Apple Could Achieve a 4-Inch iPhone Display by Increasing Height Only

Amid continuing rumors that Apple is looking to increase the size of the iPhone display from the existing 3.5-inch screen to something in the range of 4 inches, one persistent concern has been how Apple would deal with the change in screen dimensions.

All models of the iPhone and iPod touch released to date have carried a 3.5-inch screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio, allowing developers to target their apps at a single screen size. With the addition of Retina displays in 2010, the screens now come at much higher resolution, but the extra resolution is dedicated to increasing the visual quality of content rather than increasing screen real estate. The introduction of the iPad in 2010 added a new display size to the mix, but the considerable difference in screen size compared to the iPhone made it reasonable for developers to create custom interfaces, either in the form of universal apps or separate iPad and iPhone apps, for use on the different devices.

But moving to a slightly-larger iPhone display would seem to cause issues for Apple and its developers, with the company seemingly having two options: either increasing pixel size to keep the same resolution but on a slightly larger display; or maintaining pixel size and increasing resolution correspondingly. The former solution would allow existing iPhone apps to fit the new device's screen with no modifications but with only limited utility, while the latter solution would seem to require developers target yet another screen size with their apps.

But as outlined at The Verge, one method for achieving the latter solution in moving to a 4-inch display would be to change the aspect ratio, maintaining the existing 640 pixel width but stretching the height of the display until it reaches a 4-inch diagonal. Simple geometry yields a screen height of roughly 1152 pixels for a 4-inch display, compared to 960 pixels on the current 3.5-inch display.

4 inch iphone comparison
The forum poster, a user by the name of modilwar, was inspired by a comment from a caller named "Colin" on The Vergecast show who suggested that change in aspect ratio as a possibility for a larger display. Using that idea, modilwar developed a series of illustrations showing how this could be achieved.

At the most basic level, an increase in the height of the display would allow Apple to show five rows of icons on each page of the iPhone's home screen, up from the current four rows. Apple would also likely find it fairly easy to augment its own apps to take full advantage of the increased vertical screen real estate.

4 inch iphone home
As for third-party apps, modilwar notes that many apps already utilize standard interface elements such as navigation buttons and bars at the top and bottom of the screen supporting a larger main content window in the middle. In the case of these apps, the main windows could simply expand vertically to show more content than on the current iPhone. Examples include browsers that could show more of a webpage, Twitter apps that could show more of a timeline, and mapping apps that could show more map tiles.

4 inch iphone twitter
Other apps with custom user interface elements would require a bit more work, but in the meantime could simply be displayed at their current sizes with a 96-pixel wide black bar at top and bottom on the larger 4-inch display.

This new 4-inch screen with a 9:5 aspect ratio would also perform much better at displaying widescreen 16:9 video content, leaving bars on either side of the screen that are only 7 pixels wide, compared to 50 pixels for unzoomed content on the current iPhone.

Modilwar passes off his post as an intellectual exercise simple showing one way in which Apple could make a change to the iPhone's display with a minimum of disruption to the iOS ecosystem, but in a bit of a curious turn the post was picked up by Daring Fireball's John Gruber, who hints that the original idea may not be all that far-fetched.

Methinks “Colin” wasn’t merely guessing or idly speculating.

Since Gruber has been known to speak coyly about his occasional inside knowledge, it is unclear whether he has independent knowledge supporting the idea of a taller display for the iPhone or if he simply has a gut feeling that "Colin" may legitimately be tipping some information at least partially tied to Apple's thinking.

Update: "Colin" has been revealed to be Timothy Collins, who has no direct association with Apple.

Top Rated Comments

fungus Avatar
119 months ago
This idea is too much of a stretch ;)
Score: 58 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chipchen Avatar
119 months ago
Doubtful. It would fragment iOS like Android, into multiple aspect ratios and screen resolutions... causing huge headaches for developers.
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
SteveJobs2.0 Avatar
119 months ago
Increase the size to 4", keep the same resolution. Everyone will be happy other than the people using a magnifying glass to look for pixels.
Score: 41 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AppleDroid Avatar
119 months ago
I'd be all over it. I understand people like the smaller device but there's so much wasted space around the screen they could do this and not make the phone that much bigger.
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HiRez Avatar
119 months ago
This would be a complete disaster for developers, introducing not only an additional resolution, but a third aspect ratio to the iOS system. I really hope this rumor is not true. Making a 4" screen with the current 3x2 aspect and the same 960x540 resolution would be MUCH better, and should still look great whether it meets a technical "retina" threshold or not.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Andronicus Avatar
119 months ago
Seems to me that would look silly. I mean I'll buy it, but I think it needs to get bigger in both directions (if any).
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

tracking disabled ios 14 5

Analytics Suggest 96% of Users Leave App Tracking Disabled in iOS 14.5

Friday May 7, 2021 1:51 am PDT by
An early look at an ongoing analysis of Apple's App Tracking Transparency suggests that the vast majority of iPhone users are leaving app tracking disabled since the feature went live on April 26 with the release of iOS 14.5. According to the latest data from analytics firm Flurry, just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have actively chosen to opt into app tracking after updating their device...
macbook colors 3d black bezels

Prosser: Next MacBook Air Could Come in Colors Similar to iMac

Friday May 7, 2021 6:55 am PDT by
According to Apple leaker Jon Prosser, Apple's upcoming release of the MacBook Air will feature various colors, similar to the colors in the newly released 24-inch iMac. In the latest video of his YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Prosser says the same source who accurately provided him information on the first Apple silicon iMac coming in colors has told him that he recently saw a prototype...
tile amazon sidewalk integration

Tile to Leverage Amazon Echo and Ring Devices to Better Compete With AirTags

Friday May 7, 2021 2:07 pm PDT by
Amazon today announced that it is teaming up with Tile to add Amazon Sidewalk integration to Tile's Bluetooth trackers. Amazon Sidewalk, for those unfamiliar, is a network of Amazon Bluetooth devices that's designed to improve the connectivity of devices like the Ring and Amazon Echo. Tile will now be joining Amazon Sidewalk, and through this integration, Amazon Echo and Ring devices will be ...
Top Stories 59 Feature

Top Stories: Epic Games vs. Apple, Hidden AirTag Mode, Apple Music Hi-Fi, Colorful MacBook Air?

Saturday May 8, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
While we wait for the newly introduced iMac, iPad Pro, and Apple TV models to launch later this month, this week saw the kickoff of the big Epic Games v. Apple trial, with lots of juicy tidbits coming out as the two sides make their arguments. This week also saw some rumors about a Hi-Fi tier for Apple Music, more biometric sensing capabilities for Apple Watch, and timing for the...
zoom app icon

Apple Gave Zoom Access to Special API to Use iPad Camera During Split View Multitasking

Sunday May 9, 2021 2:00 am PDT by
Zoom, a hallmark platform used by millions during the global health crisis, has been given access to a special iPadOS API that allows the app to use the iPad camera while the app is in use in Split View multitasking mode. This case of special treatment was first brought to attention by app developer Jeremy Provost, who, in a blog post, explains that Zoom uses a special API that allows the...
snapchat dark mode

Snapchat Rolls Out Dark Mode on iOS

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:17 am PDT by
Nearly two years following the release of iOS and iPadOS 13, which included native, built-in, and systemwide dark mode, Snapchat, one of the world's most prominent social media networks, has finally rolled out a dark mode theme for iOS users. Snapchat began testing a dark mode theme of its app design late last year with a small group of iOS users. Now, Snapchat says that as of this week, it...
tile sticker e1570533758981

Tile CEO: 'We Welcome Competition From Apple, But We Think It Needs to Be Fair'

Tuesday May 4, 2021 9:51 am PDT by
Just after Apple announced its AirTags, Tile CEO CJ Prober relayed his concerns about competing with Apple in the tracking space, and said that Tile would ask Congress to investigate Apple's business practices specific to Find My and item trackers. Prober this week did an interview with Bloomberg, where he further expanded on Tile's complaints about Apple and why he feels that Tile is...
fortnite apple logo 2

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney Admits App Store's 30% Cut Is Similar to Consoles, Would Have Accepted Special Deal With Apple

Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:54 pm PDT by
Apple's legal battle with Epic Games is continuing on, and during the second day of the trial, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney continued his testimony against Apple. Sweeney was grilled by Apple's lawyers, and made several points seemingly favorable to Apple. In addition to mentioning how he prefers Apple's iPhone and values Apple's privacy policies that he's aiming to dismantle, Sweeney...
signal instagram ads3

Signal Shares the Instagram Ads Facebook Doesn't Want You to See

Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:29 am PDT by
Encrypted messaging app Signal has had a series of Instagram ads blocked from the social media platform, after it attempted to show users how much data the Facebook-owned company collects about them and how it's used to push targeted ads. In a blog post, Signal described how it generated the ads to show users why they were seeing them, simply by declaring upfront the information that the...
iphone 12 preorder purple

Apple Begins Transition to Randomized Serial Numbers With Purple iPhone 12

Wednesday May 5, 2021 9:17 am PDT by
MacRumors previously reported about Apple's plan to switch to randomized serial numbers for future products starting in early 2021, and this transition has now started with the new purple iPhone 12 model in multiple countries. With assistance from Aaron Zollo, host of the YouTube channel ZolloTech, we can confirm that the purple iPhone 12 released last month has a new 10-character serial...