One of the most hotly-anticipated features in Apple's next generation iPhone handset is an upgrade to the company's Retina Display. The current 3.5-inch, 960 x 640 pixel display is starting to grow a bit long in the tooth and with the company's recent major overhaul to the iPad's display users will likely start to clamor for something bigger and better in the next iPhone.
Let's take a look at some of the factors behind why Apple may or may not change the size of the iPhone's display in the next model of the handset due out sometime this year.
Do Users Even Want a Bigger Screen?
The first question that Apple needs to answer is whether or not consumers even want a bigger display on their iPhone handsets. There are numerous Android models that pack displays of 4 inches and larger which sell just fine, but given the astronomical popularity of the iPhone and its lack of sales decline in light of these other, larger models it's tough to believe that Apple is seriously worried about the size of the iPhone's display.
The company clearly sees its iPad as the larger-display version of its mobile iOS technology. Without some clear purpose for a larger iPhone handset, Apple may just keep the iPhone at its current size and work on including other new technologies to drive sales.
Apple Likely Cannot Change the iPhone's Resolution
One of the factors that constrain Apple's ability to make serious size changes to the iPhone's display is its relative inability to bump up the handset's resolution. The iPhone currently uses a resolution of 960 x 640, which is gives the iPhone its “Retina Display” characteristics of 326 pixels per inch (PPI). If Apple were to increase the size of the display and keep the same resolution, the PPI numbers would fall, making it difficult for Apple to continue to make its “Retina” marketing claims. On the other hand, if Apple chose to increase the resolution, developers would be left having to create app designs specifically for the new iPhone. The company is loath to go down either of these roads, which indicates that the screen may stay the same size for the time being.
With a Bigger Screen comes More Data Usage
Another item that many have picked up on with the recent introduction of the new iPad is that additional screen real estate means more data usage. High definition videos and much larger app downloads can put a bit of pressure on data plans that are thin on the amount of total data one can download, and if the iPhone screen or resolution change, customers will be subject to the same issues as those who purchased the new iPad.
Again, as Apple is unlikely to change the resolution of the iPhone's display this one is a bit of a long shot to cause any real disturbance in the market, but it's something to watch out for nonetheless.
Rumor Roundup: Larger, Perhaps… 4.6-inch, No
At the end of the day, Apple will likely decide on any changes based on what is selling well - and that continues to be their iPhone handsets with 3.5-inch screens. If customers wanted a larger display, they would most likely be buying other handsets that come with them in preference to the iPhone. Yet, Apple continues to sell millions of handsets without issue. It's possible the company will look to squeeze some additional display size out of the current width and height of the iPhone, but making serious design changes without good reason could spell a sales decline and it's unlikely Apple will challenge themselves in this way.
One final note: as always, news around the next iPhone should be regarded for what it is: rumors and speculation. Until Apple has some form of launch or introduction event for the new iPhone or iPhone 5, we won't know what the future holds for the iPhone's display.