By May 29, 2012

The 16:9 iPhone… Why?

Conventional wisdom has it that Apple must make an iPhone with a larger screen. And conventional wisdom also has it that a 16×9 phone would be easiest for developers to support.

But conventional wisdom, applied to Apple, is often the fastest way to go wrong.

As I wrote in “New iPhones And Old Apps: Is It Time For Apple To Clean House?“, one of the new iPhone “5” handsets being tested is said to feature a 3.95-inch widescreen display with a 640 x 1136 resolution. That’s about 0.45 inches taller than the 3.5-inch, 640 x 960 display currently used in the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4.

And Rene Ritchie at iMore just published an amazing set of mockups and screen shots showing just how Apple could implement the proposed changes at the iOS level.

But all of that aside, why would Apple make such a major change… for just a half inch in screen height?

Apple is about user experience. So with that in mind we really need to ask ourselves two key questions:

  1. Would Apple’s users see that much of an improvement?
  2. And would such a minor change in screen size be worth the  development hassles?

The answer to the first question, I think, is no.

Bad jokes to the contrary, a half inch in height alone isn’t going to help all that much. If Apple is going to make a bigger phone, it needs to be a bigger phone. Height and width. Just my personal opinion, you understand, but that’s why you’re here.

And the answer to the second question is also no.

Despite the entire house-cleaning argument I promoted in my earlier article on the subject, I don’t believe that Apple would disrupt their entire ecosystem for a single device.

But now we come to the qualifying phrase: For a single device.

Apple has a new iPhone coming. Apple is rumored to have a 7-inch iPad coming. Apple is said to be working on MacBook Airs and Pros with Retina-level high resolution displays.

And Apple has been working on adding resolution independence to OS X for years now.

Is disrupting the entire ecosystem worthwhile for a single device? No.

But is it worthwhile disrupting the ecosystem for an entire series of devices?


I think the key phrase Apple is going to repeat over and over again at this year’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) is “resolution independence”.

Because that opens the door for smaller iPads. Larger iPads. Aa 5-inch iPod Touch. iOS apps running on OS X. iOS apps running on the Apple TV.

And because resolution independence opens the door to a brand new user experience, one best suited to each and every individual.

Young and have great eyesight? No problem. Older, and having a few difficulties? Scale things up. Eldery or handicapped? Zoom away.

Apple’s WWDC begins June 11th. Stay tuned.


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