”

I’m with you all the way on this my friend!  Sometimes I think the only thing holding Apple back is their reluctance to take criticism from the haters who would be sure to scream that its just another example of Apple copying Same-dung’s “innovation”.  But I don’t see increasing the size of anything as “innovation”.  In my mind, its just the opposite - reducing an iPad to an iPad Air - that’s innovation!

vpndev

A question for the opinionated: what if Apple built a somewhat bigger iPhone but retained the current pixel count? That is, increase the pixel size by, say, 15% but keep the horizontal and vertical count the same.

That would make things a LOT easier for developers, and all the current apps would be immediately up-to-date.

Would this work? Would it satisfy the phablet folks?

MacFrogger

vpndev posed a “what if” question for the opinionated - I would be fine with his proposed “15% solution”.  And I suspect many others looking for a larger iPhone would be as well. 

Now that we solved that problem, what shall we take on next?  wink

scott 1

Regarding the larger screen, I vote yes as well, but it’s not going to be so big it can’t fit in a front pants pocket. It would have to be HUGE. Belt holsters? Yeah… no. I’d rather not even have a phone. I hate those things so much, both because they’re a pain, and because they’re as dorky looking as almost anything else that’s ever been invented.

But yes. larger screen.

dgerzeeboy

I love the design and elegance, as well as the compact convenience of the 4 inch screen iPhone. Could I enjoy an additional .8 inches. Certainly. But to blow the device up to compete with the clownishly-large Samsung Note 2 is just too silly. I still want my smart phone to be a phone, not a large slab pressed against my face. I’ve no interest in a small tablet that can make calls. Yes, phablets are for high school kids with backpacks or anyone with a purse. Having an iPhone so large you’ll need to clip it to your belt is reminiscent of the wardrobe habit that died with the beeper. Here’s hoping that saner heads at Apple will prevail. Leave the garish design mistakes to the iClone makers.

John Dingler, artist

The context for thinking about Apple things that have displays becomes clearer when one considers an “iWatch,” a micro device, and an iMonitor for Mac Pro, a macro device.

ibuck

Apple needs to catch Samsung, Amazon…researcher says… 
Samsung is probably…
Apple is rumored to be…

1. Brooke Crother’s opinion piece is turned back by the credibility filter.

2. “Saturation” might be problematic if people didn’t buy new phones every few years. The automobile market is saturated too, but folks keep buying new ones.

3. Why a bigger screen? When I read on my iPhone, my eyes get tired. When I read on my 6” Kindle, my eyes do not. The iPad is too big, even the mini, for my needs. So why not 6” screens for iPhone and iPod Touch? Keep the pocket size, but sell different sizes so everyone can choose what’s right for them. The rest is just details, and Apple is good at that.

wab95

John:

Gruber does an excellent cognitive autopsy on MS past, present and future. Where he argues that, having had the vision of ‘a computer on every desk and in every home’, they saw the next step coming, ‘a computer in every pocket’, took their best shot, but failed to strike, I take a somewhat different view.

To argue that they ‘saw it coming’ suggests they perceived an existential threat to their PC-based hegemony. I don’t think so. Rather, I believe that they thought, given their dominance of the industry, which they perceived as Windows-centric, they felt that the next steps were theirs to make, theirs to define, and in their own time. I’m reminded of the old ‘Outer Limits’ lead in when I think of MS monopolistic dominance in that day, ‘We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical’. I don’t believe that they saw any threat to that dominance, and in their splendid isolation atop the totem pole, lulled themselves into a torpor of delusional invincibility and practical immortality. MS was everywhere and was everything. There used to be an old joke, ‘How many MS engineers does it take to change a light bulb?’ Answer: ‘None. They just declare darkness to be the new standard’. That joke was never funny because it rang true of their power over the industry.

Quite frankly, I don’t think it was ever in the company’s DNA to go beyond the PC. They didn’t anticipate the rise of the internet, they didn’t appreciate the rapid advance of the capability of the hardware, they didn’t see the convergence of technologies that would require central coordination, they didn’t see inter-relatedness of heretofore parallel industries whose trajectories put them on an intercept course with the computer industry, perhaps not in absolute terms (many of their forays can be arguably attributed to perceiving these things, but only dimly without distinct features or concrete steps), and they didn’t perceive the most important change of all, the rise of the consumer from savage to savvy in the tech space.

I don’t attribute this to lack of taste. I attribute this to lack of imagination, insight and vision of the possible. They did not create a new vision, they took advantage of the opportunities they saw around them. They were so successful at exploiting those opportunities that they became a victim, a complacent, heedless, self-absorbed victim, of their own success and failed to see the world shift beneath them and displace them from their position of primacy. They under-estimated not just Apple, but Google and the rest of the industry and indeed, the consumer, until it was too late. Even then, they couldn’t correct because they had no orientation to the horizon. Worse, with some of their attempted corrections and attempts to get back to the thin air, with manoeuvres like the Surface, Windows Vista and Windows 8, they’ve been losing altitude.

Where MS are now, in my view, is in damage mitigation mode in order to not fall below the threshold of the ‘major industry leaders’ and join the ranks of second tier companies that, while important, are not industry leaders. Windows dominance of the PC, despite that device’s declining position in the panoply of inter-connected devices below the cloud, still accords them a position of importance and peer respect. It’s the pundits, analysts and Wall Street, in my opinion, who have confounded PC market dominance with capacity to innovate and lead the industry to undiscovered country. MS were seduced by this uncritical and oftentimes fawning appraisal. These are not only not the same thing, but reflect very different skill sets.

Despite their lack of native capacity to drive the industry, what happened to MS, in my view, is an object lesson of what happens when, by whatever route a company arrives at that unhappy place of complacency, entitlement and conceit in their right of rule, when they fail, using SJ’s words, to ‘stay hungry’ or be driven by a deeper, success-impervious passion for their craft and being a source of benefit to their client base, that company’s very attitude becomes the brake that brings their joy-ride to a halt, abruptly or over time.

Some other great selections this week, sadly duty calls, and affords no time to comment save one; irrespective of future iPhone screen size, larger or smaller, curved or flat, one size or a plethora, we will adapt and move on into the future, which has so many more marvels and challenges in store for us that soon the fuss and furore around screen sizes will become a thing forgot, and when we are reminded of it, we will wonder whatever all the angst was about.

FCompton

I’m not interested, but if they do make a larger size, what will be the pricing structure? Do they leave the iPhone priced as is and make the new model a higher-priced option? Do you drop the price of the conventional-sized iPhone (my favorite!) and let the new model take that price point? or do you price them the same and then let consumers pick their poison?

I can’t honestly see Apple dropping the iPhone price, so that leaves options 1 and 3. Are users of larger screens going to be wiling to pony up another $100-200 dollars for the luxury of a larger screen?

ibuck

It may be too late for MS and their culture to survive as a major tech player. In my view, they need massive changes, yet they don’t seem to perceive the precipice ahead. The lack of urgency and the rivalry between divisions may doom them to bit player, or worse. Hoping one of their divisions can save them may well prevent sufficient numbers of MS thousands of employees from committing on a grand scale to enough change. Unless their cloud services can offer a service radically different from their history, that is, clean, efficient and reliable (e.g., troublefree) and free from bloat, I suspect they will fade from prominence.

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