Max Rudberg

Posts tagged rumors

Jan 5

✎ 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?

  1. 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. 

  2. 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”. 

Apr 15

Why touch screens could still come to the Mac

There’s a misconception in the Mac community that multitouch capable screens will never come to the Mac. This is due to a statement made by Steve Jobs in the Back to the Mac event where Apple revealed Mac OS X Lion.

But what did he really say? I made a transcript of his keynote speech:

The first thing you think about is this [shows the above image of the hand pointing at a MBP screen]. We thought about this years ago. We’ve done tons of user testing on this. And it turns out it doesn’t work.

Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical. It gives great demo, but after a short period of time, you start to fatigue. And after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off. It doesn’t work. It’s ergonomically terrible.

Touch surfaces wants to be horizontal - hence, pads! For notebooks, that’s why we have perfected our multitouch trackpads over the years. Because that’s the best way we found, to get multitouch into a notebook.

We’ve also in essence put a multitouch trackpad on the mouse, with our Magic mouse. And we’ve recently come out with a peripheral trackpad as well, for our desktop users. So this is how we are going to use multitouch on our mac products. Because this [points forward] doesn’t work.

- Steve Jobs

So in essence, multitouch needs to be a horizontal surface, because vertical multitouch causes fatigue and doesn’t work. And their current solution are trackpads and mice. 

So what about a Mac with a horizontal surface?

This patent shows an iMac with a flex base that would let the screen pivot backwards. Such a Mac could have multitouch without contradicting anything that Steve said, since the touch surface is horizontal.

The final piece of the puzzle would be Mac OS X Lion. Many of the built-in apps such as iPhoto, iCal and Mail have a full-screen state that lets each app occupy its own dedicated space. The difference from Snow Leopard is that spaces in Lion are laid out horizontally. To switch between them, the default behavior is to swipe left or right with four fingers. Sound familiar? Yep, just like the gesture Apple tried out for iPads in iOS 4.3.

The full-screen state could make a great touch screen mode for apps, because they are essentially like large iPad apps. iPhoto is a prime example, since it mirrors all the features of the regular iPhoto, but in a touch-friendly manner. It even has an iOS-like bottom tab bar.

Launchpad is an other key feature for a touch-friendly Mac. What better way to launch your apps than something that looks and behave just like the iOS home screen?

Perhaps this touch screen Mac could automatically bring you to the fullscreen state of the current app as you pivot it backwards, or bring you to Launchpad if the current app doesn’t support touch.

We’ve already seen a number of Mac apps from third party developers that are basically touch-friendly, such as Reeder and Sparrow. And the Mac is increasingly influenced by its iOS siblings, as demonstrated by Mac OS X Lion. I would be surprised if Apple doesn’t eventually borrow the biggest innovation made in iOS - multitouch- and bring it back to the Mac.

Ps. If you want “a great demo” of what not to do, watch this Asus All-in-one video. 

All images in this post are © Apple, Inc. This text is pure speculation.