Apple has received some criticism that it has not increased screen size enough for the 4.7 inch iPhone 6. The premise of this argument seems to draw its reasoning by comparing the new 4.7” screen size to that of popular modern Android phones.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 (5.1 inches) is an obvious example. Its predecessor – the GS4 – was 5 inches. The GS3 before that was 4.8 inches. There is a tempting correlation to be drawn here between progress and increased screen size; a correlation that may even be applicable… for Androids. Unfortunately, it doesn't make sense when you move over to the Apple operating system.
Spot the difference? Android phones can make use of difficult-to-reach places with widgets. Widgets are great for live-updated information and toggling things like music or settings without having to launch an app.
Of course, half the time they’re nothing more than window dressing, but what’s the harm in that? If you’re spending a good portion of your day staring at your phone you may as well add some personality and charm to the interface. Android is all about customisation and widgets are a big part of that. Bigger screens mean that you can fit more or bigger widgets on your home screens without sacrificing space for useful icons. It’s a win/win situation.
iPhones also have widgets, but they don’t sit on the Home Screen; they live in the Notification Center. Without big, pretty, moving blocks to sit up the top of your display, you’re going to have to fill that area with icons or leave it blank. Take it from a long-time Android user and phone reviewer: the first option will quickly get tiresome on a bigger screen.
Of course, anything located at the top of a 4.7 inch display can also be a stretch for some users, so why make it that big if that’s your argument?
Not the size that counts, but how you use it
There is an equilibrium that needs to be found between navigation and application. You don’t want the screen to be so big that the user interface (UI) becomes cumbersome, but at the same time phones do a lot more than they used to and a lot of that benefits from a bigger screen. Even some of the older uses are noticeably improved when given more wiggle room.
Browsing, video content, gaming, and just about every application out there will benefit from more screen real-estate. While you’re using those specific services it doesn’t matter that you can’t reach the top-left corner too easily, because you either don’t need to touch the screen or the app can be designed to avoid placing buttons there. In these cases, bigger tends to be better.
Jumping up to 5.1 inches would certainly add to this side of the experience, but it would detract unnecessarily from the navigation side of things.
You need balance and 4.7 inches is a good choice. It’s big enough to enhance your experience without making the Home Screen too unwieldy. Reaching the URL bar at the top of your browser or an icon at the top of your screen is more of a stretch than it is on the iPhone 5s but it’s doable.
If you really want to criticise the iPhone 6’s screen then aim your attention at the resolution. 326 pixels per inch (ppi) may have been impressive when the Retina display was first released, but higher pixel densities have proved to be a definite improvement. At this point, hanging on to the Retina tagline is nothing short of stubbornness. If Apple can bend its rule about screen size, certainly it can turn its focus to screen quality, too.