Co.Design

Why The Next iPhone Should Have A Bigger Screen

Is the iPhone too small? One designer thinks so, and he may have a point.

What will the next iPhone look like when it is released in September after its first major redesign in two years? In a new concept, Sam Beckett, an independent concept designer, imagines a next-gen iPhone Air with a 4.7-inch, 1080p high-definition display with a 468ppi resolution, up from a 4-inch display with a 326ppi resolution. The redesign also brings the iPhone's display more in line with both the size and clarity of competing smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S5.

From a design standpoint, Beckett's concept seems plausible. Keeping the design language of the iOS devices that have preceded it, the iPhone Air concept would be 8% larger than the iPhone 5s, while giving customers a 17% bigger screen. A bigger screen means more drain on the battery, but thanks to Sharp IGZO technology, this new iPhone Air would be thinner and lighter than the current iPhone while retaining the same battery life, even if the screen has more pixels to light up.

Beckett isn't alone in thinking Apple will move to a bigger form factor with the next iPhone. Analysts are also predicting the switch. Yet migrating to a bigger display like this would mark a major change in the way Apple updates its products.

When Apple introduced the iPad Mini with Retina Display, the company took pains to make sure that both devices had the same resolution, even though the Mini has a 33% smaller screen than the iPad Air. The reason the company did this was so that developers didn't have to update their apps to support the Mini: An app running on an iPad mini uses the exact same graphical assets as one running on the iPad Air.

In Beckett's iPhone Air concept, though, the 4.7-inch iPhone Air would feature a completely different resolution than current iPhones. Developers would need to update their apps to support the device. Even then, it's not clear how Apple would maintain backwards compatibility with existing apps, because of the difference in pixel densities: When Apple changed the number of pixels per inch in previous devices, the company always made sure that it was quadruple the previous resolution, making it easier for developers to support both. A 1080p iPhone Air, though, has 1.9 times as many pixels as the current iPhone 5s. It's an oddball multiplier that Apple would need to develop a new upscaling system to support, if it wanted to make older apps backwards compatible.

That's not to say, of course, that Apple won't do just that. Although the best way to predict what Apple will do in the future is to look at what the company has done in the past, obviously not everything the company does will have precedent: Look at how Apple lengthened the screen of the iPhone 5 to 4 inches, for example.

Which brings us to the question: Why a bigger iPhone to begin with? Beckett doesn't elaborate on why he thinks a 4.7-inch iPhone Air is the way to go, but it's easy to read between the lines. The iPhone's current 4-inch size may sell well in the United States and Europe, but Asia is the next frontier in the smartphone wars, and Asian consumers love big phones, especially in China, which represents Apple's biggest opportunity when it comes to growing its smartphone business.

What isn't seen in Beckett's iPhone Air concept, then, is a smaller 4-inch iPhone 6, in pretty much the same size and form factor as we've had for the last two years. A smidge thinner and a smidge lighter, perhaps, but specifically tailored to the preferences of the United States and Europe, whereas the iPhone Air would be Apple's Trojan horse into China. And lo and behold, that's just what analysts are predicting: two iPhones--not one--to rule them all.

Read more about Beckett's iPhone Air concept here.

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7 Comments

  • Ben Pham

    I agree there needs to be a larger option for iOS users but this concept video was a waste of time. I agree with others that it shouldn't even be called a concept. It looks almost identical to the current 5S. Altering proportions to fit a 16:9 screen isn't much of a concept. At least try to reimagine the materials or something. He even used the same edge finishing as the current model. Why? If they're making the phone bigger, did you ever stop to think that maybe they'd want to decrease the hard edges so it feels nicer in the hand. Or do something besides just reuse the current design. Don't be lazy.

  • Not sure why it's in any way inappropriate for a blog devoted to design matters to feature any concept, much less one of the most disruptive and anticipated device of our time, or how this somehow doesn't measure up to the level of concept because the choices are limited to fit certain parameters. Yes, the slightly slimmer profile and use of sapphire crystal and IZGO screen technology are safe predictions, but how does that make it less worthy a concept?
    If I want to see fantastical, untenable concepts by student designers that will probably never see the light of day, there are plenty of other sites to turn to. It's not like FCD is beating us over the head with these. I enjoyed this not just for the quality of the work, but because it represents the aesthetic direction I hope Apple will take with their next upgrade, regardless of size and specs: white aluminum on the sides with the black face, either white aluminum or true black glass/sapphire on on the back like my iPhone 4.

  • Tommy Rae Jnr

    Sorry but this is not a story and that my friends is no concept. Make it slimmer, yep got that. Anything else? nope. Alright, nice bit of self promotion and rather expectedly if it says 'iPhone' and 'new' or 'concept' every journalist on the planet needs a piece of it.

    scraping the preverbial barrel with this one.

  • It's too bad that video was a complete waste of time. "Just add a f/1.8 lens already!" "Yeah, we'll just do that..." "and while you're at it I want a 3GHz quadcore and a million hours of battery life."

  • What if this isn't a concept, but the real design of the iPhone6? Being that he's Sam Beckett, there's a likely chance he time-traveled (or quantum leaped) into the body of Jonny Ive to stop some sort of catastrophe in the past, and now has decided to show us what's going on inside Apple...