Will the iPhone Always Have a 3.5″ Screen?
Ever wonder why the iPhone has a 3.5″ screen while the Android world is off pushing into greater and greater dimensions? Dustin Curtis theorizes that the reason iPhone continues to have a 3.5″ screen is so that nearly everyone can use the phone one-handed, because their thumbs reach nearly everywhere on the screen without trouble. Curtis put together the graphic shown above to demonstrate this, comparing thumb accessibility on an iPhone with its 3.5″ screen vs a Galaxy S II with a 4.2″ display, which he complains is too large. As demonstrated, large portions of the Android screen are inaccessible one-handed by his thumbs, and presumably for many other individuals as well.
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.
Furthermore, John Gruber of DaringFireball suggests that Apple could have chose a 4″ screen a long time ago, but decided on the 3.5″ display sometime in 2006:
Bigger is not necessarily better. Apple decided on the optimal size for an iPhone display back in 2006. If they thought 4-inches was better, overall, as the one true size for the iPhone display, then the original iPhone would have had a 4-inch display.
These are interesting thoughts to consider, but personally I’d be surprised if Apple never went to a larger display on the iPhone. I think a 4″ screen would be more than usable by nearly everyone, assuming the devices border was thin enough to easily reach beyond the border (remember the edge-to-edge screened iPhone rumors?).