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A reason why the iPhone display may stay at 3.5"

Posted: , by Michael H.

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A reason why the iPhone display may stay at 3.5
One of the biggest jabs that detractors have when attacking the iPhone is its screen size, because some may say that bigger is always better. There are a number of reasons why that isn't really true, including personal preference, quality and efficiency. The first two reasons are pretty easy to grasp: some people may not like bigger screens for any number of reasons from limited pocket space, to the weight; and, some would prefer a higher resolution to a bigger screen. The last reason seems to be one that would tickle the obsessive side of Steve Jobs: the reach of your thumb.

A reason why the iPhone display may stay at 3.5"
Designer Dustin Curtis made a little mockup, which you can see on the right, showing how much screen real estate the average person's thumb can cover while using a phone with one hand. The basic idea is that a 3.5" screen is the perfect size for the average hand. Of course, the trouble with the word "average" is that there are plenty of people with much larger hands, and also smaller, so a wider range of screen sizes seems like a better approach. But, it also does show that bigger is certainly not always better. Additionally, "average" in this case likely means male and female, and most polls about screen size tend to have more males represented in the voting, which could explain the tendency for polls to show preferences towards larger screens. In fact, some may find it to be very annoying or unwieldy. People with smaller hands need to hold the entire phone deeper into the palm, which means closer to having your thumb at the side of the phone. Those of us with bigger hands, or better dexterity can hold the phone more on our fingers, and therefore will be able to reach a larger area of the screen.

There is also the other condition of the data, which is assuming you use the phone one-handed. Those with larger phones may have unconsciously begun using their phones two-handed in most scenarios because of just this reason. Still, given Steve Jobs' strive for what he saw as perfect, this seems like a reason that he would throw his weight behind in order to keep the iPhone screen size stable at 3.5". We can't say whether it's the right or wrong reason, but it certainly would explain it. The bigger question is whether this reasoning will hold with future iPhones or not.

source: Dustin Curtis via The Next Web

173 Comments
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posted on 31 Oct 2011, 20:02 6

1. phantomash (Posts: 20; Member since: 27 Aug 2011)


not all hands are born equal size.

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 20:35 13

15. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2705; Member since: 26 May 2011)


yep, definitely covered that in the article.

posted on 01 Nov 2011, 07:04

122. s.mrabet (Posts: 124; Member since: 26 Oct 2011)


Why still not changed the picture if you know it's not real??? The whole article is biased!

posted on 01 Nov 2011, 10:25

130. PotDragon (banned) (Posts: 214; Member since: 22 Jul 2011)


To state that pocket space and weight are a factor is a joke. What does Steve say the average pocket or pocketbook size is? How much does an iphone in an otterbox weigh? Really think it's lighter? Sigh

posted on 01 Nov 2011, 12:12 1

136. Habib (Posts: 114; Member since: 26 Feb 2011)


i think i remember, that the circle was not the same size!
and this article by alot of commentators was considered futile and biased. As for the content, which were based on these two pictures, they are also futile!

posted on 05 Nov 2011, 11:39

162. vu2ikl (Posts: 11; Member since: 22 Sep 2011)


The diagram is interesting. It shows the area sweepable by normal sized thumb. So it's overall size of mobile not the screen size which should matter. HTC Desire S has comparable size.. a couple of mm here and there. but it has 3.7inch size unlike 3.5inch of iphone. IMO that is much better.

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 20:58 14

32. Immolate (Posts: 310; Member since: 17 Jun 2011)


Screen size is but one of the many minor conceits that Apple wallows in. Yet every poll I see indicates a preference for larger screens, with 4 and 4.3 getting the lion's share.

I'm asking you this Apple lovers: must you suffer for your devotion. Is there some religious edict requiring you two be limited to two choices, small phone in black and small phone in white?

You deserve better than to be treated like a bumbling herd of lobotomized sheep. You aren't going to get respect if you take what they give you and say "thank you sir, may I have another".

In the Android world, if you don't like it, wait a week and something better will come along, Voting with our feet is a way of life. It hurts me to see good people treated like serfs by a tyrannical company that thinks you like it like that. Rise up, oh ye the oppressed 9%! Rise up and throw down your tormentors!

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 21:00 13

34. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2705; Member since: 26 May 2011)


Not everyone wants or needs more than two choices. Many people quite like whatever Apple provides because of the design and integration with other Apple products. It's a choice, not something you need to campaign over.

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 22:57 6

83. denney (Posts: 98; Member since: 20 Oct 2011)


I have actually decided that if the next iPhone has a screen larger thatn 4" I will buy one. I am a mac guy through and through, and having an iPhone would drastically simplify my mobile life, but my hands are gigantic, my fingers are even a little big for the keyboard on my HD7. The screen size is the only reason I have not purchased an iPhone.

posted on 01 Nov 2011, 06:24

116. vishnutp (Posts: 2; Member since: 01 Nov 2011)


U better need a custom phone or tab else u can choose a tab with phone function..

posted on 10 Dec 2011, 08:26

164. ladyhaly (Posts: 106; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


They could provide MORE choices. Not get rid of the existing models. The fact is that not every is the same. There is no one right way for existing and trying to label people in doing so is the reason why there are people like Hitler who would kill millions of Jews for being Jews.

Is it so much for a company whose budget exceeds the budget of the national government to actually provide more choices for their consumers? Is it too much to acknowledge that there are different kinds of users?

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 21:00 7

35. earle.evans (Posts: 27; Member since: 07 Mar 2010)


Not everyone wants it. I went with an original Droid and Incredible 2 b/c of the smaller screen. To me, bigger is not better, it's cumbersome and annoying. Large part of the reason I went back to the iphone.

posted on 10 Dec 2011, 08:29

165. ladyhaly (Posts: 106; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


If they did, I would have bought one a year ago. But it would ruin the image of Apple being all authoritarian-like.

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 21:01 8

36. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)


shows us a poll that shows most people want bigger screens not a pa fandroid poll either

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 21:14 9

45. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


the poll was already done..
PA's
"what feature do u want the most on the i4s/i5" article showed "bigger screen" as the number 1 answer by far.

Now on to sales.. when given the choice android consumers have shown over n over again that 4+ inches is the size phone they want.. even when other phones are given away for free. 90% of android's top sellers of the last year has been 4+ inches.

The proof is all around you. The iphone is the ONLY phone that sells that much with such a small screen, and thats ONLY because people that want iOS have NO CHOICE in the matter.

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 21:19 8

50. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2705; Member since: 26 May 2011)


It's hard to say that we have an unbiased and representative readership. Gotta keep that in mind with our polls

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 21:33 4

61. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


biased yes.. 90% biased in 1 direction? definately not.

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 21:55 8

73. squallz506 (banned) (Posts: 1075; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)


then why does PA use the poll results as representative of all phone users?

hence:http://www.phonearena.com/news/Smartphones-and-Data-Usage-Poll-results_id21045
http://www.phonearena.com/news/Poll-results-Apple-iPhone-4S-battery-gate-Is-it-real_id23157

nowhere in these articles is a disclaimer about "unbiased and representative readership"

posted on 01 Nov 2011, 00:51 1

95. SweetLou (Posts: 17; Member since: 20 Oct 2011)


They don't use it as a blanket statement, they poll the readers here and thats the sample. If they say, "Most people that read this site would prefer a larger screen on the next iphone," How is that generalizing to the population?

posted on 01 Nov 2011, 11:57 1

135. gallitoking (Posts: 4720; Member since: 17 May 2011)


"The proof is all around you".. you are right... look on how the iphone is selling....

The iphone is the ONLY phone that sells that much with such a small screen"...... and thats why it sells soo much becuase is the only one..

"even when other phones are given away for free. 90% of android's top sellers of the last year has been 4+ inches."... well.. 90% of android phones are 4+... so those customers have no choice but to go to Android if they want a big screen....... keyword.. no choice.... and your point is????

posted on 01 Nov 2011, 12:22 1

138. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)


android phones range from 3.1 inches to 4.52 inches, gallito. There are dozens of models under 4 inches. see.. this magical thing happens when you have choice.. you get to choose your own screen sweet spot.. not be told what it is.
its also a magical coincidence that most all WP7 phones are 4+ inches, even symbian phones are starting to look the same.. and peter's favorite.. BADA is popin at 4 inches now.

its either the entire world is wrong, or you are. hmmmmm..

posted on 10 Dec 2011, 11:20

167. ladyhaly (Posts: 106; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


It's so obvious that gallito is. It's so hard for closed-minded people to see the whole picture when all they see is Apple.

posted on 10 Dec 2011, 11:19

166. ladyhaly (Posts: 106; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


You are seriously overlooking the existence of Windows Mango phones.

posted on 01 Nov 2011, 13:55 2

139. vette21man (Posts: 351; Member since: 06 Apr 2011)


However, that is the FIRST 4+ inch screen phone they have ever bought. I'd like another poll taken with the following:

"After owning a 4+ inch screen phone for a year, what size screen will your next smart phone have?"

I think we have to take into account that these 4+ inch screen consumers bought partially into the hype and allure of larger screens. Has their opinion of large screens changed after owning one for a year?

For example, my friend had an EVO 4G for over a year, and they now have an iPhone 4S.

posted on 10 Dec 2011, 11:28

168. ladyhaly (Posts: 106; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


I am a 4'11" petite Asian girl with size 4.5 feet and small hands. I've bought the HTC Desire HD last year and after a whole year decided to buy the HTC Sensation XE. Both 4.3 inch screens.

I am aware of the iPhone 4 and 4S and have experience using them and they suck. I hate holding them. Too flat and fragile. And watching videos with friends sucks when all you have is a flimsily small screen. So is surfing the web.

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 21:23 6

52. JGuinan007 (Posts: 685; Member since: 19 May 2011)


I'm someone who wants a bigger screen 3.5 is way too small for me I have a 4.3 screen now and want a 5.3 screen I'm 6'5" and have big hands and a bigger screen means better web viewing better texting for my fingers for me a bigger screen is better but I guess if you like scrolling around and pinching to zoom on web viewing and your 4'5" and have small girlie hands 3.5 is great for you

posted on 31 Oct 2011, 23:26 1

87. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


3.5 inch screen size is so yesterday (more like last 2 years). If Apple keeps the iPhone's screen size locked into 3.5 inches, all of the high-end Android handset manufacturers should send flowers to Apple's executive team.

Add up the sales of the Android handsets with screen size larger than 3.5 inches. The number is not trivial. I guess the owners of those handsets are all using both hands while interacting with the handset. Having to use both hands sure doesn't seem to have soured those owners.

posted on 01 Nov 2011, 12:21

137. gallitoking (Posts: 4720; Member since: 17 May 2011)


ok Droid_X_Doug...do the math for me, and tell me why that the Android phone they purchased is because of the screen siz.. please..

"Add up the sales of the Android handsets with screen size larger than 3.5 inches. "

posted on 10 Dec 2011, 11:31

169. ladyhaly (Posts: 106; Member since: 17 Jan 2011)


Not really. I'm 4'11", am a girl, and do have small hands and my hands yearn for the 4.3 screens. I freaking love my Desire HD and my Sensation XE. I type on my HTCs way faster than on my Nokia E72.

posted on 01 Nov 2011, 01:32 1

103. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


"not all hands are born equal size."

Which is a problem when applying averaging. If 5 adult male's hands are measured as follows:
Hand A = 189mm
Hand B = 193mm
Hand C = 183mm
Hand D = 190mm
Hand E = 191mm

The Average measurement is 189.2. However, 60% of the sample has a larger hand size than the 'average', because of the one small hand skewing the average.

If Steve Jobs used average hand size as a reason for the 3.5 inch display size, he could be guilty of making an impulsive decision. I suspect it is more a matter of economics (as in unit cost of producing a retina-spec display in sizes larger than 3.5 inches).

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