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
121 months ago
This idea is too much of a stretch ;)
Score: 58 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chipchen Avatar
121 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
121 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
121 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
121 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
121 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

AirPods Pro Beta Firmware

AirPods Pro Beta Firmware Now Available

Wednesday July 21, 2021 6:50 am PDT by
Upcoming AirPods Pro firmware updates are now available to Apple Developer Program members as beta versions. AirPods Pro firmware beta one features FaceTime Spatial Audio and Ambient Noise Reduction. Custom Transparency mode, including Conversation Boost, was initially expected to be included in the beta but appears to have been delayed for a later version. Apple made the announcement...
maxresdefault

Apple Music to Livestream Premiere of Kanye West's New Album 'Donda' on Thursday

Wednesday July 21, 2021 1:49 am PDT by
Apple Music on Thursday will host a global livestream for the premiere of Kanye West's tenth studio album, titled "Donda." The sold-out event will take place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, and Apple Music's livestream will start at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The livestream was revealed in a Beats Studio Buds ad that aired during the NBA Finals. The ad features U.S. track...
General Apps Messages

All Three Major U.S. Carriers and Google Adopt Rich Communication Services, But No Sign of Apple Interest

Tuesday July 20, 2021 1:15 pm PDT by
For the last several years, Google has been pushing a new communications protocol called Rich Communication Services, or RCS. RCS is designed to replace SMS, the current text message standard, and it offers support for higher resolution photos and videos, audio messages, bigger file sizes, better encryption, improved group chat, and more. Verizon today announced that it is planning to adopt...
ios wifi settings

Apple Confirms iOS 14.7 Fixes WiFi Bug and Many Other Vulnerabilities

Wednesday July 21, 2021 11:38 am PDT by
Following the release of iPadOS 14.7 this morning, Apple has shared details on the security updates that are included in iOS 14.7, iPadOS 14.7, macOS Big Sur 11.5, watchOS 7.6, and tvOS 14.7, all of which came out this week. Notably, Apple's documentation confirms that the iOS 14.7 and iPadOS 14.7 updates address a WiFi-related vulnerability that could impact iOS devices when joining a...
macOS Malware Feature

Common Windows Malware Can Now Infect Macs

Wednesday July 21, 2021 8:13 am PDT by
A common form of malware on Windows systems has been modified into a new strain called "XLoader" that can also target macOS (via Bleeping Computer). Derived from the Formbook info-stealer for Windows, XLoader is a form of cross-platform malware advertised as a botnet with no dependencies. It is used to steal login credentials, capture screenshots, log keystrokes, and execute malicious files. ...
macOS Big Sur Feature Orange

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.5 With Podcast App Updates and Bug Fixes

Wednesday July 21, 2021 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.5, the fifth major update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November 2020. macOS Big Sur 11.5 comes two months after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.4. The new ‌‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌‌ 11.5 update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences. macOS Big Sur...
idos 2 app ios

Apple to Pull 'iDOS 2' DOS Emulator From App Store

Thursday July 22, 2021 3:22 pm PDT by
iDOS 2, an app designed to allow users to play classic DOS games, will soon be pulled from the App Store, the app's creator said today. According to iDOS developer Chaoji Li, he tried to submit an iDOS update with bug fixes to the App Store, but was told that the update was rejected because it violated the 2.5.2 App Store guideline that says apps cannot install or launch executable code.Durin...
airpods 3 gizmochina Feature

AirPods 3 Rumored to Launch Alongside iPhone 13 at Expected September Event

Friday July 23, 2021 12:54 am PDT by
The third-generation AirPods will likely launch at the same event revealing Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 lineup, according to a report from DigiTimes, which makes the claim citing sources familiar with the matter. The report as a whole echoes previous reporting that production of the third-generation AirPods will kickstart in August, meaning a launch shortly after can be easily expected. DigiTi...
iPad mini pro feature

Next-Generation iPad Mini Will Reportedly Feature a Mini-LED Display

Thursday July 22, 2021 9:03 am PDT by
Apple is widely rumored to be planning a new iPad mini with a significant redesign, including a larger 8.5-inch to 9-inch display with slimmer bezels, a Touch ID power button instead of a home button, a USB-C port instead of a Lightning connector, and more. According to a paywalled preview of a DigiTimes report today, the sixth-generation iPad mini will also feature a mini-LED display:BLU...
airpods 3 gizmochina Feature teal

AirPods 3 Mass Production Said to Kick Off in August

Tuesday July 20, 2021 8:40 pm PDT by
Mass production of the third-generation AirPods will kick off in August, according to a new report from Nikkei Asia. They will reportedly join a number of other products such as the iPhone 13 lineup and redesigned MacBook Pro models as launches coming before the end of the year. Renderings of rumored third-generation AirPods design Rumored launch dates for the third-generation AirPods have...