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One Reason Why a 3.5 Inch iPhone Screen Still Works

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The iPhone screen has remained at 3.5 inches since its debut back in 2007. Why hasn’t this increased when competitor screens have continued to grow larger and larger?

Dustin Curtis compares the advantages of his former 3.5 inch iPhone screen compared to the 4.27 inches on his new Samsung Galaxy S II:

Touching the upper right corner of the screen on the Galaxy S II using one hand, with its 4.27-inch screen, while you’re walking down the street looking at Google Maps, is extremely difficult and frustrating. I pulled out my iPhone 4 to do a quick test, and it turns out that when you hold the iPhone in your left hand and articulate your thumb, you can reach almost exactly to the other side of the screen. This means it’s easy to touch any area of the screen while holding the phone in one hand, with your thumb. It is almost impossible to do this on the Galaxy S II.

Any screen larger than 3.5 inches, and you run into the problems of whether your device is a smartphone, or a medium-sized tablet. The Dell Streak is the perfect example of a confused device. This isn’t a problem if you have massive hands, though.

[Dustin Curtis via The Brooks Review]

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  • Good article and makes sense. I also believe that one of the reasons is that App developers would probably have to change the resolution on all their apps and there are A LOT of apps. 

  • I gotta call shenanigans on this one. dude, how small is your thumb? I’ve used/carried wider phones and have no problems swiping edge to edge of the screen. Besides, you can always ‘cradle’ the case and extend the thumb wider.

  • Bruins rule!

    Weak argument. No excuse for the smaller screen.

  • Anonymous

    They dont need to have a new resolution, just a bigger screen. I’m sure the Retina display can be enlarged and still be very clear.

  • Anonym

    Agree 100%. Carrying any device bigger than 3.5 screen in my pocket may be annoying.

  • Stephen Cleary

    I recently came across this article that suggests the iPhone is slightly bigger than advertised: http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=299456

    Is the iPhone actually 3.6″? Anyone know?

  • Anonymous

    This would also very much ring true doing the one-handed-thumb-text!

  • Knguncle3

    Good article and I do think 4.3″ is too big.  But IMO, 4″ is just right.  I’ve used the Samsung Galaxy Fascinate 4G and I thought it had the perfect screen size.

  • Ryan

    I’ve never understood why people keep clamouring for a larger-screened iPhone. I’ve always felt that the iPhone feels perfectly sized. I think what this article suggests is one of the main reasons why.

  • SizeMatters

    > Weak argument. No excuse for the smaller screen.     
    Agree with Brian here, another comparison to the current top phone, the S2. I’ll take that minor one hand
    drawback for the obvious reasons why the 4.3″ screen is better ! I’ve had both an iPhone and S2 in my
    pocket, you can’t notice the difference.

  • For long periods of surfing, I use my iPad or I’m on my MacBook. My iPhone is used when I’m out the door and need to look up something, plus it’s compact in size.

    Watching a motion picture on the iPhone is not a good idea. Maybe it would better on a 4.5″ screen? But then the device will be huge to carry around.

  • We’ll find out when iPhone 4S orders ship! 

  • Think about the average thumb on men and women. There are huge differences.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. 3.5″ might be big enough for some people, but that’s not to say that 4″+ is problematic. I’ve used the S2 and Infuse a fair bit. I find the S2 to be fine, but the infuse is just a bit too big for me.

  • Anonymous

    To be honest some people much prefer larger sizes, some do not. However, if you look at the market today there aren’t too many android phones with sub 4″ screens that are any good. Apple should increase the size of the screen closer to the edge and perhaps slightly increase the overall size of the phone. I think that way they could hit 3.8″-4.0″ without compromising the benefits of their current setup.

  • Chris

    I personally find the  phone already bigger than I would prefer, if the phone were to become larger in size I might start looking at other options.

  • Anonymous

    My hands aren’t that big. Yeah, a bigger screens means more portability problems. I’m sticking with iPhone for now. There’s always the iPad for large screen iOS.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t worry about Android competition. I think a thinner and lighter should be their gaol.

  • Anonymous

    Yea, that’s why I’d buy a 3.5 inch screen. So I can reach all corners with one hand. Who cares about a larger screen for reading, gaming, pictures and video.

    Yea… Ok :-

  • Ken

    At 6’3″ and with very long artists fingers the iphone feels like a chicklet in my hand. I’m also having huge antenna/movedtoabasementsuite/rogerscrappycoverage issues and this makes me cranky when I have to hold my phone daintily in two fingers lest my call drop. Size matters.

  • Gamehunter420

    Ridiculous! At some point you have to look at facts and stop thinking you like it because of the brand. And who compares a compact to a stretch limo? How about middle of the road? 3.5 is too small. I would love a 3.7-4.0. If you went edge to edge, the phone wouldn’t be much bigger, negating both the thumb issue and pocket carrying. Maybe I am getting old, but I like a screen that is easier to read!

  • AFA

    This sounds more like fishing for reasons to defend the disappointing new iphone 4S than an actual reason to not increase the screen size. I think a lot of people like the larger screen and thumb reach is a ridiculous reason to say not to increase the size. what this article also fails to address is that the super amoled plus screen that the galaxy s2 has is way better than the screen on the iphone 4S. I’m an apple fanboy but this iphone release was terrible simply because they can’t afford to do the same thing as the iphone 3GS because the best competition at the time of that release wa the blackberry curve 8330. Now that there are better phones out out seems that apple is just playing catch up and they didn’t even catch up to phones that were out for months already. Please apple give me a reason to but an iphone cuz I’m definitely not getting the iphone 4S

  • Jduckets11

    I like the screen. I never bought an iPhone so I could have a PSP in my pocket. Don’t know what all the whining is about your all upgrading anyhow and you know it hahaahh

  • Guest

    dumb article, my hand is bigger than yours so I want a larger screen.

  • Anonymous

    I just got the SGSII for my wife today from Virgin. My wife is only 5’4″ and she has no problem handling the phone with one hand edge to edge to edge to edge.
    This article is definitely a false excuse for Apple not making a bigger screen. My wife’s contract with Telus ended in August but did not renew it just to wait for “iPhone 5”, but we are eventually disappointed with the 4S so we decided to go for SGSII. Also Virgin Mobile offer me a much better plan that Telus won’t even want to match. I had to jump the ship after being with Telus for 14 years.

  • Joe

    What a joke of an article. You do realize there are android phones with the same dimension that have a 4″ screen right?  I mean it’s ok to be a brand supporter but don’t start on coming up absurd reasons on why an improvement that most people wanted is not there.

  • I think the people who want a bigger screen are the ones who have to use glasses to actually see it lol. I think its fine. Sure you could go out to the edges so the form is still the same, but anything bigger starts going into the small tablet range.

  • what an apologist argument about the screen size.  I tried the hand position described in this and its uncomfortable as hell, do people actually use a touchscreen like this?  Reaching over the middle of the phone with your thumb, the ergos suck doing it like that.

    I’m able to use a Samsung Galaxy media player with a 5.0″ screen with my right hand and thumb, with my other fingertips on the rear, and Im not a big person 5’9″ 135 lbs

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree.
    And this type of article is pretty silly, trying to twist an iPhone’s short coming into a “design feature”! Go figure….

    When/If Apple put in a 4.3+” screen into iPhone 5 next year, it would be funny to see how the author would turn around and write something totally opposite. 🙂

  • Mgladz

    who wants samsung? definitely not me

  • Anonymous

    Then you better stay away from all but the lastest iPhone. Samsung chips in those.

  • Anonymous

    On top of inevitable CPU and GPU improvements, and any kind of 4G system, thinner and lighter would almost certainly reduce battery capacity and life.

    Remember, it’s great that you get 6 hours of 3G web or 8 hours talk when you first get it. It’s when you’re two years into your contract (we’re talking Canada’s outrageous cell contracts, remember) and you can’t make it through the day without charging, that it’s a problem.

  • Anonymous

    You have the right idea. I saw a Dell Streak today, its screen looked nice and resolution is good, but it’s way too big to hold or carry around. I don’t know how the guy can comfortably carry that around in his pocket, even my iPhone (with case) feels bulky.

  • Anonymous

    I also disagree with this argument for why the 3.5″ screen should remain.

    But, I happen to hold it and thumb around as described, all the time. And my hands aren’t that big.

  • Browncoat

    I for one do not want to see a larger iPhone. Fits perfectly in my hand and pocket. Frankly when I see sone of these larger phones I have to chuckle. I watch movies on the iphone4 all the time and it is a great experience. Why people are disappointed with the 4S is rather odd. The current design is great (feels like holding a BMW in my hand) and the new specs make it even better. That coupled with iOS5 and you got a pretty great phone.

  • pure4

    The screen size what the ONLY thing that I didn’t like about the iPhone 4.  I was hoping and praying to God that they would release a bigger one.  When the tapered design leaks came around I hated the wider button and thicker at the top/thinner at the bottom design but was willing to swallow it just for the bigger screen… Has anyone ever tried reading a book at the 3.5 inch level??  It doesn’t work.. your eyes start hurting after a while.. How about playing games for extended periods?  Same thing, the screen strains the eye.. That’s why when they announced the 4S only, it was a huge disappointment for a lot of people..

    My theory is that they either ran into a manufacturing problem.  Which was rummored on there once or twice.. Or they did not want to canabolise their iPad 2 sales.. which a bigger screen may have done.. The second reason is un-becoming of apple.

  • Thewil7

    Amen, Gary!

    Though in all fairness I do feel the iPhone screen IS small and when I see some android, or larger screened smart phones, I get screen size envy. But, that doesn’t mean I want to see a larger iPhone. A larger screen would be fantastic! But I wouldn’t want the form factor/size of the iPhone to increase, as it would make it more difficult to reach all cornery of the screen with you thumb, on handed. My hands aren’t small, but at times when trying to reach a top corner, I have to stretch a bit far, and I feel that I am sacrificing my secure grip.

    In summation. Larger screen: yes. Many times YES! larger form factor/size: No. It would make one handed operation even more precarious, than it already feels, at times. Design for the old, the young, weak, small… Whatever. (The exact quote escapes, me at this moment.) The middle will always take care of itself.

  • Mr. Speedy

    The 3.5″ screen is for a reason… It’s called usability. Those of you that never worked for a Silicon Valley company just have no clue!

  • iqbugs

    that’s exactly what happened to me yesterday. I swear one day to buy a smart phone with at least 4″ size. But I just happened to learn that I couldn’t even put my 3GS into my jean’s pocket without potentially damage it. So I change my mind: keep using 3.5″ iphone.

  • How is a 3.5″ screen an excuse when this 135lb ass of mine has full one handed usability of a 5.0″ Samsung Galaxy S 5.0

  • Please, no ass talk okay. Thanks.

  • cpts

    I don’t need a bigger screen on my phone.  The only way I’d accept a larger screen from Apple is if the overall footprint stays the same size (ie:  edge to edge screen).  I will also say however, that I didn’t see any ‘fake’ iPhone 5 pics with an edge to edge screen that looked quite as nice as the 4/4S.

  • Dingo_Egret

    I think what some people have to realize is that Android and their family of devices have a problem with fragmentation. From a developer standpoint there is only 2 sizes they have to accommodate for when developing for Apple, Iphone sizes and Ipad sizes. For any and all Android devices they are competing with different device sizes and many developers have found this very difficult to deal with and if you’ve seen end users reviews of applications they complain that certain apps developed do not accommodate their screen size. This not only holds true for screen size, but also developing for different versions of Android O/S. These Google phones are constantly held hostage by manufacturers who insist on putting their own modified skinned version on top of the Google O/S causing delays in the latest version coming out. I have a Samsung Captivate in Canada and I’m still waiting for the Gingerbread update. Until there is some standardization of hardware and software it will continue to have these issues.

    This article is kind of reaching, but I understand the point they were trying to get across.

  • Johna

    SGS2 has 480×800 pixels while the ip4/s have 640×960… you can actually see more on the ip4s… it would be a real damn shame if they increased the size and decreased the resolution.  If you’re talking about true quality, the ip4’s screen is better.  If you’re having trouble reading a book on the ip4… increase the size of the font! Bigger screen does not equal better experience.  Whenever I see the SGS2, all I see are giant-sized pixels and fuzzy content.

    Btw, do you know how super amoled works? It just increases the contrast of the picture, what does that have to do with screen size? In fact, I would argue that the contrast of the ip4/s provides is also at the limit of detection by the human eye so superamoled doesn’t provide as noticeable difference as increasing pixel pitch would.

  • Anonymous

    Can’t we just agree that some people don’t care about a larger screen and some really badly want it? I don’t see why people are still desperately trying to convince others to one side or another… It’s just a matter of preference.

    Yes I’ve heard a million times that a larger screen is better for X, but personally I just don’t care okay?
    Likewise, I’ve read the article you don’t need to restate the fact that you want to be able to fully use your phone with one hand…

    Edit: Also, pointing out that the author here is just kinda reposting someone else’s findings. He is not necessarily “all for” this explanation. But on the other hand, I just tried my thumb easily reaches an inch past the iPhone widthwise. And I have small hands.

  • Everyone will always have different preferences no matter what the excuse. I’ve read a lot of good arguments for why to keep it but I think the general consensus for a larger screen is simply preference and screen real estate. From a manufacturing point of view, the phone design is exactly the same and now Apple saves money on R&D and manufacturing costs. If you want a larger screen, stop complaining and go buy an Android – for most of us, we’ve lived with a 3.5 inch screen for 4 years and you’ll continue to still live with it on the 4S. Try a BlackBerry 9900 with 2.8 inch screen =P

  • Superzoom99

    lol…that article was from 2007

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