✎ Will Apple Make a “Phablet”?
Mockup by Lorenzo Orlandi
The past week there has been rumors about the iPhone 5S coming in an array of color and more than one screen size. This could mean just 3.5” and 4”, the sizes that have been available previously.
But more interestingly it could be a new, larger size.
This principle was proven with the iPad with Retina and the iPad mini, that the iOS interface can have the same resolution and the same interface at two different screen sizes. The smaller iPad mini uses a 163 PPI screen, the same pixel density as the original iPhone. The corresponding Retina version of that screen is 326 PPI. The iPad with Retina uses 264 PPI, still plenty of pixels1 to qualify for the Retina brand.
We’ve learnt that displays are made out of larger sheets, then cut into the desired size. Apple are already making these sheets at 326 and 264 PPI. So what they could do is cut the same 640x1136 pixels used for the iPhone from the 264 PPI sheet, and get a 4.9” screen.
This would be both cost effective and would require no effort from developers; apps would just work. An interface that becomes larger only becomes more usable.
This way, Apple would enter the “phablet” market2. There is obviously such a market, likely people who figure they can get something in between a phone and a tablet instead of having two separate devices. If they can enter a new market segment this easily, why shouldn’t they?
You might think Apple wouldn’t compromise the quality of the display by lowering the PPI. But Retina is just a brand, not a pixel density. It basically means double the density of what it was before. For example, the MacBook Pro with Retina use 220 PPI. So 264 PPI is still a high resolution screen and Apple could just say you will use it further away from your eyes, qualifying it for Retina. Changing the amount of pixels and introducing a new resolution is not likely since it would cause increased fragmentation. ↩
You might think Apple wouldn’t make a phone you cannot easily use with one hand. They made a point of this when introducing iPhone 5. But what Apple says is always in support of their current lineup; it doesn’t mean they won’t do something else in the future. For example, Steve Jobs said 7” tablets should ship with sandpaper so the user could sand down their fingers to be able to use them. But now we have the iPad mini, although to be fair it’s closer to 8”. ↩